Muslims far outnumbered Jews at the Iftar meal at Cairo’s Adly Synagogue(Photo: Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya)
It is all the rage, apparently, for Jews to be observing Ramadan. But when the last few Jews of Egypt held an Iftar meal at a Cairo synagogue, it felt more like a validation of ethnic cleansing than a demonstration of interfaith harmony. Lyn Julius blogs in the Times of Israel:
The BBC carried a report of Jews and Muslims breaking the Ramadan fast with a ‘Kosher’ Iftar meal in a London synagogue. According to the Times of Israel,
another London rabbi, Natan Levy, ‘ stunned members of the Jewish
community by observing the Islamic month of fasting after witnessing
first-hand the lack of engagement between the two faiths’.
Yachad, dubbed the British J-Street, announced its Tisha-b’Av/Ramadan
fast dedicated to ‘non-violence’ and to ‘peace’, a ‘choose life’ fast:
“All over the world Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, will be
fasting together, against violence, and for peace. “
And now we hear that the Adly synagogue in Cairo hosted an Iftar meal. This is the meal eaten at sunset at the end of a day’s fasting. In the comments thread to an item in the Egyptian press,
Omar gushes: “This is such a great thing, dispelling the absolute
hatred for Jews and showing us “Hey, we’re all Egyptians too!” Another
reacts approvingly: “This is the true spirit and teaching of all three
monotheistic religions. A beautiful step in the right direction and I
hope it doesn’t stop there and it’s not just during Ramadan but
throughout the year and years to come! Salam, Shalom and Peace to all!”
The latter demonstration of ‘interfaith harmony’ is the saddest of all.
The Egyptian Jewish community comprises just
15 people, mostly widows or elderly women married to non-Jews. They are
led by the fiercely anti-Zionist Magda Haroun, 62. She is her father’s
daughter. So fanatically patriotic was Shehata Haroun that he chose to
let another daughter die of leukaemia rather than forfeit his Egyptian
nationality to seek medical treatment abroad.
Since becoming leader of the Jewish Community Council in April 2013 on the death of her predecessor Carmen Weinstein,
Magda has not done much to celebrate her own faith: at least Carmen
marshalled what was left of Egypt’s Jews, together with Israeli
diplomats and interested tourists and well-wishers, to mark Jewish
festivals. Since Carmen’s passing, the Jewish community has not
celebrated the Passover Seder. It was cancelled this past year –
ostensibly out of respect for Magda’s sister Nadia, who died suddenly
aged 59. Similarly, the community found excuses not to mark Rosh Hashana
Magda wants to show that Jews are good
Egyptians; they built Egypt. They must not be confused with Zionists.
But the spurious distinction between Jews and Zionists did not save a
thriving 80,000 strong community from being expelled. Jews were targeted
not for what they believed, but what they were. Neither can Zionism be
the pretext for the persecution of Egypt’s other harassed minority – its
eight million Coptic Christians.
As if it is not enough for the Jewish
presence to be wiped out across the region, Jewish history is being
erased, synagogues are being demolished, and ancient shrines with a
distinctive Jewish character converted to mosques.
This does not mean that Jews and Muslims
should not share each others’ festivals. These well-intentioned
grass-roots initiatives humanise Jews and Muslims to each other,
especially during times of war. After all, more and more Gentiles, all
the way up to the White House, are celebrating the Passover Seder. Why
should Jews not mark the most important month of the Muslim religious
There is a difference, however. Whereas Natan
Levy belongs to a robust Jewish community with the self-confidence to
practise its faith, Magda Haroun is a beleaguered ‘dhimmi’. She
has failed to call Muslim Egyptians to account for driving her
community to extinction. Instead they are allowed to feel good about
themselves and their ‘ tolerance’ of others.
The sun is setting on the Jewish community of
Egypt. Soon there will be ten, or five Jews left in Egypt. How few do
there need to be for someone to hail them as proof of Egyptian
Magda, as the youngest Jew in Egypt, will be the last person to turn off the light. At the Iftar
celebration at the Adly synagogue in Cairo, Muslims by far outnumbered
Jews. After three thousand years, Egyptian Judaism is on its last legs,
and Jewish life reduced to empty synagogues without Jews. This Iftar celebration marked the triumph not of ’tolerance’, but of capitulation, humiliation, and ethnic cleansing.