Jewish merchants arrived in Cyprus during the period of Roman rule. A major revolt by Jewish inhabitants resulted in the destruction of the city of Salamis in about 116 or 117 CE. It is also believed that Jews participated in a rebellion in 177 CE against the Mare Nostrum (Mediterranean) Empire ruled by Trajan. After that revolt was crushed, Jews were banished from the island, but this prohibition was not strictly enforced.
In medieval times, Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela noted the existence of a Jewish community on the island, and wrote of the presence of Karaites and heretical Jews whom he categorized as “Epikursim.” During the period of Ottoman rule (1571–1878), Sephardi Jews from various Ottoman lands settled in Cyprus and a Jewish community existed. However, most Jews eventually moved on. In 1878, Cyprus came under British rule. Between 1883 and 1897 there were several abortive attempts to settle Jews in Cyprus who were fleeing persecution in Romania and Russia and to establish Jewish agricultural colonies there. In 1901, the Jewish population of the island numbered about 120.
With the rise of Hitler in 1933, several hundred German Jews found sanctuary in Cyprus. After the war, the British established detention camps on the island to which Jewish refugees attempting to break the British blockade of Palestine were sent. From 1946 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the British confined over 50,000 European Jewish refugees on the island. With the establishment of the State of Israel, these refugees were transported to Haifa.
Israel had diplomatic relations with the British protectorate of Cyprus from the Jewish state's earliest days, initially at consular level. These ties were expanded when Cyprus attained independence in 1960. On account of its close proximity to Israel, Cyprus is a favored tourist destination for Israelis and the two countries enjoy close political, commercial and cultural relations. Cyprus is, geographically, the closest EU state to Israel.
4 Gripari S.T.,
P.O. Box 1049,
Tel. 357 2 445 195
Fax 357 2 453 486
There are no kosher restaurants but kosher meals and catering are available from the Chabad house.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
Several hundred Jewish families live in Cyprus, many of whom arrived in recent years for professional reasons or as retirees. About half of them are from nearby Israel; the rest are mainly from the UK and Russia.
In 2005, the first permanent synagogue in Cyprus was established under the auspices of Chabad, which also runs a Jewish kindergarten and a Talmud Torah. There is a resident Chabad rabbi who has the title of chief rabbi.