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Letter from Cairo: City's Jewish history presents political problems

Surprising the locals
When I walked into Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue last Saturday afternoon, the groundskeeper, Hassan, was both surprised and excited. Now a museum, I was not the only person there. But it turns out I was the only one to kiss the mezuzah on the way inside. Hassan smiled and asked me, “Anta yehudi?” I smiled back and nodded. With his broken English and my shattered Arabic, Hassan apologized that he could not sell to me any souvenirs because “it is Shabbat,” but he then took it upon himself to briefly explain the city’s Jewish history. “There are now fifteen Jewish families living in Cairo,” he says, “though in 1948 there were 80,000 Jews here.” I listen politely but wonder if my historical timeline for Jews in Egypt runs further back than Hassan’s.

Interior of Cairo's Ben Ezra Synagogue, July 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

Outside and around the back, Hassan shows me a flat, round concrete slab that has been placed over what appears to be a well. It lies adjacent to what I am told once served as Ben Ezra’s mivkah, or ritual washing facility. Hassan tells me “the well marks the spot where baby Moses was sent down the river.” I am not sure if this is tourist urban legend or actual fact. But either way, I find myself shaken by the experience, and also proven wrong: it turns out Hassan’s timeline runs pretty far back.

The concrete slab placed atop what is said to be the point where an infant Moses was placed in his basket into the water. Cairo, July 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

Same but different
Ben Ezra was not hard to find. Located in the old part of the Egyptian capital, English and Arabic signs point visitors in the right direction.

Directions to Cairo's Ben Ezra Synagogue, amid the old city's Coptic Churches, July 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

It sits among a number of worship houses. Nearly all of them are Coptic churches serving the country’s Orthodox faithful. But unlike the buildings adorned with a cross, the one – and only one – with a Star of David at its gate also had a metal detector below it.

Visitors to Cairo's Ben Ezra Synagogue, with a Star of David atop its gates, must walk through the area's only metal detector. July 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

I leave and look for – and find – another synagogue called Shaar Hashamayim, or “Gates of Heaven.” It is located in the middle of downtown Cairo. Aside from the Star of David etched on its doors, the only thing that distinguishes it from the other large buildings on Adly Street is the security perimeter around its front, and the 24-hour police presence. This is the synagogue, I am told, that actually still holds Jewish prayer services, though by the time I arrive there is no one there other than the eight guards.

Exterior shot of Cairo's Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue with its security barricade in front, sitting amid other local buildings on Adly Street, July 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

A paranoid government
Though Jewish practice in Egypt was outlawed in 1948 following the creation of the State of Israel, it is rarely enforced on the small numbers who still pray. And ironically, last year the government was instrumental in helping to fund the restoration of the Rav Moshe Synagogue, also known as the Maimonides Synagogue, named after the great Jewish scholar who is said to have spent much of his life there. I am told he even wrote a Torah scroll inside its walls. The synagogue’s premises are said to have special healing powers. They were used to help the highest among Egypt’s ailing nobles. But a grand re-opening of the facility exposed the government’s difficulty in supporting such an endeavor. One week after the Jewish community (and honored international guests) held their own celebration – a traditional simcha – an official government ceremony was cancelled amid media reports that “Jews were seen dancing and drink alcohol.” The Egyptian ministry charged with overseeing the renovation quietly distanced itself.

But the tide may be changing. A government poll released last month in the wake of the country’s political revolution (and amid Egyptian allegations of Israeli spying) revealed that a two-thirds majority of people think it is in Egypt’s interest to keep its peace treaty with Israel. This runs counter to the myths spread in much of the Western media that a post-Mubarak Egypt will quickly sever ties with its Zionist neighbor to the north.

At lunch, I pick up the English-language newspaper and read an article about insecurity in the Sinai. Earlier this year, Egyptian authorities, with Israel’s permission (in accordance with their peace treaty), deployed thousands of troops to the peninsula to combat criminal yet arguably autonomous Bedouin tribal groups. The article goes on to say that the Egyptian military-led interim government believes the groups are being supported by foreign networks, including Hezbollah and Hamas. It is the first time in my few days in Egypt that I come across those names.

