The saga of the cancelled Cairo trip runs and runs

The saga of the cancelled Egyptian-Jewish roots trip rumbles on, with Magdi Abdelhadi filing the story on the BBC website. It is interesting how the Beeb tries to rationalise the reasons for the cancellation as ‘anti-Israel’ sentiment. But I thought the Arabs had nothing against Jews – let alone elderly Jews vising their childhood haunts – only Zionists!

Allegations were broadcast on Egyptian television last week that the group was coming to claim confiscated property.

The trip organisers denied that, saying it was purely a personal journey.

But anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt is so strong that no business is willing to take any risk, particularly when it involves such a highly sensitive issue.

The woman behind the trip, Levana Zamir, is an Egyptian-born Israeli who runs an organisation in Tel Aviv that seeks to promote better understanding between the two cultures.

Ms Zamir, who speaks Arabic fluently, said she was one of a group of elderly Jewish people of Egyptian origin from all over the world who wanted to visit their ancestral homeland with their children, to see old neighbourhoods.

But a few days before the group was due to arrive in Cairo, she was told by the Egyptian travel agent that their hotel reservation was cancelled and that no other hotel in Egypt wanted to receive them.

Many believe it is all down to the populist television presenter, Amr Adeeb, whose programme is widely watched here.

Mr Adeeb urged the authorities last week to prevent the trip from going ahead.

He said all the department stores that were established by Egyptian Jews at the turn of the past century were now the property of the people of Egypt.

A local organisation that represents the few remaining Jewish people in Egypt has distanced itself from the trip.

Despite a peace treaty that ended decades of war between Egypt and Israel, relations between the two countries remain tense.

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Meanwhile, complainants to the Marriott hotel have received a standard response citing security concerns as the main reason for the cancellation, and stating that the hotel had helped to try to find alternative accommodation for the group. Israel Bonan sent this rejoinder:

The group’s visit was cancelled because no other hotel would accept their stay.

I believe that is business as usual when it comes to the Egyptian way of conducting business. I ought to know, I was born and raised and myself expelled penniless from the country after being physically abused and incarcerated in 1967.

A little factual knowledge spread around can only serve to quash the media’s invective-filled rumors.

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