Egyptian diplomat : ‘Jews had never lived in Egypt’

The Jews of Egypt  bear the brunt of double denial: Denial by Egyptians who are convinced that Jews never lived in Egypt; and the other by archeologists like Israel Finkelstein, who maintains that the First Exodus under Pharaoh might not ever have happened.

The first form of denial is the more pernicious because there are still Jews alive who were born and bred in Egypt, such as the psychoanalyst and writer Tobie Nathan (pictured).

In the October 2012 issue of Information juive, Nathan recalls meeting an Egyptian diplomat  in Tel Aviv, a friendly and educated man, by all accounts.

” I don’t want to accuse him, but he sincerely believed that there had never been Jews in Egypt,” Nathan says. “When I told him that not only was I one, but my family had been settled there for centuries, perhaps longer, he replied: “if you were there, it wasn’t as Egyptians”. He could not conceive that Egyptians of the Jewish faith had actually existed.” Nathan blames ignorance – 60 years, in fact of relentless propaganda.

The Jews of Egypt, erased from the country almost to a man – only a few elderly ladies in old age homes remain – relived the myth of the Exodus. Some archaeologists deny that the First Exodus  had ever taken place. The Second Exodus was really the one and only, and people like Nathan the only ones to have experienced it.

Maimonides once wrote: A Jew is permitted to live anywhere in the world, except for Egypt. Bizarrely, he did not practise what he preached, ending up in Fostat, old Cairo. Every year at the Passover seder, Nathan experienced the paradox, as a child, of celebrating leaving Egypt, while still being there. What were we doing in Egypt?And now that we have left, why do Jews have only one wish – to go back there?

Once Nathan himself had left and suffered the tribulations of exile, he too felt that ‘nostalgia’. “A king who hadn’t known Joseph – he called himself Nasser – had chased us out having robbed us first (Exodus 1-8). ”

Read article in full (French)


  • I am not sure the Jewish philosopher who indicated that the image of the jew is a protean one to the gentiles. The image changes to fit the likes and the dislikes of the times. One time it is white another it is black. There is no fix definition. It is all the time shifting. It's the erratic quantium mechanics of social organization.

    Once they were capitalists and bankers resigned to rule the world but at the same time they were communists and anarchists bound to drag the world world into a spiral of social revolutions and armed upheavals. One contradiction. They travel everywhere and are outworldy mingling in the affairs of others but at the same they keep to themselves in the crowded ghettos and are insular and would not share anything. Second contradiction. They are pious, devout and fear God but at the same time they are the worst of unbelievers and even atheists. Third contradiction. They are highly educated, inquisitive and seek knowledge everywhere, yet they are supertitious and tenaciously dogmatic to their religious fanaticism. Four contradiction. They are weak, feeble and ineffectual schemers but they are the most powerful and can exert bloody revenge. Fifth contraction.

    It goes without saying that Jews lived in Egypt long time ago, but at the same time they really never were there… it is just a made up lie…. just like the recent mufti of Jerusalem who said there were proof of Solomon temple in Jerusalem.

    One sees that the image of a jew is an image of everything that one does not want oneself to be. It could literaly be two incompatible opposite things. Whimsical social construction of jewishness at its best with a flare of the dialectical process. It is this protean shifting image that is the greatest thing ever bestowed on the jew (I think). For it is timeless, boundless and infinite. It highlights the impossibility to deny the referencial aspect of jewishness. Even with strange claim that Jews never lived in Egypt, guess what! they must have lived there and left an imprint if not in the muddy silt walls of Fustan or the banks of the Nile at least it is there in the memories of the living…

  • Here is another funny sentence!
    So where was I born?
    Where did I study
    where did I go to university
    etc etc etc.
    MLy own dentiste who even as a staunch supporter of Israel said:
    'There were no Jewish slaves. The workmen who built the Pyramids were
    free to do so and they got paid!
    As I was There with my mouth open and suffering under her hands i
    could not answer her!But I swear I'll tell her what I think before she
    starts working in my mouth!
    But why are people so dense?
    When we see how we Jews have evolved since that time in Egypt, it is
    something we can be proud of.
    And anyway why should I be bothered by what an Egyptian thinks?


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