The shifting consensus
I head for Tahrir Square, the central gathering point that witnessed the largest demonstrations earlier this year. In recent days the youth and families of those killed have returned, setting up tents and demanding justice. Their numbers are smaller but their voices are just loud. They split into groups and argue with anyone passing by. They call for inquires and trials for those among the establishment that called for a violation crackdown on the protesters. Amid the arguments, not a single group discusses Israel or Palestine. No one says Gaza or flotilla in any of their presentations. And not a single voice mentions the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.

Protesters return to Cairo's Tahrir Square and are verbally confronted by motorists, July 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

Along the side of the road, a number of vendors sell t-shirts commemorating Egypt’s recent uprising. Some bear the flag, others bear pictures of a crowded square. But nearly all display the date, the 11th of February, the date Mubarak officially stepped-down. It has not been long, but Egyptians love to remember. One needs a calendar to get to some places, like Nasser Metro, situated at the corner of the 11th of February and the 6th of October. The latter street name, of course, alludes to Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel. Not to be outdone, on the main road leading from the city center to the airport, cutting right through the posh neighborhood of Heliopolis, one finds the “October War Panorama.” Designed in part by North Korean artists, and looking as much, it commemorates “Egypt’s victory of Israel” in that year, while ignoring Israel’s successful counterattacks and an eventual UN-backed, mutually-agreed ceasefire.

Like beauty, history is in the eye of the beholder. Some will continue to associate the recent Jewish presence in Egypt with a war that left nearly 8,000 people dead. Others, like Hassan, will chose to remember the ancient presence as a part of their modern country. And some, like the government, will try to walk the balance between the two approaches.

——–

UPDATE: 9/July/2011: “Though Jewish practice in Egypt was outlawed in 1948 following the creation of the State of Israel, it is rarely enforced on the small numbers who still pray.” This may be incorrect. It was based on information given to me by two local sources in Cairo. If someone has either English or Arabic sourcing on this, please advise! Thank you.)

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  • COMMENTS

    1. aristeides

      And how many of Palestine’s ancient mosques are given this kind of care by the Israeli government?

      Reply to Comment
    2. RIKA CHAVAL

    3. Barry

      I like how you just casually throw in: “Though Jewish practice in Egypt was outlawed in 1948 following the creation of the State of Israel.” As if that were okay.
      .
      COMMENT EDITED BY +972. INCITEMENT AND NON-PRODUCTIVE COMMENTS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED ON THIS SITE. PLEASE FIND AN ALTERNATIVE FORUM IN WHICH TO DO SO.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben Israel

      Yes, the fact that the practice of Judaism is illegal in Egypt since 1948 is quite interesting in light of Obama’s Cairo speech in which he told everyone about how tolerant Islam is.
      I find this sentence by Roee to be puzzling:
      ——————————————-
      A government poll released last month in the wake of the country’s political revolution (and amid Egyptian allegations of Israeli spying) revealed that a two-thirds majority of people think it is in Egypt’s interest to keep its peace treaty with Israel. This runs counter to the myths spread in much of the Western media that a post-Mubarak Egypt will quickly sever ties with its Zionist neighbor to the north.
      ———————————————–
      First of all, one has to question the validity of “government polls”. For that matter I question the validity of polls appearing in Israeli newspapers or other such places around the world. There is no law about lying about poll results (they are not monitored by law as are elections) and results can be preordained simply by wording the questions in a certain way.
      I interpret the results as saying that 2/3 of Egyptians are willing to have an Israeli embassy in Cairo (surrounded by intimidating police) in return for $2 Billion per year in American aid. On the other hand 1/3 of Egyptians are willing to forgo the money in order to clease Egypt of the Zionist presence. I don’t see how any of this heralds any sort of improvement in relations between Israel and Egypt, even should relations not be broken off.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Barry, the Baha’i practice is also banned. Egypt is a Muslim country, like it or not. It does not claim, like the UK’s Prince Charles, to be a “guardian of the faiths.” It is a guardian of one faith, and notably some sects of that faith, like Ahmadism, are also banned. And political Islam, like the Muslim Brotherhood, is also banned.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel, your comments are appropriate, which is why I noted it is a government-poll. Of course, it is not a science, and I am not a pollster. You can make anyone saying anything a number of ways. But polling aside, the general feeling I got by being there (and I should qualify that I was only in Cairo) is that most thought it in Egypt’s interest — for whatever interest — to keep the status quo with Israel. That’s not me claiming to have polled anyone, or a scientific conclusion … I’m just sharing with you my experience from having just been there.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Empress Trud

      aristeides

      The Jordanian government razed more than 350 synagogues in E Jerusalem and surrounding areas following the War of Independence. They destroyed another several hundred Jewish cemeteries, destroyed the bodies and used the headstones to pave streets.

