Egyptian Gov't. Cancels Synagogue Ceremony

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CAIRO - In a symbolic gesture on Sunday, Egyptian authorities cancelled the official inauguration of a synagogue restored by the government.

The Ben Maimon Synagogue in Cairo's ancient Jewish quarter is one of several synagogues that has been restored by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Council head Zahi Hawass called off the official ceremony a week after the restored synagogue was rededicated in a private ceremony.

In his statement, Hawass cited Jewish insensitivity to Islamic sensibilities and alleged mistreatment of Muslims in Israel.

His statement followed media criticism of Jewish celebrants who danced and toasted the synagogue's rededication, both activities considered offensive to Muslims.

Cairo's Jewish community did not respond to the council head's remarks.

A group of Chabad rabbis from the U.S. and Israel joined about half a dozen Egyptian Jewish families for the dedication of the Ben Maimon Synagogue on March 7. 

The synagogue is named after the 12th-century Rabbi Maimonides, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. 

Most of Egypt's ancient Jewish community, which numbered around 80,000 in the 1940s, were driven from the country. Only several dozen elderly Jews remain.  

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