Egyptians conflicted over preserving Jewish past


A somewhat interesting article can found, from the AP:  

CAIRO -The Jewish community that once flourished in the Arab world's most populous nation left behind physical traces ranging from grand temples in central Cairo and Alexandria to a holy man's humble grave in a Nile Delta village. But the modern-day Egyptian view of those relics lies within a narrow spectrum ranging from disinterest to outright hostility....

"We are a nation that doesn't have enough to eat and doesn't have clean water," grumbled Mahmoud Fahim, a Muslim who runs a clothing store in the Jews' Quarter. "Why are we paying for these temples to be developed?"

He called it "a superficial act to make Egypt look good to the West and to Israel."

Fahim was touching on a sore point — the failed bid last month by Farouk Hosny, the Egyptian culture minister, to be elected head of UNESCO, the U.N. culture agency. The minister blamed his defeat on a Jewish conspiracy "cooked up in New York."

....Egypt's Jewish community, which dates back millennia and in the 1940s numbered around 80,000, is down to several dozen, almost all of them elderly. The rest were driven out decades ago by mob violence and state-sponsored persecution tied in large part to the Israeli-Arab conflict, a story repeated across the Arab world.

Egypt and Israel fought a war every decade from the 1940s to the 1970s until the 1979 peace treaty was signed.

Despite that treaty, Egyptian sentiment remains deeply unfriendly to Israel, and anti-Semitic stereotypes still appear in the Egyptian media.

The repairs got under way at around the same time that Egypt started lobbying for Hosny to get the UNESCO job. Some suggested the renovation was an attempt to improve the image of an official whose candidacy to become the face of cultural preservation worldwide was complicated by his 2008 statement to Egypt's parliament threatening to personally burn Israeli books.

Hosny apologized for that statement and Israel dropped its opposition to his election, but he ended up losing all the same, to a Bulgarian diplomat, whereupon he blamed Jewish pressure.

"It is the Israelis who caused Farouk Hosny to lose the bid in UNESCO, so I don't know why he tries to please them by developing their temples," said Sayed el-Iraqi, who runs a toy store near the synagogue.

....The best-known synagogue still standing is Ben Ezra, located among Christian churches and souvenir stores. The synagogue, with its marble pillars and ceiling painted in muted greens and reds, is believed to date to 882 A.D.

...The thousands of documents the Jews stored there over the centuries were discovered in the late 1800s and became famous as the Cairo Genizah, one of the most valuable troves of historical documents ever found.

...Today the defunct house of prayer is open as a tourist site. A man stands in front of a dusty glass case at the back, offering yarmulkes and postcards for sale.
Read the whole thing here  



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