      FYI.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Empress Trudy

      Of course the degree of ethnic cleansing of Jews across the Maghreb was near total. It would make the Nazis blush. The only Jewish history is what is preserved in glass cases in museums. No more alive than going to Karnak to wander around the ancient temples.

      The bigger problem is that, as they say “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people”. 10% of Egypt is Coptic Christian, about 8 million souls who are increasingly imperiled and persecuted. The new constitution effectively takes all political participation away from them and renders them dhimmi. And while no one cared much when 900,000 Jews were ethnically cleansed from the Arab and Persian world, 80,000 from Egypt, I wonder if there will be any reaction from the peacenik left when 8 million Copts are marched to the border or offered conversion of death. I suspect not, if Darfur is any benchmark.

      As I said, Jewish history in Egypt doesn’t interest me. It’s dead and buried. But it will be interesting to see the flowering of anti Christian jihad.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Roee,

      You write: “Though Jewish practice in Egypt was outlawed in 1948 following the creation of the State of Israel”

      Can you provide a source for that?

      Reply to Comment
    10. Nada

      “Though Jewish practice in Egypt was outlawed in 1948 following the creation of the State of Israel.”

      Pretty sure this isn’t true.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Joseph

      I am an American, and I have been inside both synagogues mentioned in your article. I have also been to Cairo twice and have friends there who took part in the revolution. If you talk to any protestors in Tahrir and ask them if they think the siege of Gaza should be lifted and if the Rafah border should be opened permanently, I don’t have to tell you what 99% of their responses would be.

      Also, pro-Palestinian demonstrations take place on a regular basis. I remember when I was there last year there was a small group of demonstrators calling for a lifting of the siege of Gaza and they were completely surrounded by police and security forces. Egyptians risk their lives to fight for Palestine all the time. So, I think it is incorrect to imply that Egyptians are not motivated by Palestine just because none of their chants on one day included the topic. Palestine is deep in the hearts of Egyptians and all Arabs.

      Also, this article seems to blur the lines between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. So what if Egypt wants to break their treaty with Israel. This is because Palestinians die every day literally at the hands of Israel, and Egyptians are ashamed of their complicity in this. If there was democracy in Egypt, the peace treaty would be revoked. Any poll will tell you this.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Deïr Yassin

      @ Joseph
      I think the author is projecting his own hopes about the Arab revolutions having nothing to do with Palestine upon the demonstrators.
      Of course, the revolutions are primarily national revolts, but pan-arab longings and the Palestinian issue is central too. Someone who retends otherwise hasn’t followed the events.
      But then he writes himself that his Arabic is close to zero, so I wonder how much you can grasp of.

      The statement on “Jewish practice was outlawed in 1948 following the creation of the state of Israel” sets the intellectual level of this article. Taken out of some ‘Hasbara Manuel for Beginners’.

      We know the good old spin of mixing up anti-semitism and anti-zionism…. Maybe the author should take a look into the Lavon-affair, also called ‘Operation Suzannah’.

      Makes me wonder how a non-Arabic speaking person with a lack of historical knowledge and clearly biased can be working for al-Jazeera.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Deïr Yassin

      Erratum: someone who PRETENDS otherwise

      Reply to Comment
    14. @Deir Yassin, thank you for your comments. If you are wondering how I, the writer, worked at Al Jazeera, well … it’s called “embracing a diversification of ideas and background.” I highly recommend it sometime. And yes, I don’t speak fluent Arabic (though I speak four other languages). But the conversation with my Egyptian guide went something like this:
      Q: It is Friday. Can you tell me where there is a synagogue for prayers?
      A: No, it’s illegal.
      I doubt she read or wrote the Hasbara guide, being there her name was Hayat.

