Weighted down by historical, religious and linguistic inaccuracies, Egyptian television series ‘The Jewish Quarter’ nevertheless tells an intriguing story of the political, social and religious changes that have transformed Egypt — in 1948 and in 2015.
An Egyptian Ramadan television series called “The Jewish Quarter”* has attracted quite a bit of international media attention for its sympathetic portrayal of Jewish Egyptians during the years immediately following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, up until 1954.
Set in Cairo, the ongoing multi-episode drama takes its name from one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, where Jews, Muslims and Christians once lived peaceably as neighbors. It is full of clichés and rife with inaccuracies in terms of costume and historical details. Also, the acting is frequently way over the top — which is actually quite helpful if one happens to be hobbled by limited knowledge of Arabic (here I must thank my wonderfully patient Egyptian friends, who watched and explained each episode to me). But despite these flaws the story is engaging and even gripping at times. It is also fascinating for its implicit political messages and what they say about the narrative of the Sisi regime toward the Muslim Brotherhood and Israel-Palestine.
In “The Jewish Quarter,” the Muslim Brotherhood has replaced the Jews as the villains. It is they who commit acts of terror aimed at upsetting Egypt’s political stability and at tearing apart its social fabric. And the Jews are not all perfidious Zionists: some — the heroic ones — are patriotic Egyptians.
The story opens one night in 1948, with a boy wearing a galabiyeh and flip flops running through the narrow streets shouting “turn off the lights! Turn off the lights!” as panicked residents tumble down the stairs from their apartments and spill out onto the streets, calling out to one another. Jewish, Christian and Muslim residents all run to the synagogue to shelter from an imminent aerial bombardment. The Egyptian army is fighting the newly-established Israeli army.
Episode One of The Jewish Quarter
As the neighbors of all three monotheistic faiths gather in the Jewish house of worship we are introduced to Leila, sitting with her parents. She is the beautiful Jewish heroine, who is equally passionate about her patriotism for Egypt and her love for Ali, a heroic Muslim army officer who is off fighting Palestine-now-Israel. Leila works at an exclusive...Read More