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Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo

 

Ben Ezra Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Egypt. It was supposedly built on the site where Moses appealed to God to bring the hail and plague to an end. The synagogue is especially famous for the Geniza (meaning storeroom) documents, stored there since 1041, rediscovered after 1864, and since 1896 mostly located in the Cambridge University Library. These papers-court depositions, deeds, titles, business contracts, petitions, letters, inventories, religious questions and rulings-represent the most complete documentation of any society unearthed. As trannscribed by S. D. Goitien in A Mediterranean Society, they describe al-Fustat as a vibrant capitalist society engaging in commerce around the Mediterranean. Immigrants from North Africa and Palestine were attractted by the religious tolerance of the Fatimid regime and the affluence of El Fustat . The documents provide a unique source for the history of the area from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries.

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