      @Joseph, of course if you ask the Egyptian people in Tahrir if Palestine is an important cause, they’ll see yes. But if you don’t ask them – meaning, if you don’t feed them the question – is it really something that is as close to their hearts as you claim? For years, Arab leaders and politicians have used the rallying cry of Palestine to placate their own populations (all the while abusing their own Palestinian refugees). Even in May, as he was killing his own people in Syria, Assad blamed Israel for his country’s problems, and the government supported the bussing of people to the border on Nakba day. I believe the Americans call it “wagging the dog” … get the people to look the other way.

      Yes, if you poll Egyptians about Palestine, of course it will rank with importance. But, if you ask them, “what’s more important to you: liberating Palestine, or having a job to earn money and buy food,” I’m not sure you’ll get such enthusiastic support for the former. Of course, that’s a silly comparison and poll. But the point is (and I have argued this before), most people don’t think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as much as we think they do. Their lives are more preoccupied with raising their families, putting food on the table, being involved in their communities, and in some cases plain survival. It is the Palestinians, who undergo daily obstacles by the occupying army to do all of the aforementioned, that are most truly affected by it and thus will also rank it high in any poll. In the case of Egyptians, I think their national revolution was a cause on its own, not one that has anything to do with lifting the siege on Gaza. And suggesting otherwise, I believe, is blurring the lines.

      Reply to Comment
    15. max

      Roee,
      Do you find that the attitude of people towards Judaism and Israel is correlated to education or exposure to international views or any other factor?
      .
      Your single factual sentence referring to religious intolerance in Egypt is addressed by half the comments… how do you see this type of reactions relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict?

      Reply to Comment
    16. Deïr Yassin

      @ Roee
      When I was referring to the lack of Arabic, I wasn’t talking about the conversation with your guide but about grasping what’s going on in Tahrir, and in Egypt in general.
      As far as your example of Egyptians having to choose between having food on the table and ‘liberating Palestine’, it’s simply ridiculous.
      ALL Arab regimes have used the Palestinian cause to withdraw attention from internal problems – stealing from the people and thus preventing them from having food on the table is the first of their misdeeds – all while collaborating with the State of Israel or upholding a ‘cold peace’ as Syria, coopetated by American money and military equipment to keep themselves in power.
      And ALL Arabs are well aware of that, even my five-years old nephew !
      Democracy in the Arab world will automatically bring a more pro-Palestinian stance. If you travel through the Arab world from Morocco to Oman, you’ll know that the Arab peoples are very concerned about Palestine. You don’t have to ask them, just stay a little longer than an average back-packer and the topic will automatically be mentioned. It’s the primary source of anti-Western feeling in the Arab world, and no propaganda of ‘they-are-jealous-of-our-freedom’ can change that. You mentioned specifically in your article that it wasn’t a topic in Tahrir, but if you actually knew Arab societies you’d know that Arabs don’t even have to discuss the Palestinian issue: it’s an evidence. As a Tunisian friend wrote to me the day after the fall of Ben Ali: ‘Patience, Palestine. We’re coming !’
      If you’ve worked for al-Jazeera, you should ask my compatriots Azmi Bishara or Lamis Andoni who both have written on the implications of the Arab revolutions on the question of Palestine.

      Assad Junior might have bussed the demonstrators to al-jawlan on Youm al-Nakba, but the demonstrations were organized by Palestinians (cj. the interview with Hassan Hijazi who made it to Yaffa by Israeli Channel 10).

      In fact, no Arab leader no matter how corrupt he is need to discredit Israel. Israel is doing the job just fine by herself.

