Karaites in Egypt: The Preservation of Jewish-Egyptian Heritage

ARCE and Drop of Milk’s Ongoing Work in The Historic Jewish Cemetery of Basatin in Cairo 

On September 13, the American Research Center in Egypt will be joined by the non-profit organization, Drop of Milk, and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to present, via an online public lecture, the outcomes of the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation-funded project taking place at the Basatin Cemetery. More information will be provided on this page as it becomes available.

Speakers

  • Jonathan R. Cohen, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Arab Republic of Egypt 
  • Magda Haroun, Head of the Egyptian-Jewish Community 
  • Prof. Yoram Meital, Professor of Middle East Studies, Ben-Gurion University 
  • Dr. Louise Bertini, Executive Director, American Research Center in Egypt 

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 with 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. 

The entrance of the Rabbi Haim Capusi Graveyard in Basatin, Cairo