Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fate Sealed for Egypt’s Jews

Islamists storm the U.S. embassy and Egypt’s last Jews have no rabbi. Shanah tova from the Muslim Brotherhood.
(Nebi Daniel Association)
Outside of Israel, the Jewish community of Alexandria is perhaps the Mediterranean’s oldest, dating back to Alexander the Great’s founding of the city in 332 B.C. But this year, there may not even be High Holiday services at the city’s last remaining synagogue, Eliahou Hanabi, also known by its street address, Nabi Daniel.

The Egyptian press first reported that government authorities “ordered the cancellation” of this year’s Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur celebrations. But the synagogue’s caretaker, Youssef Gaon, explained that there would be services. “The only difference,” he said, “is a rabbi and cantor who usually lead the services were denied entry to the country.”

Apparently they were not granted visas for security reasons. That shouldn’t come as a surprise: The Muslim Brotherhood-led government is incapable of providing security for anyone—from ordinary Egyptians who have endured a crime wave of epic proportions since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011 to Americans based in our Cairo embassy, which is currently being mobbed by Islamists. Only a year ago this month, the Israeli embassy was also besieged; its staff was lucky to escape alive.

Given the small size of the city’s permanent Jewish community—according to one Egyptian paper, four men and 18 women, almost all of them between their 70s and 90s—these guests were crucial in order to create a prayer quorum. As the blogger Elder of Ziyon put it: “For the first time in some 2,000 years, Alexandria will not have a minyan.”

But while some see this episode as the end of Jewish life in Egypt, it is in fact the coda to a tragic story of one of what was once a thriving Jewish community in the Middle East—and for the past 50 years has existed primarily as a memorial to the past. -- Lee Smith, Tablet

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