8. The Recovery of Egyptian Jewish Identity
Among the Mizrahi communities in Israel, Egyptian Jews were often particularly invisible. They shared many of the obvious characteristics associated with this group: They came from the Middle East; the religious traditions of the majority were Sephardi; and they spoke Arabic or French, or both. However, the exceptional internal diversity of the Egyptians and their particular history distinguished them from other Mizrahi communities. The Egyptians included a small minority of Ashkenazim. The Karaites were a distinctively Egyptian group (except for a minuscule number of Karaite immigrants from Turkey and elsewhere) with a highly Arabized culture, like the Iraqi or Yemeni Jews. Although French served as a lingua franca for all Middle Eastern Jews, many Egyptians also spoke Italian, Greek, or English. Unlike Algerian Jews, who were all French citizens, Egyptian Jews possessed a plethora of passports and European cultural orientations, yet the majority of those who arrived in Israel were apatrides—residents of Egypt with no legal nationality. The religious, linguistic, social, and cultural diversity of the Jews of Egypt diminished their salience as a distinctive group after their arrival in Israel.
In Egypt, Jews had been overwhelmingly urban, multilingual, middle-class merchants and professionals. They had acclimated rapidly and flourished in its cosmopolitan urban milieus. Most were not strictly religiously observant and did not live as a community apart. They used those same skills of cultural accommodation to assimilate successfully into relatively anonymous roles in urban Israeli life, where they commonly found work in banking and insurance (sectors in which they had been prominent in Egypt) or the police force (where knowledge of Arabic was an asset). Geographically, they were dispersed from Be’ersheba to Haifa, though a concentration of Egyptian Jews developed in the southern Tel Aviv suburbs of Holon and Bat Yam.
Another factor that inhibited the formation of a distinctive Egyptian Jewish identity in Israel was the relatively small size of the community compared to the much larger immigrant groups from Morocco (to which Algerians, Tunisians, and Libyans were often agglomerated), Iraq, and Yemen. In 1961, when most of the Egyptian Jews who eventually resettled in Israel had already arrived, the census enumerated 35,580 Jews born in Egypt and Sudan. The great majority of them pursued urban, middle-class lives that did not fulfill the ideals of labor Zionism: settlement of the frontier, physical labor in agriculture, and active participation in the military struggle to establish the Jewish state. Most of them arrived after the Suez/Sinai War, and it was the public articulation of the meaning of their experiences during and immediately after that conflict that became the basis for establishing the collective identity of Egyptian Jews in Israel.
The earliest efforts of Egyptian Jews to assert their distinctive collective identity and presence in Israel emphasized two themes: They had been Zionists in Egypt; and they had been victims of anti-Semitic persecution. Emphasizing these aspects of their experience created points of contact between Egyptian Jews and the recent experience of European Jews. For Jews and non-Jews in Europe and North America, the memory of the mass murder of European Jewry provided the overwhelming moral justification for creating the state of Israel, and the Zionist interpretation of its significance became a central factor shaping Israeli values and norms. Establishing a claim to recognition in these terms encouraged Egyptian Jews to pass their history and experience through the sieve of Ashkenazi Zionist discourse, leaving incompatible memories and understandings behind in Egypt.
Shlomo Kohen-Tzidon's memorial volume for Shmu’el Azar, Dramah be-aleksandriah ve-shnei harugei malkhut (Drama in Alexandria and two martyrs), discussed in Chapter 4, was the first literary expression of the existence of a distinct Egyptian Jewish community in Israel. Publishing this book enabled Kohen-Tzidon to establish the Zionist credentials of his community by calling attention to the ultimate sacrifices for the cause of Shmu’el Azar and Moshe Marzuq in Operation Susannah. By defending the Zionist pedigree of his community, Kohen-Tzidon asserted his status as its leading spokesperson. Azar and Marzuq were the emblematic Zionist heroes of their community and, as most Israelis saw matters, its most prominent victims. Subsequently, Kohen-Tzidon extended the image of victimhood to the entire Egyptian Jewish community. In an article on the Jewish community of Cairo in the monthly magazine of the chief rabbinate of the Israeli army shortly before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, he asserted that after the establishment of the state of Israel, hundreds of Jews were transferred to “concentration camps” (mahanot rikuz). The Holocaust imagery invoked by this term drew strength from the established representation of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Egyptian leadership as Nazis (see Chapter 4). In addition, Kohen-Tzidon claimed that after 1948, “the Jews of Egypt were defined as enemy subjects and Israelis in all respects.” 
As we have seen in Chapter 3, there certainly were detentions, sequestrations of property, physical attacks on Jews and their property, and a constriction of Jewish communal life. But the majority of the Jewish community remained in Egypt after 1948, and many Jews hoped that the patterns of their lives would be restored. The Egyptian government made a point of distinguishing between Jews and Zionists in principle, if not always in practice. Kohen-Tzidon's exaggerations could be printed as unquestionable truth in a semiofficial publication because few Israelis knew or cared about the details of Jewish life in Egypt. The general terms of Kohen-Tzidon's presentation confirmed what was already known: Jews were victims everywhere in the world of the goyim (non-Jews). Good Jews drew the proper lesson from their experience and became Zionists. Consequently, Kohen-Tzidon was not compelled to explain how and why the majority of the Jews could remain in Egypt until 1956 under such circumstances.
Kohen-Tzidon was willing to exploit vocabulary linking the Egyptian government to the Nazis to validate the history of his community and to make it understandable in Ashkenazi terms. But he also acknowledged that his implied analogy was imperfect by going on to explain that mob action against Jews in Egypt “never reached the pathological proportions of hatred of Jews by the Christians in ‘civilized’ central Europe (Poland and Germany) or the satanic and murderous ‘organization’ of the Nazis.”  This disclaimer preserved Kohen-Tzidon's pride in his identity as an Egyptian Jew raised in a civilized and relatively tolerant country.
His identification with Egypt was also expressed through a distinctive approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, arguing that “the source of the tension between Israel and Egypt was the sad and tragic misunderstanding between two national liberation movements.” He believed that “understanding between these two movements was possible.” This allowed him to assert the incoherent and implausible proposition that Azar and Marzuq had betrayed neither Egypt nor the Jewish people. Because Kohen-Tzidon was a Knesset member who endeavored to represent the Egyptian Jewish community in terms consistent with prevailing Ashkenazi Zionist norms, the inconsistencies in his texts were overlooked by the public and did not become an issue. These logical ruptures in minor texts by a political figure of secondary importance assume significance only through the process of recovering the severed threads of Egyptian Jewish identity, which can not be rewoven into a single coherent fabric.
Kohen-Tzidon was the legal counsel for the Organization of the Victims of Anti-Jewish Persecution in Egypt founded by Sami (Shmu’el) ‘Atiyah. ‘Atiyah, a native of Alexandria, owned a successful shirt making factory and managed the cooperative that supplied raw materials to all the shirt makers of Alexandria. He used his business and governmental connections to participate in organizing Jewish immigration to Israel after 1948, although he was not a member of any Zionist party, and he himself chose to remain in Egypt. As a successful businessman and a friend of the brother of Gamal Abdel Nasser, ‘Atiyah was able to maintain good relations with the Free Officers' regime. On November 1, 1956, following the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt, ‘Atiyah was arrested and his property was confiscated. Like most holders of foreign passports (his passport was Moroccan, but this meant a connection to France), he was expelled from Egypt; he reached Israel in 1957 and settled in Holon.
In 1958, ‘Atiyah initiated the Organization of the Victims of Anti-Jewish Persecution in Egypt with the approval of Minister of Finance Levi Eshkol. The primary objective of the organization was to register and document the claims of Jews who lost property in Egypt, whether abandoned, confiscated, or sold under compulsion at below market prices, so that the claimants could somehow recover moral and material damages for their losses. By 1978, 4,000 files had been opened (including about 1,000 from claimants living outside Israel), registering private assets with an estimated value of $197 million (in 1950s dollars). Jewish communal property abandoned in Egypt was not included in this accounting.
Another focal point of the organization was to request that members who had been interned in Egypt be granted the status of “prisoner of Zion” (asir tziyon). This is a vague designation commonly used to refer to Soviet Jews or others who had expressed a desire to emigrate to Israel and were prevented from doing so. The title conferred no formal, legal rights in Israel. It is not entirely appropriate for Egyptian Jews because both before and after the 1948 war those who wanted to leave were able to do so. Raising this demand was a way to insist that Egyptian Jews be admitted to a status already established by the categories of Ashkenazi history so that their experiences could be acknowledged in the only terms recognized by Israeli public culture.
The Organization of the Victims of Anti-Jewish Persecution in Egypt sought to represent Egyptian Jews as having undergone experiences parallel to those of European Jewry. Even as this representation was rhetorically accepted by the Israeli public and political leadership, it did not win the Egyptian Jewish community the recognition that Shlomo Kohen-Tzidon and Sami ‘Atiyah sought. They and their organization were associated with the Liberal Party (a component of what eventually became the Likud). The MAPAI/Labor governments were uninterested in a cause identified with their political opponents.
Even after the Egyptian-Israeli peace, the Israeli government refrained from pursuing its claims for strategic and diplomatic reasons. Dr. Maurice Sachs, president of the council of the Organization of the Victims of Anti-Jewish Persecution in Egypt complained,
In the [Israeli] Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they would invent different excuses for not dealing with our affairs. Before the signing of the peace treaty [with Egypt] they would say there is no one to speak to. Afterwards, they said it was necessary to wait to establish the joint committee for mutual claims. In the end, they said that at the time the property was taken from us we were not citizens of Israel, and therefore the state can not represent us. If my memory is not mistaken, the Jews of Europe who received compensation as a result of the agreement with Germany were not exactly citizens of Israel at the time of the Holocaust. Why for them yes and for us no?
