Egypt’s Jews back army against Brotherhood

  Magda Haroun: ‘we are not dead yet’



It seems that Cairo’s Jews will not be celebrating Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) this September: participants will be prevented from travelling by the curfew, and the rabbi who usually officiates has cancelled his trip. Magda Haroun, the community’s leader, has one cause to celebrate, however: the downfall of the ‘fascist’ Muslim Brotherhood, whose government had voted to end the community’s monthly grant. Nonetheless the hard-up group of 14 Jewish ladies have scrounged what they could for the army’s anti-Brotherhood campaign. The Jerusalem Post carries this JTA report (with thanks: Lily):

When Magda Haroun was out on the streets during the
unrest now rocking Egypt’s capital, she saw someone standing over the
body of a dead soldier.

“Not even a Jew would do this,” she heard him say.

Haroun,
the president of the Egyptian Jewish community, doesn’t enjoy hearing
anti-Semitic slurs on the street. She gets nervous when she hears
Egyptians are burning the churches of Coptic Christians, a much larger
religious minority than the country’s tiny Jewish community. She assumes
that most of her compatriots have forgotten there are any Jews left in
Egypt.

But when protesters filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square at the end
of June calling on President Mohamed Morsi to step down, she was right
there with them.

“The amount of people in Tahrir was
breathtaking,” Haroun told JTA. “The unity between people was
breathtaking. Some of the people recognized me because I was on TV. They
were shaking my hand and telling me, ‘God bless you. You are a real
Egyptian.’ ”

Haroun, 61, is the youngest of the 14 women who make
up Cairo’s dwindling Jewish community. Most are now in their 80s, living
off charity and rental income from properties the community has owned
for generations.

But though small in number, Haroun says the
community is proud of its country and, like many Egyptians, supportive
of the army’s campaign to quell Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

The
latest round of unrest in Egypt began last month after mass protests in
Tahrir Square led the army to depose Morsi, the country’s first
democratically elected leader, and install a new government. The Muslim
Brotherhood denounced the move as a coup and confrontations raged
between its supporters and the military, leaving more than 1,000
Egyptians dead in just the last week alone.

Jews have lived in
Egypt for millennia. Around the time of Israel’s founding in 1948, the
community was estimated to number 75,000, but in the decades that
followed the vast majority fled.

Those that remain are happy to
call Egypt home, Haroun says. Although she has relatives in several
European countries, she vows to “never, never, never” leave.

“I’m
very proud to be here,” she said. “I want to do whatever I can to help.
We are a strong people. I am very happy now that people [are] in the
street. Instead of talking about football, they are talking politics.
There is more awareness about the importance of our country.”

On
Tuesday, CNN reported that the White House was withholding some military
aid to Egypt in protest of the military’s violent crackdown on Morsi
supporters. But for Haroun, the army’s assertion of control is a welcome
development she sees as “fighting terrorism.”

Haroun says the
Jewish community thus far has not experienced any anti-Semitism as a
result of the fighting — probably, she says, because it’s so small.

Under
Morsi’s rule, however, it was a different story. Soon after taking
office, the government voted to end a monthly subsidy of $1,000 to the
Jewish community for more than 20 years.

“The way they wanted
things to go, it’s a fascist movement,” she said. “I hope we’ll start a
new era in Egypt where everyone will be equal regardless of political
beliefs. I am very confident in the future.”(…)

 

Egypt’s
unrest will prevent the community from celebrating Rosh Hashanah
together in a few weeks. In past years, the community has hosted festive
meals and invited foreign dignitaries and non-Jewish Egyptians.

Due
to the curfew now being imposed by the army, however, they cannot meet
in the synagogue. A rabbi set to fly in for the holiday has canceled his
trip.

Still, the community is providing support to the army’s
campaign. When a call went out for Egyptians to donate money to the
government during the unrest, the 14 Jewish women in Egypt decided to
scrounge together what they could.

“We have no money, but do you
agree we should contribute a small amount of money in the name of the
Egyptian community?” Haroun recalled asking the women. “You know what
they responded? ‘Yes, of course. We are not dead yet.’

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