      And if I understand you correctly the source for your comment on ‘Jewish practice being outlawed after the creation of the State of Israel’ was the local guide.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Hello all. I appreciate the continued conversation, but am actually on an assignment in a different part of the world right now, so will not be able to continue chiming in. I encourage to keep up your own discussion. That said, I just want to answer the last two posts:
      @Max, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it and would hate to make such a generalization. What I find interesting is the total focus on that comment, and the complete ignoring of the following comment, where it note it is not really enforced. Meaning, technically, Jews are free to practice their religion. (I don’t know if this is the case with the Baha’is in Egypt.)
      @Deir Yassin, the local was my second source. But yes, you are correct. As for your other comments, yes, of course if I were to learn Arabic fluently and stay in one place then I would understand it to a much greater depth. The cost is that my understanding of the world would then be limited just to that one place, which I find to often be the case (and highlighted much more so in discussions like these). My assessments are made based on years of journalism, and I claim them to be my assessments and no one else’s. But I would like to point out two things from my time at Al Jazerea, since you mentioned it:
      1) When two people are standing in two places and something happens right in between them, both of them will see it differently. They will swear their version is correct, and in essence, they might both be right … as each has the blinders of their own position. Al Jazeera English, to its credit, tries it best to show the English-speaking world the view from the other side of whatever happened. (I’m not entirely sure they always succeed, but they try.)
      2) The perspective that much of the Arab world has about Israel is the perspective that much of the Arab world was fed about Israel. Palestine didn’t need to be “patient” … it could have been created 60 years ago. In fact, Jordan and Egypt could have each used the territory under their control until 1967 to create a Palestinian state “based on the pre-1967″ borders … but there was no incentive. It didn’t serve their interests. It didn’t serve their narrative, which was that the Zionists are the last remaining colonial power in the Middle East, and like the Brits and Ottoman’s before them, they, too, will soon leave. That’s a falsehood widely spread around much of the Arab world, and constantly fed. If you speak with the Jews who fled Egypt and Iraq and pretty much every country, you will find that they are among the most right-wing anti-Arab among Israel. They are not European colonialists — they are refugees just like millions of others in the world, only they had a place to go. But that’s not a part of the Arab narrative. In 2008, I was in Doha at AJE headquarters, and the producer responsible for the coverage of the 60th Anniversary of the Nakba asked me for help. They told me they are following a Palestinian refugee in Scandanavia as he returns to his homeland for the first time in 60 years. And they were wondering if I could help them find a “Jewish refugee” in Israel who could be followed as he or she “returns to their homeland.” When I suggested my friend’s mother, who often dreamed about her home in Libya but never dared to return – though perhaps she would be enticed if a camera was following her – I was told, “no, that’s not really the story we want to tell. We need someone who wants to go back to Poland or Russia.”
      The point is – both sides have a narrative. If we want to understand each other, I think, we have to give credibility to the narrative of the other side, as it has framed the views of the people who hold it. Yes, in Tunisia they may speak of Palestine. Yes, in Tahrir, they may not need to because is a given. But ask yourself, why it is a given. And ask yourself who is promoting what narrative. Some might be surprised to know that the Palestinian Embassy in Amman has a map of Palestine based on 1948 borders, not 1967. You can’t then blame Israelis for thinking that Arab’s still want the entire land to be liberated of them.
      (Sorry, I know I went a little off-topic. I told you, I’m on another assignment, and this was a bit of stream-of-consciousness. I’ll beg your indulgence.)

      Reply to Comment
    18. UPDATE: 9/July/2011: “Though Jewish practice in Egypt was outlawed in 1948 following the creation of the State of Israel, it is rarely enforced on the small numbers who still pray.” This may be incorrect. It was based on information given to me by two local sources in Cairo. If someone has either English or Arabic sourcing on this, please advise! Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Rika Chaval

      In any case, thank you Roee for your very interesting article and for continued debate !

      Reply to Comment
    20. Ben Israel

      Regarding the question of whether the practice of Judaism is “legal” in Egypt, it should be pointed out regarding another Muslim state, Jordan, that Orthodox/religious Jews crossing into Jordan from Israel have been told on they are not allowed to bring Jewish religious articles such as tefillin into the country because it “offends the religious sensitivities of Muslims”. However, this seems to be applied arbitrarily. Still, it is odd for such a “tolerant” religion to ban religious pracitices of other religions.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Sylvia

      I don’t know if it’s since 1948 (Rav Ovadia Yosef was Rabbi in Egypt at that time) but it wasn’t until after the peace treaty with Egypt that Egyptian Jews could celebrate holidays properly when the first Israeli ambassador to Egypt imported Kasher meat and a rabbi/Hazan to officiate for the Jewish community at the embassy. This has stopped after the ambassador was sent home during the second intifada and t oday they have neither prayer nor organized kashrut.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Joseph

      Roe, I take your points, and I can see that you as an Israeli Jew have a different perspective than me as an average white American who just happens to like the Middle East a lot. I take that as a given, but I still ask that you pay attention to the Egyptian demands. I really would have to disagree with your core premise that the world doesn’t think of Israel-Palestine as much as you guys in Israel do. Maybe most dumb Americans don’t know or care about it, but I have been to 5 M.E. countries including Israel, Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. I also went to university in London for a year and I met many Europeans from many different countries including overwhelming numbers of white British people who really really care about this issue.