Sachs's sarcastic tone expresses his exasperation that even though he and his organization accepted the Ashkenazi Zionist framework for interpreting the historical experience of the Jews of Egypt, their claims were not accorded the same importance given to Ashkenazi claims. Professor Ya‘akov Meron, who was responsible for the Egyptian Jewish claims in the Ministry of Justice, suggested that the Israeli government declined to press them because it feared that if it did so, the Egyptian government would make a counterclaim for compensation for the value of the petroleum that Israel illegally lifted from the Abu Rudeis oil fields during its occupation of the Sinai Peninsula from 1967 to 1982. Just as in the case of Operation Susannah, authorities of the state of Israel apparently determined that the interests of Egyptian Jews were subordinate to the broader interests of the Jewish state.
Rewriting the History of Zionism
After its electoral victory in 1977, the Likud encouraged its supporters to rewrite the history of Zionism to accord more substantial weight to the revisionist Zionist movement and to its heavily Mizrahi electorate. This was not a particularly coherent project because Vladimir Jabotinsky and the revisionists had been almost as insistently Eurocentric as the labor Zionists. Support for the Likud developed among Mizrahim primarily as a response to feelings of neglect by MAPAI/Labor governments after they arrived in Israel.
In response to the Likud initiatives, supporters of the Labor Party and MAPAM began to document the history of their activists in Middle Eastern countries. One such project was a series of public roundtables on “Jewish Defense in the Lands of the East” organized by the Institute for Research on the Zionist and Pioneering Movement in the Lands of the East at Yad Tabenkin, the research and study center of ha-Kibutz ha-Me’uhad (now part of TAKAM, the United Kibutz Movement), a federation historically affiliated with the Le-Ahdut ha-‘Avodah Party. Yad Tabenkin also initiated a new journal devoted to the history of Zionism in the Middle East: Shorashim ba-Mizrah (Roots in the East). “Illegal Immigration (ha‘apalah) and Defense in Egypt” was the title of one of these colloquies at which the oral testimony of Egyptian Zionist activists and the emissaries dispatched from Palestine and Israel to lead them was featured.
This event was organized by Shlomo Barad, a Tunisian-born veteran of ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir and member of Kibutz Karmiah. He had no direct tie to Egypt, but as a Mizrahi member of the Zionist organization that had been most active in Egypt in the late 1940s, he felt an obligation to set the record straight. Relying on the oral testimony of the participants in the roundtable and other sources, he published the first comprehensive history of Zionist activity in Egypt. Barad affirmed and elaborated on the perspective of the Egyptian Zionist activists:
After the arrest of most of the leaders of the Zionist organizations, adult and youth, [in May 1948] a new leadership for the confused Jewish masses emerged outside the internment camps in the form of the youth of the Zionist underground.…The news was whispered in every Jewish home that an organization existed which encouraged ‘aliyah to Israel, and that it was the only means of exodus from exile to deliverance (ha-yetzi’ah min ha-golah le-ge’ulah).
Like most Zionist ideologues, Barad sees ‘aliyah as the inevitable, redemptive telos of Jewish existence, which is not indefinitely sustainable in “exile.” He unquestioningly imputes this consciousness to the inhabitants of “every Jewish home” in Egypt, affirming their full participation in Jewish national history and the labor Zionist movement before the establishment of the state of Israel. No one at the roundtable addressed the questions about identity, dispersion, and retrieval of identity that have been the central concerns of this volume.
The speakers at the Yad Tabenkin symposium eagerly seized the opportunity provided by the occasion to secure their places in Zionist and Israeli history. Ada Aharoni confirmed the official Zionist paradigm of Jewish history even as she disputed its Eurocentric version by insisting, “Zionism was not imported into Egypt [by emissaries from Palestine]. It was there.” This conclusion, she asserted, emerged from the research she had done for her novel, The Second Exodus, a romance set in the milieu of the Zionist youth movements of Egypt (see below).
David Harel spoke at the Yad Tabenkin symposium, recounting his exploits as one of the underground youth leaders of ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir referred to by Shlomo Barad in the previous quote. Harel has consistently affirmed the Zionist potential of the Egyptian Jewish community. Several years later he told a reporter for a Passover edition of the Jerusalem Post, “Already by the time I was 10 or 11 I didn't identify myself as an Egyptian.…I felt we were strangers in Egypt. I started to think about how I would get to Israel.” 
David Harel and Ada Aharoni were members of the gar‘in of ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir members who settled in Kibutz ‘Ein-Shemer. Their Zionist and socialist commitments encouraged them to imagine the land of Israel as an ideal space—a national homeland to be rebuilt and the site of the Jewish contribution to the worldwide proletarian revolution. Like many adherents of revolutionary ideologies in the twentieth century, they were frustrated by the social materialities they encountered on the road to realizing their vision. In Chapter 5, I argued that their expulsion from the kibutz suggests that they could not easily shed aspects of the cultural and political identities they brought with them to Israel despite their strong Zionist commitments. But this was not a subject for discussion at the Yad Tabenkin roundtable or in the Passover supplement of the Jerusalem Post. Instead, the memories they evoked on these occasions of public commemoration expanded on the image of Egyptian Jewry previously established by Sami ‘Atiyah and his organization. Not only were Egyptian Jews persecuted like European Jews and alienated from the lands of their birth; they independently realized that Zionism and immigration to Israel offered the solution to their predicament. The history, culture, and Israeli social status of the Jews of Egypt was valorized by presenting them in a form that conformed to the norms of Zionist discourse. Because the testimonies offered at the Yad Tabenkin roundtable and many similar occasions confirmed the Israeli national narrative, most of the public has not been anxious to cross-examine them too closely.
The Assertion of Egyptian Jewish Identity
The convoluted military positions of Egypt and Israel at the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War forced the parties to negotiate a disengagement of forces. Between January 1974 and September 1975, indirect talks between Egypt and Israel orchestrated by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger resulted in two Sinai interim agreements and a partial withdrawal of Israeli forces from Egyptian territory occupied since 1967. Anwar al-Sadat abandoned Gamal Abdel Nasser's program of positive neutralism, pan-Arab nationalism, and Arab socialism. He announced a new open door economic policy, sought ties with the United States, and negotiated the first agreements between Israel and an Arab state since 1949.
The prospect of a negotiated peace between Egypt and Israel reconfigured the political context and offered Egyptian Jews in Israel an opportunity to construct a new social role for themselves. Daily norms of life in Israel were deeply shaped by a powerful consensus on Arab-Jewish relations, past and present, that led most Israelis to regard almost everything Arab as frightening, sinister, and utterly alien. Immigrants from Arab countries were under constant and massive social and cultural pressure to align their memories with these public norms. Egypt was especially vilified and feared because it had led the Arab camp against Israel. Consequently, most Egyptian Jews minimized or avoided mentioning their former lives in the land of Israel's most formidable military adversary. In Chapter 2, I argued that Rahel Maccabi's Mitzrayim sheli (My Egypt), published at the height of Egyptian-Israeli conflict in 1968, can be understood as a text confirming the prevailing negative images of Egypt in post-1967 Israel. Once peace with Egypt became a possibility, evoking and celebrating previously long suppressed positive memories of Jewish life in Egypt could be understood, not as sympathy for the enemy, but as a contribution to constructing a human bridge for peace. Having lived in Egypt and known its people and culture well, Egyptian Jews considered themselves uniquely positioned to serve as intermediaries between the land of their birth and their new home. Situating themselves as promoters of peace and mutual understanding permitted and even required them to reassert the Arabo-Egyptian elements of their own identity because they were now important credentials qualifying them for this role.
Even before President Anwar al-Sadat's dramatic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977, Sami ‘Atiyah offered his services to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to serve as an intermediary in conveying peace offers from the Israeli government to Egypt. ‘Atiyah recommended that Egyptian Jews renounce their claims to financial compensation for their property losses if this would promote peace talks between Egypt and Israel. In effect, ‘Atiyah was prepared to relinquish his status as a victim of anti-Jewish persecution in Egypt in exchange for peace, a very substantial gesture because the assertion of victimhood and the demand for restitution had been the central purposes of his organization's activities and the basis on which they asserted Egyptian Jews' claim to status in Israel. When al-Sadat did visit Jerusalem, ‘Atiyah and Maurice Sachs sent him telegrams of welcome, praising his courage and declaring, “we are with you in your struggle for peace, and God is the grantor of success” (allah wali al-tawfiq). Invoking this traditional Islamic formula demonstrated that the senders of the telegram were familiar with Arabo-Egyptian culture and knew how to behave appropriately according to its canons. The senders identified themselves as heads of the organization of Egyptian Jews in Israel, apparently hoping that acknowledging their link to Egypt would benefit the cause of Egyptian-Israeli peace.
The signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in April 1979 and its implementation by Israel's evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 (except for Taba) unleashed a flurry of activities by Egyptian Jews in Israel and around the world. Projects officially sponsored by the state of Israel or Zionist institutions, privately initiated associations devoted to documenting and memorializing the cultural heritage of the Egyptian Jewish community, publications sponsored by associations of Egyptian Jews, and writings by individuals acting on their own all expressed a reassertion of the distinctive collective history and identity of Egyptian Jews. Each of these initiatives was rooted in its own particular local circumstances, and the politics of these projects were rarely explicit; they were commonly founded on the assumption that remembering and recording what had been was an unqualified good in itself. Consequently, there was great variety and eclecticism in what was selected for remembrance and the purposes these memories served.
