Month: March 2012

Muslim caretaker takes over Alexandria community

Inside the Nebi Daniel synagogue in Alexandria

The Jewish community in Alexandria no longer runs its own affairs, a Jewish visitor discovered on a visit to Egypt in March.

Point of No Return has learnt that the Muslim former doorman of the Nebi Daniel synagogue has taken over the leadership of the community from Yousef Gaon. Abdel Nabi collects the community’s rents, has a new car and is living well.

A visitor from England went to the Nebi Daniel synagogue in order to ask for the death certificate of a relative. Abdel Nabi intruded into the visitor’s conversation with Gaon and asked to see proof of his relationship with his relative.

The visitor then showed him his family’s successoral document.

– Ah ! Abdel Nabi said without even reading the document, this is a copy, I need the original.

Gaon later offered this explanation: “Ah!” the erstwhile leader said, “I am nothing now in this office. Abdel Nabi is the government’s eyes and ears. He directs everything and I can’t say anything. I have resigned but the powers that be don’t accept my resignation.I’m sorry, I cannot help you.”

Yousef Gaon, a Jewish convert to Islam, had himself caused controversy when he became head of the community. The Nebi Daniel synagogue is the flagship of the Jewish community of Egypt. The affairs of the Jewish community in Cairo are managed by Mrs Carmen Weinstein, who is in her eighties.
The Alexandria community: 20 women and three men
Crossposted at Elder of Ziyon

Moroccans are bellyaching over Israel dancers

Another nail in the coffin for Arab-Israeli relations: Moroccans are upset at two Israeli women slated to join dancers at the May International Belly Dance Festival in Marrakesh, Israel Hayom reports. The Festival is also under fire for being “immodest.”

Ab-solutely opposed: Israeli belly dancers want to perform in Marrakech, but Moroccons are not to keen on having them.


Photo credit: Reuters

Officials in Marrakesh are shaking their heads at the idea of Israeli women shaking their hips in Morocco.

Several weeks before the third annual International Belly Dance Festival is set to open in Marrakech, bringing with it a swarm of beads, hip scarves and gyrating abdomens, several Moroccans are refusing to participate after learning that Israeli dancers will attend and shimmy with the rest of them.

Israelis Simona Guzman and Asi Haskal have added their names to the official list of participants. According to the Al Arabiya news network, both women will be at the festival to train participating dancers as well as show their stuff in the event’s official dances. But on Facebook and across the blogosphere, Moroccans are crying foul, calling the presence of Israelis in Morocco an atrocity and accusing the festival’s organizers of ignoring the wishes of the Moroccan public.

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David Gerbi still has hope for Libya

In spite of the title of this Foreign Policy article, Next year in Tripoli, David Gerbi never once says he wants Libyan Jews to return en masse. He is more concerned with restoring Jewish heritage sites, and seeing a pluralistic, minority-friendly Libya emerge from the post-Gaddafi turmoil.

Speaking in Italian, I pressed him (Gaddafi) on opening the Dar Bishi Synagogue. While I had little to hope for, given his detached manner and empty promises, I was pleased to discover that the meeting somehow helped me start shedding my fears and gain back some of the dignity I had felt I lost as a refugee: Qaddafi could no longer harm me, and my Libyan, Jewish, and Italian identities gave me strength.

During my last trip to Libya in the spring of 2011, I joined the anti-Qaddafi rebels by volunteering again at the Benghazi Psychiatric Hospital, where I trained the rebels to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was in the mountains north of Tripoli a few months later, working on PTSD with Amazigh Berbers. Like most Libyans, their suffering resulted not only from the current conflict, but also from 42 years of calamities caused by the dictatorship. What they desperately needed was to overcome their fears and find that they could hope again — hope for a better life in freedom.

After Tripoli was liberated, I once again tried cleaning up the Dar Bishi Synagogue. Even though I had received permission from the National Transitional Council (NTC) and the local government to undertake this work, a mob gathered, shouting that “there is no place for Jews in Libya” and carrying signs in both Arabic and Hebrew to make sure, I suppose, that I got the message. Once again, I had to leave. But this time I left with dignity, not fear: I left on the day of my choice and on my own terms. I wanted to signal to the NTC that I would work with it to restore calm and that it needed to work with me. And in so doing, I found more strength.