      I think you can argue with the framing of the issue of many activists, that this is an instance of settler colonialism not a “conflict”. You can say that that’s wrong, that because Israel has many Arabs and Iranians that it cant be a settler colony. That is your prerogative. But, I think to DENY that the overwhelming majority of the Middle East (not just because they are brainwashed lunatic Arabs but because they have morals), Asia, Africa, Latin America, and more and more Europe see Israel as a colonial entity and a colonial project is just not credible. I know people in the revolution in Egypt, including two of Palestinian refugee backgrounds. So, I really don’t think you can argue Palestine isn’t in Arabs hearts in every protest even if they dont chant about it(and again its not because they are just brainwashed by their leaders although the leaders do manipulate the issue).

      And just because their leaders manipulate it, does that prove the cause is unjust? Don’t forget that other Arab countries were/are occupied too, so they have a self interest in opposing Israel. Egypt between 67-79 had the Sinai occupied, Syria has had their Golan Heights occupied since 1967, Lebanon was occupied for 22 years (and I drove on the roads of Southern Lebanon which used to be occupied and with a guy who was shot by the Israelis and watched his friend get shot and killed just for being at a gas station and trying to get gas), etc. So they are victims of the same problem as the Palestinians but to a lesser extent.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Andrew Wambugu

      thank you Roee ruttenberg for the pointer in your article. it is true that in most countries where islam is the dorminant religion, other religions dont enjoy similar rights with muslims regarding religious practices. christians are tolerated but not the jews!!
      egypt by outlawing jewish practices is not acting out of the ordinary. we expect more of such hatred and policies.Obama is not helping much with his verbose statements but we respect him and respect other religions also. kudos !!

      Reply to Comment
    24. Sylvia

      Anyone who hasn’t noticed the desillusionement in the Arab world with the Palestinians is improperly informed. On one hand they have realized that they have lost half a century putting the Palestinians at the center of their preoccupations while neglecting their own problems, to see them at the end divide and kill each other. They see how much more prosperous more sophisticated and better educated the Palestinans are today. They see their contributions and their efforts wasted away.
      .
      I watched Arab discussion forums during the flotilla episode. The interest and the reactions were mild, and only Palestinian and european activists were posting on the matter.
      .
      And to top all that, as I said in an other thread, there is today the furor over “the division of an Arab country” in their own formula after South Sudan declaration of independence, with people like Qaradawi fanning the flames, and knee-jerk reactions of rage transferred from the Palestinian to the Sudanese cause.
      .

      Reply to Comment
    25. Empress Trudy

      There are ex-shuls in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Lebanon, Tunisia, France, Brazil, Ukraine as well.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Empress Trudy

      You don’t have to go that far. The Marais in Paris no longer has any Jews in it.

      Reply to Comment
    27. ARTH

      Jewish religious practice was never outlawed in Egypt. When I was in Egypt in the lat 1980′s I attended services on Saturday and on Yom Kippur at the Shaar HaShamayim Synagogue which was then already under government security protection. If it was “illegal,” then how could it occur under the direct eye of government security forces? I have met people who had Bar Mitzvahs and weddings at that synagogue, known more colloquially as the “Ismaliyyah Temple,” in the 1960′s. The last Jewish wedding occured in Egypt in 1984, see http://www.nytimes.com/1984/08/21/world/egypt-s-dwindling-jews-celebrate-a-rare-wedding.html?scp=1&sq=Egypt%20Jewish%20Wedding&st=cse

      Reply to Comment
    28. You rock. Thank you for writing that. I’ll return back to find out more and recommend my people about this.

      Reply to Comment
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