It took 37 years for Israel Bonan to pluck up the courage to talk about the ordeal of his imprisonment and expulsion from Egypt. Today, not only is he seething at the fact that the suffering of the Jewish refugees has been completely ignored, but that in the interests of fostering good relations with the Arabs, Jews are pretending that it never happened. Yet a prerequisite to reconciliation, as any married couple could vouch, is to air one’s grievances before kissing and making up.
“It came as a surprise to me, during the past year, that the ageing Jewish community from Egypt is not of one mind on the subject of our history in Egypt. It is not that they were totally unaware of it, I was mostly surprised that for some they wished to deny it. Why bring it up? What purpose will it serve? We need to mute it out? And I ask myself why?
“I do not wish for anger, but anger is the only emotion I currently experience. When I referred to our community as an ‘ageing’ one, it was supposed to imply, the maturity and experience, the enhanced ability to reflect and measure our responses and finally our generation will gradually fade from the scene. So what do we want, to disappear without our stories being told? Do we have and need Six million of us dead before we react to what happened to us? Of course our miseries dwarfs by comparison to the Holocaust experience, but it was a tragic one nonetheless. How can we fathom reconciling without Egypt and her Government apologize to us, at a minimum, for what they did to us and our parents before us?
“Are our sensibilities so jarred, by the stories, that we chose to ignore them? It’s only Palestinians and the Chairman (Arafat) that do that sort of thing, and not us? What will get you angry, with me? More than 3 years in jail, losing more than our self respect, more than abandoning our hard-earned fortunes?
“I ask you, what have we learned from old age? Some of us I am sure are married, maybe with their second or third mate; what have we learned from relationships? That we can slap each other, go to bed and forget about it the next morning? NO, we learned, to confront the problems, talk about them and apologize when apology is called for, and here we are, we were blissfully wedded to Egypt, only she slapped us silly, stomped on our human rights and took all our community property without even a judicial review; and now we go to bed and wake up in the morning and let’s forgive and forget? What kind of logic is that? Please get angry, with me.
“True reconciliation that is so one sided, is abhorrent to me. I beg you to get angry with me, it is our right to ask for an apology, it is our right to ask for restitution and it is our right to ask for our self respect back. It is Egypt’s turn to recognize what she did to a community that participated fully in her well being, only to be wronged in return.
“It is a two way street, reconciliation is. I crave it, but I also crave my self respect, I also crave my dignity and I also crave leaving a clean legacy to our children after us. I need to be able to tell my sons, looking them up in the eye, that we were wronged but did not accept it or rolled over and played dead. I ask you to join me in doing the right thing for our community, because I sincerely believe it is the right thing.”
Slightly adapted from the original at HSJE, The Historical Society of Jews from Egypt, at http://www.hsje.org/WhyIamangry.htm.
Also excerpted at Hopeways.
Republished by permission of the author and the websites.