Soon after the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Egyptian Jews in Israel established the Association for Israeli-Egyptian Friendship. Levana Zamir, the president of the association, was born in Cairo in 1938 and emigrated to Israel in 1950. In 1980, she organized an Egyptian culinary competition in Tel Aviv under the patronage of Sa‘d Murtada, Egypt's first ambassador to Israel. The event was a success, and Zamir pursued her promotion of Egyptian food by publishing a book of Egyptian recipes. Her introduction to the volume acknowledged that “Israeli-Egyptian peace aroused in me a pent up nostalgia for the land in which I was born and for all the happy smells of childhood.” 
Some Egyptian foods are familiar to Israelis because many Middle Eastern dishes have been assimilated to Israeli cuisine. Nonetheless, the cover blurb of Zamir's cookbook promoted it as a compendium of “exotic” cuisine. The recipes are framed in a typically Orientalist style: All the illustrations in the text are images of ancient Egypt. Besides the recipes themselves, the only evocation of modern Egypt is Ambassador Murtada's preface. Levana Zamir and her publisher seem to have agreed that ancient Egypt was more appealing and less threatening for a middle-class and disproportionately Ashkenazi Israeli book-buying audience. As a marketing and a political strategy, this allowed them to avoid any contemporary references that might disrupt the benign image of Egypt they sought to convey.
The warm and positive associations of food are an ideal medium for nostalgia. Cuisine crosses ethnoreligious boundaries easily. There are some distinctively Egyptian Jewish dishes, but Jews generally ate the same foods as other Egyptians of their social class. Focusing on culinary culture allowed Levana Zamir to claim a depoliticized connection with her past that posed no threat to either the Israeli or the Egyptian government. Nonetheless, promoting Egyptian food in Israel appeared to have weighty import. The preface contributed by Ambassador Murtada hailed the book as an initiative that would “broaden the familiarity, the rapprochement, and the understanding between the Egyptian and Israeli peoples.” 
In January 1984, a nucleus of families convened in Haifa to revive the activities of the long moribund Union of Egyptian Jews (Hitahdut Yotzei Mitzrayim). They began to meet regularly and to publish a mimeographed bulletin, Goshen: alon moreshet yahadut mitzrayim (Goshen: Bulletin of the heritage of Egyptian Jewry). The Haifa group sponsored regular lectures on all aspects of Egyptian Jewish life, hosted social events for Passover, Purim, and Hanukah, and promoted the publication of literature by and about Egyptian Jews. Goshen published articles in French and Hebrew, with an occasional contribution in English, including memoirs of life in Egypt, summaries of lectures delivered at meetings of the group, notices of books and articles published about the Egyptian Jewish community, and reports of the association's social activities. Less active branches of the union were revived or established in Tel-Aviv, Bat Yam, Acre, and Or Yehudah.
The organization of Egyptian Jewish collective memory was not restricted to or centered in Israel. The most active and successful initiative was based in France. In December 1978, the topic of Egyptian Jews was introduced to a public meeting of about 400 people at the Centre Rachi in Paris, an enormous crowd in light of the strong disinclination of mainstream French culture and politics to recognize ethnically or religiously based minorities. This event inspired the formation of the Association pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel des juifs d'Egypte (ASPCJE-Association to safeguard the cultural patrimony of the Jews of Egypt) in September 1979. During the early 1980s, the ASPCJE held monthly events in Paris; and from 1980 to 1986, it published twenty-five issues of a quarterly journal, Nahar Misraïm (The Nile River). Its leaders sought out contacts with Egyptian Jews in Israel and the United States, some of whom contributed to Nahar Misraïm. The ASPCJE was in some way connected with nearly every organized activity of Egyptian Jews and every publication about them during the 1980s.
Inspired by the activity of the ASPCJE, Paula Jacques (Abadi), a radio journalist born in Egypt in 1949, revisited her birthplace in 1981 for the first time since leaving after the Suez/Sinai War. On her return, she reported on her trip on the prestigious France Culture radio program. The previous year she had published her first novel, Lumière de l'oeil, set in Cairo in 1952. Since then she has written three more novels whose principal characters are Egyptian Jews. Her work has been praised by the French literary public, and her fourth novel, Déborah et les anges dissipés, won the Prix Femina in 1991. Egyptian Jews familiar with her work have been disappointed and upset that she has filled her novels with what they consider unflattering characters—beggars, orphans, swindlers, and the like—who do not represent a “true” image of their life in Egypt.
The principal animators of the ASPCJE included several former communists who had worked with Henri Curiel and the Rome Group: Jacques Hassoun, Raymond Stambouli, and Ibram Gabbai. They were joined by representatives of several other sectors of Egyptian Jews in and around Paris. However, the tone of ASPCJE publications and its network of contacts reflected the leftist (but no longer communist) outlook of the nucleus of former communists as well as younger left activists like Eglal Errera. Hassoun's three trips to Egypt in 1977 and 1978, his first return since he was expelled as a communist in 1954, prepared the way for the organization of the ASPCJE. Hassoun also served as editor of Juifs du Nil, a history of the Jews of Egypt from antiquity to the modern era published by a press associated with Egyptian communist exiles. Alfred Morabia, a major contributor to that volume and an ASPCJE Executive Committee member, had belonged to the Egyptian Communist Organization, one of the short-lived splinter groups of the communist movement. Jacques Stambouli, the son of Raymond Stambouli, was the editor and publisher of a lavish photo essay, Juifs d'Egypte: Images et textes, one of the most substantial projects of the ASPCJE. He and Hassoun had met as members of the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist League in the 1970s.
Because of the prominence of leftists in the ASPCJE, its dominant, though unofficial, outlook was neo-Bundism-diasporic Jewish nationalism—the same orientation militantly rejected by the Rome Group in the 1950s (see Chapter 5). The leading figures of the ASPCJE were not Zionists, but neither were they hostile to the existence of the state of Israel. Several had public records of supporting the national rights of Palestinian Arabs as an essential element of a peace based on the coexistence of Israel and a Palestinian state. The demise of the leftist internationalist project that had attracted them from the 1950s to the 1970s in Egypt and France left them with only one arena for political activism: their own community. They did not abandon their progressive commitments but adjusted them to the task of retrieving and preserving their heritage with great determination, connecting themselves to every form of activity relating to Egyptian Jews they could identify.
People who began their political lives as Marxists probably never imagined they would be involved in a struggle to preserve the remnants of the Jewish cemetery at Basatin, a suburb of Cairo on the road to Ma‘adi, a project with religious overtones and no apparent “practical” value. But the ASPCJE contributed hundreds of thousands of francs to finance the efforts of Carmen Weinstein, one of the few remaining active Jews living in Cairo in the 1990s, to construct a wall around the cemetery and engage a guard to protect it from squatters. I met Carmen Weinstein in Jacques Hassoun's home in Paris in 1994. Though both are secular Jews with little attachment to orthodox religious observance, they were united by a fierce determination to preserve the cemetery as material evidence that a Jewish community had lived and flourished in Egypt.
Egyptian Jews in the United States also began to organize themselves in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I discussed the organization of the Karaite Jews of America in San Francisco in Chapter 7. A Rabbanite Egyptian Jewish community settled in Brooklyn, New York, following the 1956 Suez/Sinai War. Some of its members, especially those of families who came to Egypt from Aleppo in the nineteenth century, assimilated to the larger and previously established Syrian Jewish immigrant community. In the late 1970s, Egyptian Jews in Brooklyn established the Ahaba ve-Ahva synagogue, which practiced the Egyptian liturgical tradition.
In October 1995, a group of Egyptian Jews gathered at the Ahaba ve-Ahva synagogue to initiate the formation of the Historical Society of Jews from Egypt. Their objective was to record and preserve their cultural heritage, the same purpose that motivated the formation of the French ASPCJE. Among the leading activists in this initiative with some previous public exposure were Victor Sanua, a research psychologist who has gone beyond the boundaries of his field to publish historical articles about Egyptian Jews, and Mary Halawani, an independent film maker whose short documentary, I Miss the Sun, records her grandmother's fond memories of Egypt. The society began publishing a newsletter, Second Exodus, and organized a series of lectures in private homes. This form of ethnic organizing has been quite common and acceptable in the United States, so it is remarkable that it has begun so recently. The leading individuals had been in contact with Jacques Hassoun and the ASPCJE and were obviously inspired by that example; but the New York group was organized several years after the demise of the French association, and its leading members did not share the same political commitments.
These associations have had modest and limited success as institutions; a certain kind of failure is inherent in the nature of such activity. The Jewish community of Egypt is nearly extinct, and there is little prospect for its revival in the foreseeable future. Those who remember their lives in Egypt are gradually passing away. Most of their children, even those who maintain some level of curiosity and engagement with their parents' heritage, have become assimilated to the dominant cultures of Israel, France, and the United States.
Therefore, examining the revival of Egyptian Jewish identity associated with these institutions cannot be an effort to map out a coherent cultural or political alternative. Rather, it is an excursion into memories and current sensibilities that have not found adequate space for expression in the brave new world of national states in which Egyptian Jews have found themselves after their dispersion. I have argued that the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement altered the insistently negative images associated with Egypt sufficiently to allow Egyptian Jews to begin the process of recalling and reconstructing their past and representing it to themselves, their children, and the public. In the remainder of this chapter, I elaborate this argument, focusing on the post-1977 literary production of Egyptian Jews living in Israel.
