The Al-Kuwaity brothers sacrificed fame and fortune in Iraq for a kitchenware shop in the poorest quarter of Tel Aviv. Zohra el-Fassia,who used to sing for the King of Morocco, was reduced to shuffling about in her dressing gown in a tiny Israeli flat. Now The Times of Israel tells the story of an Egyptian-Jewish diva, Souad Zaki, who became a cleaning lady in Israel to make ends meet. Unusually, Zaki’s Muslim husband came to live with Zaki, a proud Zionist, in Israel. (With thanks: Orna)
TEL AVIV — Most people have heard of Egyptian sultry siren Umm Khultum,
the greatest female Arabic singer in history who dominated Middle
Eastern stages and airwaves from the 1930s to the 1970s and still enjoys
widespread acclaim. However, though she too was a prominent singer of
popular classical Egyptian music leading up to the 1952 Egyptian
Revolution, the same cannot be said of Souad Zaki.
political realities been different, Zaki may have become an
international singing sensation like Umm Khultum, who picked Zaki to
co-star in the hit 1945 film “Salamah.”
But as nationalism and anti-Semitism took hold in Egypt, Zaki, a proud
Jew and Zionist, left her birthplace and privileged status behind for
the life of a struggling immigrant in the young Jewish State.
Thus, just as Zaki’s star was rising in Egypt, she became a cleaning lady at a bank in Tel Aviv.
In the wake of the recent Egyptian
Revolutions, there has been renewed interest in famous female Jewish
singers from Egypt. Music fans have been reintroduced to Layla Mourad,
the voice of the 1952 Revolution. Mourad, who was of Iraqi-Jewish and
Polish-Jewish descent, reportedly converted to Islam for her husband, or
career — or both.
5-year-old son taken right before they left Egypt for Israel.
of Moshe Zaki)
an Egyptian-Jewish singer who, like Zaki, moved to Israel, came to
broad Israeli public attention over a decade ago when her daughter Yaffa
Tusiah-Cohen staged a one-woman show titled, “Ana Faiza,” about their
difficult mother-daughter relationship. (The story was followed up in a
2002 documentary film by Sigalit Banai, called, “Mama Faiza.”)
But of the three great female Jewish-Egyptian singers of the 20th
century, only Souad Zaki has been all but forgotten by all but the most
diehard Arabic music fans. For this reason, Zaki’s son Moshe, a
psychologist from Haifa, was pleased to meet with The Times of Israel to
recount his mother’s unusual life story.