Egypt canceled the inauguration of a restored synagogue on Sunday citing objections to Israel's treatment of Muslims in the occupied territories as well as alleged excesses during an earlier ceremony, the Associated Press reports.
Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities spent seven months restoring the ruined Ben Maimon synagogue in Cairo's ancient Jewish quarter and had been set to unveil it to the press Sunday, a week after its rededication in a private ceremony, according to the AP.
Council head Zahi Hawass called off Sunday's event following criticism in the press of the synagogue's rededication ceremony, which was attended by Israeli diplomats as well the American ambassador. The cancellation was largely symbolic as the restoration is complete and the synagogue has been reopened.
"This cancellation comes after what happened during the inauguration by the Jewish community who engaged in activities considered provocative to the feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims around world, including dancing and drinking alcohol," Hawass said in the statement.
He added that "Muslim sanctuaries in occupied Palestine are subject to aggression by the occupation authorities," citing in particular Israeli security actions on the Temple Mount, known as the Aqsa compound to Muslims, in Jerusalem.
Officials with Cairo's Jewish community had no comment about Hawass' statement.
The March 7 dedication ceremony at the synagogue, named after the 12th century rabbi and intellectual Maimonides, was closed to media and included half a dozen Egyptian Jewish families that long ago fled the country. No Egyptian officials attended the ceremony.
A group of about 11 Hassidic Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis also came to Cairo from the United States and Israel and sang at the event. Attendees also said toasts were made.
Egypt's Jewish community, which dates back millennia and at its peak in the 1940s numbered around 80,000, is down to several dozen, almost all of them elderly. The rest were driven out decades ago by mob violence and persecution tied in large part to the Arab-Israeli conflict.Egypt and Israel fought a war every decade from the 1940s to the 1970s until the 1979 peace treaty was signed.
Despite that treaty, Egyptian sentiment remains deeply unfriendly to Israel, and anti-Semitic stereotypes still occasionally appear in the Egyptian media.
On Tuesday, Culture Minister Farouk Hosny said his ministry was committed to restoring all 11 synagogues across Egypt, three of which have already been renovated. The best-known synagogue that of Ben Ezra, is located in Cairo's Christian quarter near a number of old churches and was restored years ago.
In his statement, Hawass lauded Egyptian efforts to restore its Muslim, Jewish and Christian sites without regard to their religion.
"This is proof of the religious tolerance in Egypt, while Muslim sanctuaries in Jerusalem and other Palestinian cities are subject to destruction and sequestration by Israel," he said.