Peace and Victimhood
Ada Aharoni (b. Andrée Yadid, 1933) was a pioneer in reviving and reconfiguring Egyptian Jewish memories of Egypt in light of the Egyptian-Israeli peace process. She was born in Cairo and educated at the Alvernia English School for Girls in the elite neighborhood of Zamalek, where she began to write poetry in English. Her family spoke French at home and held French citizenship. They left Egypt for France in 1949, after her father's business license was revoked. In 1950, Aharoni left her family in France, went to Israel, and joined the gar‘in of ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir at Kibutz ‘Ein-Shemer. She and her husband, Haim Aharoni, were among the twenty-two Egyptians expelled from the kibutz in 1953 as a result of their political stand in the Sneh affair (see Chapter 5). Eventually, Ada Aharoni pursued her childhood interest in English literature at the Hebrew University and at London University, obtaining a doctorate in English literature from the Hebrew University in 1975. She writes in English and Hebrew. Her early poems and other writings were composed in English and translated into Hebrew by others. More recently, she has translated her own poems and a novel into Hebrew, revising them in the process.
Aharoni began writing poetry on the theme of war and peace during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Since then, her career has been closely identified with promoting Arab-Israeli peace. She represented Israel at the 1975 Middle East Peace Poetry Forum in Boston. The same year she founded The Bridge: Jewish and Arab Women for Peace in the Middle East, a nonpolitical association of Jewish and Palestinian Arab Israeli citizens. In 1992, she presided over the Thirteenth World Congress of Poets in Haifa, whose theme was “Creating a World beyond War through Poetry.” On that occasion, she received the Shin Shalom Peace Poetry Prize.
Convinced that the Egyptian Jewish community in Israel could be a bridge to peace with Egypt and the rest of the Arab world, Aharoni designed a questionnaire to survey their opinions. The initial results suggested that in April 1993 (before the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles was signed), 80 percent of Egyptian Jews in Israel were prepared to accept Israeli evacuation from substantial portions of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the establishment of either a Palestinian-Jordanian federation or a Palestinian state in those territories. Comparable opinion polls indicated that these solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were then acceptable to only 35 percent of all Jewish Israelis. Hence, the survey research confirmed Aharoni's hypothesis that Egyptian Jews were more conciliatory toward the Palestinian Arabs than the general Israeli Jewish population.
In most of Aharoni's first published poems on the theme of war and peace, her Egyptian origins linger discreetly in the background. The Egyptian-Israeli negotiations and interim Sinai disengagement agreements following the 1973 war apparently encouraged her to advance beyond general calls for peace to articulate more specifically what peace meant to Aharoni through recollections of her previous life in Egypt. Since then, she has emerged as a prominent public advocate for Egyptian Jews in Israel.
As is apparent from her remarks to the Yad Tabenkin roundtable on “Illegal Immigration and Defense in Egypt” quoted earlier, Aharoni has fully associated herself with the dominant Zionist narrative of Egyptian Jewish history. Moreover, she has made herself more acceptable to the general Israeli Jewish public by leaving her political origins in MAPAM on the left edge of the labor Zionist movement and joining the Labor Party. However, like Shlomo Kohen-Tzidon, Aharoni believes in the distinct mission of the Jews of Egypt, who form “a unique type of Judeo-Mediterranean community bridging East and West.” She acknowledges that the literary representatives of her community “cherish warm memories of the Egyptian people and of their own life in Egypt” and regards them as “messengers of goodwill built on understanding, realism, and a shared past.”  Thus, Aharoni very self-consciously offers herself and her community in the service of Egyptian-Israeli peace.
“Ha-Shalom ve-ha-sfinks” (Peace and the Sphinx) seems to have been written in 1975 because its themes appear in other poems that can be dated to that year. It offers a precise and succinct definition of peace formed by Aharoni's memories of Cairo. She longs to resume her relationship with a schoolmate and friend and to revisit sites that marked her passage from childhood to adolescence.
Peace and the Sphinx
Peace for me is an eternal flowing golden river
It is to embrace Kadreya in Cairo
And the house where I was born in Freedom Square
To check if I am as tall as a Pyramid stone
And as wise as the Sphinx
The English version of this poem, “What Is Peace to Me?” is longer and more elaborate. The main thematic innovation is the poet's reminder that she and her family were expelled from Egypt, a topic that recurs in several of Aharoni's other writings. Nonetheless, she continues to use Egyptian criteria to measure her maturation.
Peace for me
is to visit
Kadreya in Egypt, and
the spicy house in Midan Ismaileya in Cairo
now the Square of Freedom,
where I was born, and evicted.
To place again my open palm
on the Sphinx's paw,
and check if now I'm as tall
as a Pyramid stone.
Peace for me
is all this,
and so much more—
Although Hebrew is Aharoni's third language, the Hebrew version of the poem seems more lyrical. Writing in Hebrew has often been more critical of dominant norms in Israel than writing in English, a global language accessible to an international audience. The English poem seems to strike a measured political balance in its underlying message: Despite having been expelled, I long for peace and retain fond memories of Egypt and its people. This is congruent with the message that Israeli political leaders have always projected to the international community: Israel always sought peace with its unreasonably hostile Arab neighbors. Aharoni's innovation is to propose that her connection to Egypt makes this goal more achievable. But just as Israel's governments have been unwilling to examine critically the sources of the conflict, Aharoni does not ask why she was expelled from Egypt.
Kadreya appears once again as the addressee in “Letter to Kadreya: From Haifa to Cairo with Love,” which Aharoni published in the Israeli daily ha-Aretz. The letter is an autobiographical memoir recalling the friendship and intellectual adventures of the two girls as co-editors of their school literary magazine. It is also an ideological manifesto in response to Kadreya's question, “Why are you leaving Egypt? You were born here, this is your country!”
Aharoni's answer constitutes the central portion of the text and describes her experience as a “frail girl of six” (seven in the Hebrew version) when her family's maid, Muhsena, led her on a walk through the Bab al-Luq market several blocks from her home in downtown Cairo. Young Ada was repelled by the “sordid and unknown world” of Cairo's streets. She felt insulted when she was accosted as “ ifrangiyya ” (foreigner) and imagined that the people on the street were “hating her for no reason at all.” She was alarmed that Muhsena “seemed different; from her usually cheerful submissive self she had become incommunicative, bent on her private pursuits.” When they arrive at a confectionery shop, the proprietor, whose connection to Muhsena is unclear, explained to her that ifrangiyya is not an insult; it simply meant she was a European, “not an Arab like us.” When she objected that she and her parents were born in Egypt, the shop owner conceded, “If you want to think you're not then you're not, but how will you convince the others?” Then he offered her a sugar doll, a sweet made for the occasion of mawlid al-nabi (the Prophet's birthday), suggesting that she take a white one, like the color of her own skin, rather than a brown one.
The memory of this experience constitutes a proof text legitimating Ada Aharoni's feeling that she did not belong in Egypt. Alienated from the land of her birth, she spent the rest of her years in Egypt trying to understand where she did belong. Arriving with her family in France, she learned that, despite her citizenship and knowledge of French, she did not feel welcome there either. Aharoni made her way to Israel, where she at last felt wanted and at home. Today she feels herself “an Israeli in the full sense of the word.” Consequently, she explained to Kadreya, “Israel just had to exist for rootless people like me.”
On the surface, the story is a morality tale affirming the central tenet of Zionism: Jews cannot live a secure and fulfilling life anyplace but Israel. The narrative is completely uncontextualized. It is difficult to fathom why all this is happening, and Aharoni does not expand on elements of the narrative that might suggest alternative interpretations, or at least a critical understanding of its significance. The story raises many questions that remain unanswered: What were the social and political implications of attending an English language school while the British were still occupying Egypt? Why didn't she know enough Arabic to understand what ifrangiyya meant? What was it about her appearance that caused her to be noticed on the street? Why did she feel frightened walking in the streets only a few minutes away from her home? What social relations produced her discomfort that the family servant was not acting submissively? Answering these questions might suggest that Ada Aharoni's family was economically and socially privileged, identified with European culture, looked down on indigenous Egyptians, and kept themselves remote from the poverty, disease, and misery of the daily lives of those who lived on the streets outside their European-style home. A young girl of seven might not grasp that the family maid had “her private pursuits,” but because they seem to have motivated the entire episode, it seems like a disdainful expression of class privilege for an adult not to attempt to understand them. Thus, Ada Aharoni had more than enough reasons to feel alienated from Egypt, even if the Arab-Israeli conflict had not made her Jewish identity an especially difficult and painful issue to grapple with.
This experience, although undoubtedly traumatic for a sheltered young girl unaccustomed to walking the crowded, noisy, chaotic streets of Cairo, seems inadequate to bear the explanatory weight that Aharoni assigns to it: a justification for the course of her life and for the establishment of the state of Israel presented to a Muslim Egyptian friend who sincerely believed that Egypt was Ada Aharoni's country. Aharoni's own assessment of the significance of this story seems somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, she explained that the memory “has left a sore spot in my mind even after all this while.” On the other hand, she feels that it happened to a person “so remote from me today that I can only recall her in the third person.” Who or what is being protected by narrating the story in the third person? How could the memory of this experience be so powerful if the narrator can no longer identify herself as the subject of the narrative?
This same scene is retold and embellished in Aharoni's first novel, The Second Exodus, in a form that offers clues that may explain why this experience as a six- or seven-year-old left such a powerful and permanent impression.The Second Exodus is a historical fiction set in the milieu of an Egyptian Zionist youth movement from 1946 until the heroes' emigration to Israel. The principal characters, Inbar Mosseri, the nineteen-year-old daughter of a wealthy judge, and Raoul Lipsky, a survivor of the mass murder of European Jewry who has sought refugee with his aunt in Cairo after losing all the other members of his family, meet through the activities of the Zionist youth movement. Raoul is attracted by Inbar's romantic and innocent view of the world. Inbar, having lived a sheltered life of privilege in Egypt, has difficulty understanding Raoul's cynical world outlook. They fall in love. Raoul shares his memories with Inbar. She decides that having heard the “horrible intimate details” of Raoul's past, she should reveal to him a secret from her own childhood so that “he will realize at least, that I, too am scarred.” 
