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The Jewish Community of Suez


In Arabic: السويس‎‎ 

A seaport city at the southern end of the Suez Canal, Northeast Egypt

The town of Suez, which lies at the northern tip of the Gulf of Suez, was founded before the digging of the Suez Canal. It served as the embarkation port for mail and passenger boats going to India.


The modern development of Suez began when the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. During the course of digging the canal, many Jews came to Suez from various places in Egypt in connection with their businesses associated with digging the canal.

Between 1863 and 1879 Egypt enjoyed prosperity when Khediv Ismail ruled over the country. Foreigners were permitted to acquire land which caused a flood of immigrants from Europe to move to Suez, among them many Jews. They did not live in Suez on a regular basis, but rather returned to their homes elsewhere on the weekends.

By the time the canal opened there was a permanent Jewish community in Suez. The local Jews engaged mostly in trade, but some were office employees in commercial companies and government offices. A Jewish cemetery was consecrated, with the oldest tombstone dating to 1871. In 1897, there were 120 Jews living in Suez.


In 1901 Moise Toueg was the president of the community. Another notable was Raphael del Burgo. The synagogue in Suez was located inside a private residence and included five old Torah scrolls. Simon Aqwa was the hazzan (cantor) and the shohet (slaughterer). The gabbai (warden) was Reuven Dankur, a moneychanger and a goldsmith, who also acted as the representative of the community.

The 1907 census indicates that there were 74 Jews residing in Suez during that period.

From 1914 to 1920, the Jewish community flourished. In 1917, there were 157 Jews residing in Suez. Additionally, during World War I (1914-1918) many Jewish families were attracted to Suez because of the abundance of employment opportunities in the British Army camps and in the canal administration.

Several years after the war ended, most of the Jews left Suez and moved to Cairo and Alexandria. With the decline in population, the Jewish community of Suez eventually ceased to exist.

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Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Israeli patrol in the Suez, 1970s
Photo: Leni Sonnenfeld
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, Sonnenfeld collection)