Despite all these challenges, I still have hope. I will continue to do what I can so that the Jewish presence in Libya is not forgotten and Jews, as well as all minorities, can reclaim their rightful place in Libya. I know that this will take time. Tripoli’s new leadership faces enormous challenges, such as building the essential elements of government and civil life and bridging ethnic and regional divides. But part of this effort must include preserving and protecting Libya’s few remaining Jewish heritage sites. I also urge the NTC and similar bodies to recognize and meet with the WOLJ as the legitimate representative of the Libyan Jewish community.

Hope often needs help. The international community must also act. The United States and its NATO allies played a pivotal role in helping the Libyan people achieve freedom, and now they can help steer the new government toward a path of justice and reconciliation. These countries must send a message to the NTC and other Libyan leaders that they can demonstrate their seriousness about democracy and human rights by breaking with Libya’s past and welcoming back Jews and other minorities. It is a win-win proposition for all interested in Libya’s development and success.

U.S. citizens can also help by urging President Barack Obama’s administration to remain true to its values. The White House must not only focus on economic and political development, but also human rights. As we so often have seen, the way countries treat their minorities signals how they will behave toward their neighbors and the world.

A peaceful, stable Libya is most likely to be realized if it is pluralistic, open, and tolerant. Libya must become a free, just, and democratic country, grounded in the rule of law, in which all of Libya’s minorities — including those Jews forced to flee — are welcomed back into the Libyan family. We can make a difference at this critical juncture, before the cement dries, by making a mark for democracy, human rights, and religious pluralism, so that Libya becomes a model for reconciliation and tolerance.

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Hail to the champion of Libyan Jewish rights

Jewish leader will take Salafist preacher to court

The leader of the Jewish community in Tunisia, Roger Bismuth (pictured), has been talking tough: he intends to take a Salafist preacher to court. The preacher called for a war against the Jews at a demonstration last weekend, Tunisialive reports:

The President of the Tunisian Jewish Community Roger Bismuth has expressed deep concern over the security of Tunisia’s Jewish Community, and has called on the government to take immediate action against those who incite hatred against others.

During Sunday’s Salafist demonstrationon Avenue Habib Bourguiba, one Salafist preacher shouted “young people rise up, let’s wage a war against the Jews,” to a cheering crowd chanting “God is great.”

Bismuth announced that he will be taking legal action against the Salafist preacher. “We can’t have this violent speech in our country… it is not the first time this has happened… it is totally unacceptable and I am going to take him to court,” said Bismuth.

While Bismuth told Tunisia Live he has been unable to meet today with Prime MinisterHamadi Jebali, he paid a visit to the President of the Constituent AssemblyMustapha Ben Jaafar, who strongly condemned the Salafist preacher.

Mofdi Mossadi, a spokesman for Ben Jaafar, told local radio station Mosaique FM that Ben Jaafar strongly condemned verbal abuse against Tunisia’s Jewish community and that it was critical that hateful rhetoric end.

During a press conference yesterday, Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Islamist political party Ennahda, promised to defend the rights of all of Tunisia’s minority communities. “Tunisia defends the rights of all citizens. We will fight for the rights of all our minorities, including the Jewish minority,” Ghannouchi said.

According to Tunisian State News agency, TAP, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has also condemned “all calls to fight Jews,” and deemed the incident on Avenue Habib Bouguiba to be an “isolated act.”

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Salafists rally against Jews in Tunisia and Morocco

Toulouse memorial service held in Casablanca

Three faiths came together in the Casablanca synagogue a few days ago to remember the jihadist murders of three children and a rabbi in Toulouse. In this video from Dafina, A representative of the king pays homage to the eminent family of Miriam Monsenego z’l, the grand-daughter of a chief rabbi of Morocco.

Now that Morocco has experienced its homegrown murderous violence and threats of violenceagainst Jews, the community leader Serge Berdugo’s praise of Morocco’s traditional tolerance, however, seems a touch ironical.


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