What follows is an expanded recounting of the scene in the “Letter to Kadreya.” The streets of Cairo are described in much more elaborate and sordid detail. Inbar is accosted not only as a foreigner but also as a Jew. The most striking difference between the two accounts is that the confectionery shop owner, identified as ‘Ali, the brother of the maid Muhsena, in the novelized narrative, urged on by his mother, attempts to rape Inbar and fails only because he ejaculates before penetrating her. Inbar relates that she later learned that her older brother, Gaby, had previously had intercourse with Muhsena. Moreover, Muhsena's family had requested Inbar's father, the judge, to intervene on behalf of ‘Ali and Muhsena's father when he was imprisoned for theft. Inbar's father refused, and ‘Ali and Muhsena's father went to prison, where he died. Inbar concludes, “Through the attempted rape, [‘Ali] was getting back not only at my father and brother but at all the Jews.” 
Raoul, the Ashkenazi Jew, provides the logic and moral force sustaining this interpretation of Inbar's experience. As might be expected of a teenage young man hearing of an assault on his beloved, Raoul focuses exclusively on Inbar as an innocent victim. He minimizes the significance of Gaby's sexual offense in terms that express his feelings of class and racial entitlement: “To sleep with the maid was a widespread affair, even in Europe. They were paid well for it, too!” Moreover, Raoul accepts Inbar's ordeal as comparable to his own survival, saying, “So, you've had your share of the hell of this world, too, Inbar.” Then, deploying a world outlook shaped by his understanding of his own experiences in Europe previously resisted by Inbar as too pessimistic, Raoul establishes an incontrovertible link between Inbar's rape and her Jewish identity: “Isn't it clear to you now that he tried to rape you mainly because you're Jewish [emphasis added]?” 39
Because this second version of the narrative is fictionalized, we cannot simply assume that Ada Aharoni actually survived an attempted rape as a young girl in Egypt, although that would explain why the memory of the experience she recounted to Kadreya remained with her so powerfully even as she tried to distance herself from it. It is possible that Aharoni did not want to admit publicly to having been attacked by a rapist because, as the novel explains, “if a girl is raped, she, as the victim, is usually considered the main culprit.” 
If the novel does not necessarily constitute a fictionalized version of a personal truth Aharoni was reluctant to acknowledge, it does affirm a broader social truth. The definitive interpretation of young Inbar's experience has been provided by Raoul, whose understanding of the world and of the Jewish place in it has been formed by his agony in Europe. In the forward to the novel, Aharoni explains, “Inbar and Raoul represent two aspects of the Jewish people: the Oriental-Sephardi Jews from Arab countries—and the Ashkenazi Jews who experienced the Nazi Holocaust. Together they symbolize the unified Jewish people in Israel.”  This unity is possible because Inbar does not openly contest the meaning of her experience provided by Raoul, although she does not necessarily embrace it either. But the unity of the Jewish people in Israel depends on accepting mass murder as the central experience of Jewish history. Aharoni therefore legitimated the distinctive voice of the Egyptian Jewish community by representing its history as a mirror image of the experience of Ashkenazim in Europe.
This correspondence is reinforced in the chapter following the recounting of the sexual assault on Inbar. In early 1948, the members of Inbar's Zionist youth organization gather at their meeting hall and discover that it has been closed by the Egyptian authorities (all the Zionist organizations were indeed banned at this time). Inbar immediately thinks of the Spanish Inquisition and Nazi Germany and concludes, “We're being pushed out again!”  Once more, European Jewish experiences are immediately available to define the meaning of events in Egypt. The group activity was to have been a lecture on the history of the Jews of Egypt prepared by Inbar. They reconvene to hear it in the nearby home of one of the members, and the closure of the meeting hall, represented as comparable to the worst persecutions of Jews in Europe, frames Inbar's presentation.
When the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations opened, Ada Aharoni took the opportunity to reconnect herself to Egypt by sending her “Letter to Kadreya” and a poem titled “From Haifa to Near Faraway Cairo” to Jihan al-Sadat “to extend a hand in Salam-Shalom to you, Kadreya, and the women of Egypt whom I remember with warmth.”  Aharoni's writings and cultural-political activity express a sensibility that undeniably reflects her Egyptian origins, while she has consistently represented her personal history and that of her community in the terms of the Euro-Zionist interpretation of Jewish history. This has given her a relatively broad audience in Israel, especially for someone who writes primarily in English. Other audiences may regard her exclusive focus on Jewish victimhood, central in her work as it is in general Israeli political culture, as a barrier to peace and reconciliation.
The Second Exodus was the subject of a lengthy and hostile review by ‘Ali Shalash that appeared in seven installments in the weekly al-Majalla and was republished as the first section of his book, al-Yahud wa’l-masun fi misr (The Jews and the Masons in Egypt). Shalash's essay constructs a counternarrative, correctly pointing out many flaws in Aharoni's version of Egyptian Jewish history. He emphasizes Egypt's tolerant welcome of the Jews, while the Jews sought connections with foreign capital, preferred foreign citizenship, and subverted Egypt by spreading Zionism and communism. Some of the errors in Shalash's historical account mirror those in Aharoni's novel, and it would be tedious and pointless to explicate them in any detail. The anti-Semitic character of Shalash's riposte is advertised in the title and the theme of the book—the Jews and the Masons as social minorities who are, by implication, not “real Egyptians.”
One can perhaps draw some hope from the fact that Aharoni and Shalash are engaged in a direct dialogue that would probably not have taken place before the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The dialogue is severely constrained by each participant's insistence that only one of the parties to the conflict has a legitimate national grievance. The painful limits of this dialogue suggest that the diplomatic maneuvers commonly designated as the Arab-Israeli “peace process” have left unaddressed complex sentiments of victimhood that will have to be attenuated if a stable peace is to be established.
A Native Daughter
The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty included provisions establishing travel and tourist links between the two countries. Security restrictions and more than the usual degree of bureaucratic red tape deterred all but the most determined nonofficial Egyptians from visiting Israel. Anyone who requested a visa for Israel was subjected to an extensive investigation. By contrast, the Israeli government regarded tourism as an important symbolic and material expression of peace. It encouraged touristic visits to Egypt, and hundreds of thousands of Israelis seized the opportunity to travel to the only contiguous country open to them since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The first wave of Israeli tourists included many Egyptian Jews.
Among them was Anda Harel-Dagan (b. Andrée Wahba, 1934), the younger sister of David Harel (Wahba). Like her older brother, Andrée was a member of ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir. To allow David to continue his illegal work in the underground Zionist ‘Aliyah Organization after 1948 and relieve him of concern for the security and welfare of his family, the Zionist authorities arranged for Andrée and her mother to be brought to Israel in early 1949. They came via Marseilles, where an Israeli emissary changed Andrée's name to Anda because he felt she should have a real Israeli name. When I met her in 1993, Harel-Dagan noted sarcastically that Anda is, in fact, a Polish name. She was resentful that the emissary regarded Anda as genuinely Israeli, whereas her French-Egyptian name was unacceptably foreign to him. The entire family relinquished the Arabic name of Wahba, common to Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Egypt, in favor of Harel, the very modern Israeli name of one of the brigades of the Palmah. Young Anda was placed in a Youth ‘Aliyah program in Kibutz Mishmar ha-‘Emek, where she graduated high school. After her army service, she joined Kibutz Nirim. Since 1965, she has made her home in Kibutz Hatzor.
Harel-Dagan published two volumes of poetry in the early 1970s. The only explicit reference to Egypt in these early poems is in “Avi haya” (My father was), the first poem in her second book, Avraham haya (Abraham was), a memorial to her father, who died in Cairo in 1944. The verse describes her father's hand as “wide as a mosque on a holiday” or a cart “on which virgins dance to Allah, the only one.” The poet remembers herself and her siblings walking with their father “in a sea of sugar dolls”—the confection associated with the feast of the Prophet's birthday that Ada Aharoni recalled in her tale of horror. Harel-Dagan strove to speak and write Hebrew like a native Israeli, so she distanced herself from the experiences and images of her childhood in Cairo. But she felt that a volume dedicated to her father, Ibrahim Wahba, a native speaker of Arabic to whom she had spoken Arabic at home, should include some reference to his cultural milieu.
After a thirty-one-year absence, Harel-Dagan returned to Egypt in 1980. Like many others who took the opportunity to revisit the land of their birth, she arranged to leave her organized tour group to search out her family's former home in the ‘Abbasiyya district of Cairo. Egyptian-Israeli peace and physical reconnection to the place of her birth inspired a volume of poetic memories, Po’ema kahirit (A Cairo poem), which features descriptions of Cairo streets, recollections of her grandfather and father, and portraits of a schoolmate, her concierge, and a minibus driver. “Avi haya” reappears in this volume, richly recontextualized by poems and photographs of Cairo. Po’ema kahirit uses a disarmingly simple, even naive, style to establish an unpretentious ambience in which innocent childhood memories can be fondly invoked. But the poems also disrupt the reader's expectations with unanticipated language, images, and associations.
Harel-Dagan discovered that she still spoke colloquial Egyptian Arabic well enough to be considered a native (bint al-balad) by those she spoke with. She proudly embraced this identity in the final lines of “Jum‘a the Minibus Driver” in which Jum‘a gives her three strands of jasmine flowers and “murmurs Allah akbar, inti bint al-balad/ inti bint bladna” (God is great, you are a native daughter/ you are a daughter of our country).
The poet unambiguously asserted her Egyptian identity by inscribing both her names—Anda Harel-Dagan and Andrée Wahba—in Arabic on the verso of the title page of Po’ema kahirit. However, because she did not learn how to read and write Arabic well, as her older brother and sister did, the Arabic calligraphy was done by another member of her kibutz. For Israelis who do not read Arabic, she included her French-Egyptian name in Latin letters on the title page.
The trip to Egypt not only enabled Harel-Dagan to reclaim elements of her former identity; it allowed her to express a new poetic voice that had been repressed during the years of her building a new life in Israel. “I could not publish these poems until there was peace and I could return and verify if things were the way I remembered or not,” she said. In contrast to her earlier poems, in which she strove to emulate a tzabar style, the language of Po’ema kahirit is hybrid, consciously mixing Hebrew and Egyptian elements. Po’ema is, of course, not a purely Hebrew word, but a Hebraization of the English. Its use in the title of the volume (rather than the more usual shir or shirah) suggests a Levantine cultural mélange, which is amplified by the colloquial Arabic expressions that punctuate several of the poems.
“Dahir Street” recalls a street in the heart of the middle-class Jewish neighborhood of Cairo and welcomes the Egyptian-Israeli peace by commingling the words of the messianic vision of the prophet Amos, an Arabic phrase, and an allusion to a popular Israeli song, with its pomegranate tree transposed to a guava tree in Cairo.
Behold, the days are coming
Behold, women with covered faces
Pronounce a blessing
In shah Allah [God willing]
In Dahir street
In the synagogue courtyard
The guava tree gives forth its fragrance—
Two of the poems—“Sa‘id al-bawwab” (Sa‘id the concierge) and “Jihantab ‘Abd Allah”—recall an incident of mob violence against Jews (perhaps during the anti-Zionist demonstrations of November 2, 1945, but the reference is not specific). However, this image, predictable within the Zionist discourse, is complicated because the subjects of both poems are individual Muslim Egyptians with whom the poet has a deep personal and emotional connection. Sa‘id lifted her onto his shoulders to rescue her from the crowd shouting “nitbakh al-yahud” (let's slaughter the Jews) while murmuring the basmallah (in the name of God the merciful, the compassionate). The poem concludes with an unequivocal statement of identification with Cairo and its people. The soothing “Do not fear” (al tira) is conveyed in biblical language, the same words with which God reassured Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In Misr-Cairo my city
Do not fear when it is black as night
Sa‘id al-bawwab is my brother.
Similarly, the poet identifies with Jihantab ‘Abd Allah, a Muslim classmate who gave her comfort when Jews were detained and crowds shouted “Zionists out” and “Let's slaughter the Jews.”
Jihantab ‘Abd Allah
No, I haven't forgot her,
Yes, she sat next to me at the Lycée Française du Caire.
Her face is my face and
My laughter is her laughter.
Jihantab ‘Abd Allah
ya ukhti, ya ’albi [My sister, my heart]
Growing up in ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir and living on a kibutz affiliated with MAPAM's ha-Kibutz ha-Artzi federation situated Anda Harel-Dagan politically in the camp that enthusiastically welcomed the peace with Egypt. Nonetheless, she felt that her poems on Egypt were not well received in ha-Kibutz ha-Artzi. She was disappointed that the public response to Po’ema kahirit was greater outside her kibutz movement than among those she considered closest to her. MAPAM's publishing house, Sifriat ha-Po‘alim, normally the publisher of choice for members of kibutzim of ha-Kibutz ha-Artzi, was not interested in publishing Po’ema kahirit, even though it had previously published Harel-Dagan's first book. She felt that the problem was not that the book was about Egypt, but that its style was alien to the narrow tzabar sensibility of the kibutz—born generation of writers in the leadership of the writers' organization of ha-Kibutz ha-Artzi. Sifriat ha-Po‘alim did publish the Egyptian memoir of another member of Kibutz Hatzor, Rahel Maccabi's Mitzrayim sheli. So writing about Egypt was clearly not a barrier; the question was how to write about Egypt and be published by a press highly self-conscious of its ideological mission.
Anda Harel-Dagan was pleased to present herself as a native daughter of Cairo and to celebrate that long-suppressed element of her identity through the publication of Po’ema kahirit. The construction of a self-consciously hybrid identity can leave imperfections and gaps because the disparate components do not fit together seamlessly. Hence, some of the Arabic phrases in Po’ema kahirit are not quite right; and the use of the J rather than the G in names like Jum‘a and Jihantab is not Cairene pronunciation. These are not malicious lapses. They suggest that the poet was stretching with exertion across years of Hebrew acculturation to retrieve the Arabic sounds of her childhood. Perhaps she purposely transformed her Cairene Arabic into the Palestinian dialect that would be more recognizable to Israeli readers.
Harat Al-yahud (the Jewish Quarter): An Arab Jewish Neighborhood
No such exertion was necessary for Maurice Shammas, an Arabic-speaking Karaite born in Cairo's harat al-yahud in 1930. Shammas wrote for the Arabic Jewish weekly, al-Shams, and the Karaite biweekly, al-Kalim, and worked in Arabic theaters in Cairo before emigrating to Israel in 1951. He now lives in Jerusalem and is not very involved in the Karaite community. Nonetheless, he has remained actively engaged with Arabic culture throughout his life in Israel by working for the Arabic department of the Israel Broadcasting Authority writing plays, producing programs, and eventually becoming director of musical programs.
To mark the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Shammas published his first and only book, Shaykh shabtay wa-hikayat min harat al-yahud (Shaykh Shabtay and stories from the Jewish quarter), a collection of Arabic short stories portraying his memories of life in harat al-yahud. Shammas regarded the peace treaty as imposing on him an obligation to present these memories of Jews who “lived among the Egyptian people, as part of that ancient people.” For Shammas, the Jews of harat al-yahud were authentic Egyptians—“carbon copies of ibn al-balad (a native son).” After leaving Egypt, he preserved his memories of his childhood in harat al-yahud “like a whiff of pure perfume.” 
Shammas intends his portrayal of harat al-yahud to apply to both Rabbanites and Karaites because he never mentions the existence of the two sects or specifies that any of his characters belong to one or the other. This is consistent with his current belief that Karaites should not emphasize their distinctive identity in Israel because this would separate them from other Jews. Most of the characters in the stories are Jews and have distinctively Jewish names. There are occasional references to Jewish customs, such as the dowry (instead of the Muslim mahr, or bridal gift), kosher food, and a bar mitzvah. Otherwise, there is no reason why most of the stories could not be about Muslims or Christians in any Cairene popular neighborhood.
In contrast to both Ada Aharoni and Anda Harel-Dagan, Shammas relates only positive memories of relations between Jews and Muslims. “Al-‘Amm Mahmud” (Uncle Mahmud) tells the story of a poor Muslim man who lived in harat al-yahud happily and amicably for several years with no difficulties. After becoming an “inseparable part of its human and social reality,” he suddenly disappears from the quarter. Some time later he returns to introduce his son, who has just graduated from the University of London medical school, to the “good people with whom I lived one of the happiest periods of my life.”  The young doctor then opens a clinic in the hara.
In “Cafe Lanciano,” patrons are gathered around the journalist Albert Mizrahi, discussing the veracity of a rumor that Layla Murad has converted to Islam (see Chapter 3). Some of the patrons become angry when they learn that the rumor is true. Lanciano, the proprietor, is the most upset. He turns off the radio when the announcer introduces a song by Layla Murad and orders her picture removed from the cafe wall. Others are not dismayed. For Sa‘adya, it is a simple matter: “I don't understand. Why are you angry? Is she your relative? Your sister? Someone falls in love and wants to marry the one she loves. What's wrong with that?”  The debate remains unresolved. The next morning the quarter is buzzing with the story that Layla Murad secretly visited the Maimonides synagogue in the hara at midnight and asked the sexton to pray for the soul of her father, Zaki Murad. Everyone is relieved. At the cafe, Lanciano selects a Layla Murad record to play and orders her picture restored to the wall. Having honored her father appropriately, Layla Murad regains the esteem of the Jews of the hara. Her formal religious affiliation no longer constitutes a barrier to her acceptance by the Jewish community, just as her Jewish origins did not obstruct her popularity with her broader Egyptian audiences.
The Ambiguous Legacy of Levantine Culture
In Chapter 2, I introduced Jacqueline Kahanoff and her book of essays, Mi-mizrah shemesh (From the east the sun), and argued that she advocated a creative Levantine cultural synthesis combining the progressive ideas of post-Enlightenment Europe with the refined civilization of Egypt. Kahanoff was a Levantine by cultural and social formation, as were many Mizrahim. But all the parties in the Zionist movement vehemently rejected Levantinism as an element of the modern, Hebrew culture they sought to create. Tzabar culture absorbed many material influences from its Middle Eastern environment—food, music, dance, language, architectural elements, and so forth. But its dominant exponents militantly insisted that the Arabs had no worthwhile ideas or social practices (except perhaps their customs of hospitality) to offer.
Mi-mizrah shemesh was published after Anwar al-Sadat's visit to Jerusalem and the start of the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations, and it is a component part of the literary movement asserting Egyptian Jewish identity in Israel that I have been describing. But only a few readers and reviewers were able to accept its positive portrayal of Levantinism. Yitzhaq Gormezano-Goren's Kayitz Aleksandroni (Alexandrian summer), also discussed in Chapter 2, was a part of this literary movement as well. His “Mediterraneanism” was also rejected by most Israeli reviewers. These works were the first major literary efforts to present a new and more positive view of Egypt to an Israeli audience through the opening created by the peace negotiations. But the reconsideration of cultural orientation they explicitly proposed could not yet be seriously contemplated by most Israelis. These Egyptian-born authors wrote of and from their own memories. Most critics could easily discount their sensibilities as a backward-looking nostalgia for an exilic past that Zionism sought to negate and transcend.
