The Historic Jewish Cemetery of Basatin in Cairo
“Karaites in Egypt: The Preservation of Jewish-Egyptian Heritage”
September 13, 2020 at 2:30 PM ET/ 8:30 PM EET
Jonathan R. Cohen, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Arab Republic of Egypt
Magda Haroun, Head of the Egyptian-Jewish Community
Eli Eltachan, President of Universal Karaites
Dr. Yoram Meital, Professor of Middle East Studies, Ben-Gurion University
Dr. Louise Bertini, Executive Director, American Research Center in Egypt
Thanks to the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), in September 2019 ARCE was able to take on a new project, ‘A Management and Conservation Plan for the Historic Jewish Cemetery of Basatin in Cairo.’ ARCE has been working closely with one of the Jewish community representatives, the Drop of Milk Foundation, to successfully implement this project.
Background on the Jewish Cemetery:
The Jewish cemetery of Basatin is believed to be the second oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, with an original foundation deed dating to the 9th century. At the time, the land provided for the cemetery consisted of 147 acres and was located beyond the boundaries of the Tulunid capital of Egypt. In modern times the cemetery became fragmented into disconnected plots of land amounting to about 27 acres. The cemetery was previously divided into designated areas for the Rabbanite and Karaite Jews. However, the only remaining part of the Karaite graveyard is a small private plot belonging to the Leishaa and Menasha families. Egyptian Jews of all backgrounds have been buried in the site since its founding and continue to be despite their dwindling numbers and the advanced state of neglect of the cemetery. The Egyptian Jewish community included important historical figures such as the Rabbi Haim Capusi (whose eponymous synagogue still stands in Cairo’s former Jewish neighborhood), along representatives of the notable Jewish families of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who often commissioned significant pieces of architecture to commemorate their lives such as Moise Cattaui Pasha.
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