June 3, 2008
Jewish conference not welcome in Egypt
Egypt’s Jews, like Iraq’s, constitute one of the oldest branches of the Tribe, the historic remnant of those who returned to the scene of the crime. But since 1948, an actual community has been non-existent, most Jews having been forced from their homes through intimidation, political pressure and general discomfort common in Arab countries after the creation of Israel and particularly the Six Day War.
The “First International Conference of Jews from Egypt” was set to begin a week ago in Cairo. But then the media got stirred up and the five-star hotel that agreed to host the conference pulled out without explanation. No other hotel would sign on.
It’s pretty easy to imagine what happened here. In the same way that American Jews have protested Palestinian Right of Return conferences, I can see, though not appreciate, Egyptians being upset about Jews exiled 60 years ago—like “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit”—wanting to return and visit their old homes and synagogues. The mere presence last year of an Islamic scholar from Hebrew Union College, Reuven Firestone, who happens to be an ordained rabbi, threw the community into a tizzy.
Egypt’s respected Al-Ahram Weekly has the backstory, history and ugly details in this lengthy account: