Hershel Shanks

RESTORING RELATIONS. In response to questions about some allegedly anti-Semitic statements he made in the press, Hawass pointed to his restoration of a Cairo synagogue known as the Maimonides Synagogue as evidence of his friendship with Jews and for Jewish culture. The first synagogue on the site was built in the tenth century but was renamed in honor of the great 12th-century philosopher, rabbi and physician Moshe ben Maimon after he lived and was buried here. The current building dates to the 19th century and had fallen into disuse and disrepair after most of Egypt’s Jewish population was expelled or fled amid Arab-Jewish tensions following the creation of the State of Israel in the mid-20th century and armed conflicts thereafter. In 2009 the Egyptian government began a $2-million restoration project (headed by Hawass) that was completed in March 2010, at which point the synagogue was rededicated.