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The Jews of Alexandria

Julius Caesar (100--44 BCE) accorded privileges to the Roman Jews and allowed them to own property and administer their community affairs. He exempted them from military service so they could observe the Jewish dietary laws and the Sabbath. After his assassination, the Jews mourned him with much weeping. Later, Augustus (27 BCE--14 CE) also treated the Jews with respect. In addition to continuing their rights, he approved collecting an annual tax from Roman Jews for the Temple in Jerusalem. He even arranged with his wife Empress Livia to send ongoing gifts of a bull and two lambs to be given as burnt offerings in the Temple. In The Deadliest Lie, Miriam proudly explains where the Jews in Alexandria lived: Most of us, about twenty percent of the city’s population (our largest community outside of Palestine), prefer to live in our own quarter, the finest in the city, where we are free to observe our customs and obey the laws of our Council of Elders. We’re on the coast and farthest from the main necropolis. Alexandrians have been burying their dead there for more than a century, whether in multi-chambered underground tombs of stone decorated with the scenes and symbols of Egyptian funerary art or in simple, earth-covered pits. In the Jewish Quarter, however, we can inhale the scent of the sea instead of the stench of the embalming workshops. The Jews in Alexandria did not live in a ghetto. Far from it. Come visit their quarter and splendid city, the center of Hellenic culture, derived from the Greeks but strongly influenced by Eastern mysticism and Egyptian technology. Just click here. Note: My thanks to Sari Goldman for the image and portions of this text.

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