Nearly two decades later, Ronit Matalon, the daughter of Egyptian Jewish parents born in Israel, dramatically revalorized Levantinism in her intricate saga of a Jewish family's past in Egypt and their imperfectly reconstructed lives in Cameroon, Israel, and New York-Zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu (The one facing us). Matalon reproduced verbatim two of Kahanoff's most distinctive essays, “Childhood in Egypt” and “Europe from Afar” (including the passages I have quoted in Chapter 2) as chapters in her novel. This demonstrative invocation of Kahanoff's authority was aesthetically and politically effective because in the years since the publication of Mi-mizrah shemesh, Kahanoff's work and reputation have gained stature among Mizrahi intellectuals and others searching for ways to integrate Israel into its Middle Eastern location. The publication of Mi-mizrah shemesh marked the launching of a broad Mizrahi cultural movement that amplified the effects of the assertion of the Egyptian Jewish presence in Israel.Zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu, a complex and highly original novel preoccupied with Levantinism, benefitted from these changes in cultural sensibility and was highly praised by critics in the daily press and literary scholars.
Each chapter of the novel is built around an introductory photograph from the narrator's family album. Some are images of Matalon's actual family; some are random shots taken outside Egypt for which Matalon provides fictionalized captions situating them in Egypt; and some pictures are “missing.” Zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu is therefore far more than a novel with substantial autobiographical elements. Matalon is aware that she cannot reproduce a complete and historically objective picture of her family's life in Egypt and beyond. Incorporating imperfection and contradiction in a nonlinear narrative style, she poignantly reconnects fragments of individual lives, family relationships, and social situations, evoking the flavor of Levantine culture by liberally sprinkling phrases in French, Arabic, and occasionally English over her highly refined and sophisticated Hebrew text. The family members have idiosyncratic and widely varying attitudes toward Egypt, which Matalon renders empathically without fully endorsing. She avoids the temptation to establish a comprehensive and definitive representation of Jewish life in Egypt, leaving open many possible understandings shaped by personal idiosyncrasies, individual responses to the accidents of history, and the vagaries of human memory.
The novel opens as the narrator, seventeen-year-old Esther, who has just finished eleventh grade in Israel, lands at the port of Douala in Cameroon, where her uncle Cicurel (Jako Cicurel) owns a fishing fleet. Jako and his wife, Marie-Ange, have lived in Brazzaville, Gabon, and Douala since leaving Cairo in the 1950s. “They are sending me there, to Africa, to the glorious uncle so that he might perhaps straighten out my head a little,” she muses. Esther's parents, born in Egypt and living in Israel, thus reverse the common pattern of middle-class American Jewish families who send their teenage children on trips to Israel to secure their Jewish identities and bond with the Jewish state. Most of the first third of the novel unfolds in Douala, giving the reader a diaspora—centered perspective on Esther's family history, despite the fact that most of the family resides in Israel.
Although the social and economic relations of postcolonial Douala continually recall the life of Esther's family in Cairo, she cannot “return” to Egypt. Matalon is quite clear that the colonial world in which Egyptian Jewish life was situated has ended and cannot be recreated. Uncle Cicurel has internalized the racialized hierarchies of the colonial order and lives a life of postcolonial privilege modulated by paternalistic concern for his African workers and sincere respect for their human dignity. But he is not fully European himself, so he resents and fears Europe and chooses to live in Africa. “Through this choice he found a twisted line of continuity of himself and of his world in which there was no real place allotted for national identity, but in which huge expanses were open to nourish any spark of individual human endeavor imaginable.”  The dangers of this world are revealed when Uncle Cicurel is stabbed by one of his workers toward the end of the book. But he does not consider abandoning it, and it is clear that he will recover without permanent damage and remain in Douala.
Like Esther's maternal grandfather, Uncle Cicurel vehemently rejects Zionism as destructive of the spirit of the family. Guided by this spirit, he retains strong ties to his family in Israel, including his sister, Ines, and her husband, Robert—Esther's parents. But he and Marie-Ange have visited Israel only once for forty-eight hours in the late 1950s.
Esther's oldest uncle, Moise, introduced Zionism to the family: “ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir, Le Mouvement, Marcelle Ninio, and all that,” as Esther dismissively refers to it. Ninio was a member of or close to ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir before becoming a spy for Israel. Recalling this connection as Moise's Zionist commitments are related for the first time invokes the images of incompetence, scandal, and betrayal associated with Operation Susannah and the Lavon affair. Like many of the young Jews in the milieu described in Jacqueline Kahanoff's essays included in the novel, Moise believed that “the options before us are very clear…to be a Zionist or a communist.”  He chose Zionism and left Egypt for Palestine in the late 1940s to join a kibutz.
Except for Uncle Cicurel and Esther's father, who died in Egypt, the rest of the family joined Moise some years later. Only Moise and Ines try to adapt to Israeli society, and they do not really succeed. Grandmother Fortuna even seeks to put Esther in a Catholic boarding school in Jaffa so that she will receive a proper education, but Ines will not hear of it. “La vraie Ines, I left her in Egypt,” mumbles Fortuna. She yearns for the refinement of the Arab and Francophone cultures of Egypt and disdains life in both Israel and Douala.
Esther's youngest uncle, Edouard, was raised on Moise's kibutz but leaves Israel to seek his fortune with his elder brother in Africa. Edouard beats the African workers Jako has charged him with supervising. His Israeli upbringing has taught Edouard a racism too crude for Jako to tolerate. Edouard returns to Israel and becomes head of the General Security Services investigation unit in the Gaza Strip. Eventually, he becomes “entirely Arab,” speaks Arabic almost exclusively, and criticizes Moise and Ines for assimilating to Ashkenazi culture and for their moderate attitudes toward the Palestinian Arabs (a political stand commonly associated with Ashkenazim). Moise does not understand where Edouard's embrace of Arab culture comes from. “Where did he see these things at home, all this hoo-hah?” he asks. “Maybe they were there and we didn't know it,” says Ines. “Maybe we didn't see.” 
In the 1960s, Moise asked the kibutz to allow him to study drawing. His request was denied, and Moise abruptly left the kibutz, feeling that he was discriminated against because of his Mizrahi origins. Moise does not abandon his Zionist commitment and determines to retain “only the good in it.”
Esther's father, Robert, mocks Moise: “Your enlightened ones there in the kibutz, the miserable racists who are settling on Arab land, are they good or bad?”  Robert supports pan-Arab nationalism and admires Gamal Abdel Nasser. He is emotionally devastated by Egypt's defeat in the Six Day War. “What did we win? You will eat this conquest until it comes out of your nose,” he proclaims prophetically. Coming to Israel, “a piece of land not worth a spit,” was a nightmare for Robert. He turns his anger over the treatment of Mizrahim in Israel into political activism and runs for a city council seat, raising the issues of “discrimination against Sephardim,” “the permanent lie of security of the state,” and “the hatred of the Orient of the ruling stratum.”  He looses the election to a MAPAI nominee by two votes and, frustrated and depressed, abandons his home and family. Robert is an emotionally unstable character, and his preposterous political commitments (for a Jew living in Israel) ensure that readers will not regard his voice as definitive. But this enables Matalon to express, through Robert, fundamental criticisms of Israeli society with rare clarity.
Robert's sister Nadine lives in New York. He and Esther come to look for her when she becomes mentally ill and disappears. They engage a private investigator, Armando, who asks Robert when he last saw Nadine. Hearing that it was forty-one years ago, Armando mistakenly concludes that Robert is a Holocaust survivor. Robert tries to explain in broken English: “No Holocaust, no camp, mister Armando, understand? EGYPT, you know Egypt? Good life, good people, good country, no Holocaust.” 
Nadine's very Americanized and stereotypically superficial daughter, Suzette (Zuza), comes to Israel to interview Ines for a book about her roots, the breakup of the family, and the breakup of the colonial world. Ines has a brief and simple story: “I can only say that we were very happy. We were all very happy in Egypt, much happier than here. We ate a lot, we played, we did silly things, we laughed at any silliness, Zuza, like children. That's what I can tell you about our lives.” 
Suzette tries to extract more information. “Are you sorry that you left Egypt, tante?”
“Not sorry,” replies Ines. “Longing for it, dying from longing, that yes, not sorry. Our lives there were over, Zuza.”
“But your roots are there tante,” protests Suzette.
Ines closes the conversation, “A person does not need roots, he needs a home.” 
Ines offers a very limited justification for Israel, not as a revival of the ancient Jewish homeland or a site for the creation of the new Jew, but as a necessary refuge when it was no longer possible to continue life in Egypt. This pragmatic, Levantine outlook eschews ideological abstraction. Indeed, no one in Esther's family presents an ideologically coherent solution to his or her condition. Moise's abandonment of the kibutz expresses his disillusionment with the Zionist idealism of his youth, though he will not renounce it. Uncle Cicurel is wealthy and comfortable in Douala but knows he does not “belong” there. Ines is physically secure in Israel but impoverished and socially marginal. Robert is deeply unhappy and psychologically distressed. Edouard lives a schizophrenic existence, adopting Arab culture while working in the repressive apparatus of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip. Nadine is either homeless or has flown into the sky at 6th Avenue and 59th Street in New York (but appears alive and well in the next chapter). Suzette is insubstantial, self-centered, and oblivious to the poverty of her aunt, Ines. Left to make sense of her family's history, Esther concludes only that she is her father's daughter, no matter what. No wonder she arrives in Douala in a state of confusion.
Zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu was published after the signing of the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, which most of the liberal Israeli intelligentsia unproblematically regarded as heralding the end of the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Anticipation of this momentous political change and the accumulated weight of the critique of Zionist practice elaborated by the “new historians” and political opponents of the occupation since the late 1970s led some Israeli intellectuals to propose that Israel was entering a post-Zionist phase of development. Post-Zionism, as distinct from anti-Zionism, tends to avoid pursuing the morally difficult questions about Israel's formation and the historical practices of Zionism to the limits of political reasoning. Although its primary advocates have been Ashkenazi university professors, journalists, and authors, post-Zionism has a certain Levantine element. It accepts that the past cannot be undone and tries to make the best of the present and the future without pressing for a fully consistent critique of the Zionist project, which would undermine the viability and potential appeal of post-Zionism to Israeli Jews primarily motivated by a desire for “normalcy” rather than anguish over the fate of the Palestinian Arabs.
The deliberate ambiguity of post-Zionism is unsatisfying for a historian trained to search for causes and effects or for anyone who has tried to make moral sense out of the course of history. It is also inadequate for many Arabs, especially Palestinians, who will not find sufficient attention to their sense of grievance in post-Zionism. Nonetheless, it may turn out to be politically more effective than the absolutist nationalisms it seeks to supplant.
Ronit Matalon's sympathetic portrayal of the contradictory ideological positions of all the members Esther's family suggests a spirit of post-Zionist tolerance and an ability to appreciate the positive qualities of Arab and other neighboring cultures. In an interview in Davar, Matalon seemed to endorse a post-Zionist reading of her novel:
As an Israeli who was born and educated here, I was very surprised by how preoccupied I was with cultural and political options that are not necessarily what Zionism proposes. Zionism and the cultural option it prefers are only one possibility, and not necessarily the most generous one.…As an Israeli, I was very, very attracted to the cultural and moral richness of the wandering Jew, who does not have one nationality or one country, has many languages, is open to everything human, and does not always close himself off from [foreign] influences. In this sense, the Levantine option of live and let live, which in my opinion is the opposite of Zionism, very much attracted me.
Post-Zionism, despite its shortcomings as a historical perspective, offers a sufficiently clear break from nationalist discourse to allow for a critical reevaluation of the heritage of the Jews of Egypt within contemporary Israeli culture. In the early 1990s, the anthropologist Emanuel Marx served as the director of the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo, an institution commonly vilified by Egyptian nationalists as a center for espionage and subversion. After leaving Cairo and returning to his teaching position at the University of Haifa, Marx proposed that if it were not for Operation Susannah, the Jewish community in Cairo would not have been destroyed: “Those responsible for the dirty business (‘esek ha-bish) exploited Jews in Egypt for unimportant purposes. This caused the rupture.”  He went on to suggest that it was possible to renew the existence of a Jewish community in Egypt and criticized the Israeli Embassy in Cairo for opposing this project
because they are prisoners of Zionist ideas according to which all Jews must immigrate (la-‘a lot) to Israel. We live in a post-Zionist era.…Israel has become quite a large state, and it's time we stopped the idiotic activity of encouraging the dissolution of Jewish communities throughout the world.
It is not necessary to share Marx's judgment about the consequences of Operation Susannah or his confidence about the possibility of restoring the Jewish community of Egypt to appreciate the novelty and expansiveness of his perspective in an intellectual environment dominated by Zionism and Israeli nationalism. Marx's ideas are particularly remarkable coming from someone who recently completed a semiofficial mission in Egypt.
Post-Zionism abandons the conviction that Jews can live meaningful lives only in Israel. It relinquishes the fearful conception that because of the mass murder of European Jewry, Jews require an absolute guarantee of physical security that can be provided only by the armed forces of Israel. It allows Jews to appreciate and participate in other cultures without feeling guilty for betraying their heritage and opens the possibility that Israel can become integrated into the Middle East.
Zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu is a cultural and historical statement constructed on the terrain first valorized by Jacqueline Kahanoff and Yitzhaq Gormezano-Goren. It also expands on the less fully articulated Levantinism and post-Zionist sensibilities implicit in Anda Harel-Dagan's Po’ema qahirit and Maurice Shammas's embrace of Arabo-Egyptian culture expressed through Shaykh shabtay wa-hikayat min harat al-yahud. Matalon proposes a tolerant and expansive vision of her family's past in Egypt and, by extension, the modern history of Egyptian Jews. Her deliberately fragmented literary style is well suited to representing the disparate elements of the community's experiences and outlooks that could easily be homogenized and churned into propaganda by a conventional history. And it allows her to avoid making an unambiguous political statement that might undermine the human dimension of her narrative and its reception in Israel. The production and popular reception of Zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu suggest that the broad reassertion of Egyptian Jewish identity in post-1977 Israel may open important cultural possibilities that, in favorable political circumstances, could contribute to the long and torturous process of constructing a viable vision for Israel's future relations with its Arab neighbors.
1. Israel, Central Bureau of Statistics, Population and Housing Census, 1961, Publication No. 13, Demographic Characteristics of the Population, Part III (Jerusalem, 1963), Table G, pp. xxx-xxxi. This figure does not include Egypt-ians who reached Israel but died before 1961 or Israeli-born children of Egypt-ians. Hence, the size of the Egyptian Jewish community and the total number of those who immigrated to Israel are somewhat larger. The Sudanese component of this figure is quite small, and some Sudanese Jews were of Egyptian origins. [BACK]
2. Shlomo Kohen-Tzidon, “Kehilat yehudei kahir,” Mahanayim 114 (Adar bet 5727/1967):44. [BACK]
3. Ibid. [BACK]
4. Ibid. [BACK]
5. Shlomo Kohen-Tzidon, Dramah be-aleksandriah ve-shnei harugei malkhut: mehandes sh. ’azar ve-doktor m. marzuk (Tel Aviv: Sgi’al, 1965), jacket copy, p. 13. [BACK]
6. Information about Sami “Atiyah and his political activities is based on my interview with his son, Eliyahu ‘Atiyah, and daughter, Sarah ‘Atiyah Rayten, Holon, Jan. 12, 1993, and the following texts: Irgun Nifga‘ei ha-Redifot ha-Anti-Yehudiot be-Mitzrayim, Du‘ah le-shnat 1971 (Holon: [ha-Irgun], 1972), MHT D-11/69.2; Irgun nifga‘ei ha-redifot ha-anti-yehudiot be-mitzrayim (1958–1978): 20 shanah shel pe‘ilut mevurakhat shel ha-yo‘r sami ‘atiyah ve-haverei ha-mo‘etza (Holon: [ha-Irgun], 1978); Ronen Bergman, ‘Kamah haviyot neft shavah mishpahat qattawi,” Musaf ha-aretz, Dec. 15, 1996, pp. 52–53. [BACK]
7. Irgun nifga‘ei ha-redifot ha-anti-yehudiot be-mitzrayim (1958–1978), pp. 20–21. [BACK]
8. Bergman, “Kamah haviyot neft shavah mishpahat qattawi,” p. 54. [BACK]
9. Ibid. [BACK]
10. Shlomo Barad et al. (eds.), Haganah yehudit be-artzot ha-mizrah: rav siah shlishi, ha-ha‘apalah ve-ha-haganah be-mitzrayim, 25 be-februar 1985 (Efal: Yad Tabenkin, ha-Makhon le-Heker ha-Tnu‘ah ha-Tzionit ve-ha-Halutzit be-Artzot ha-Mizrah, ha-Makhon le-Heker Koah ha-Magen, 1986). [BACK]
11. Shlomo Barad, interview, Kibutz Karmiah, Jan. 3, 1996. [BACK]
12. Shlomo Barad, “ha-Pe‘ilut ha-tzionit be-mitzrayim, 1917–1952,” Shorashim ba-mizrah 2 (1989):65–127; Michael M. Laskier, The Jews of Egypt, 1920–1970: In the Midst of Zionism, Anti-Semitism, and the Middle East Conflict (New York: New York University Press, 1992) largely follows and elaborates on Barad's narrative. [BACK]
13. Barad, “ha-Pe‘ilut ha-tzionit be-mitzrayim,” pp. 115–16. [BACK]
14. Ada Aharoni, “Ha-tzionut lo yuva le-mitrayim-hi haytah sham,” in Barad et al. (eds.), Haganah yehudit be-artzot ha-mizrah, pp. 20–21. [BACK]
15. David Harel, “Ha-shomer ha-tza‘ir be-mitzrayim,” in Barad et al. (eds.), Haganah yehudit be-artzot ha-mizrah, pp. 44–48. [BACK]
16. Judith Sudilovsky, “The 3,500-Year Exodus,” Jerusalem Post, Passover supplement, Mar. 25, 1994, p. 10. David Harel reiterated and expanded on this point in interviews with me in Tel Aviv on Mar. 18 and 25, 1993. [BACK]
17. Irgun nifga‘ei ha-redifot ha-anti-yehudiot be-mitzrayim (1958–1978), pp. 28–29. [BACK]
18. al-Ahram, Nov. 21, 1977, facsimile in ibid., p. 101. [BACK]
19. Levana Zamir, Ma’akhalim me-eretz ha-nilus (kasher) (Tel Aviv: ha-Kibutz ha-Me’uhad, 1982), p. 9. [BACK]
20. Ibid., p. 7. [BACK]
21. Eleven issues appeared from Sept. 1985 to May 1993. [BACK]
22. “A la rencontre des Juifs d'Egypte,” Le Monde, Dec. 3, 1978. [BACK]
23. “Retour aux sources en Egypt,” Nahar Misraïm nos. 4–5 (Nov. 1981):28–40. [BACK]
24. Paula Jacques, Lumière de l'oeil (Paris: Mercure de France, 1980), Un Baiser froid comme la lune (Paris: Mercure de France, 1983), L'Héritage de tante Carlotta (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), Déborah et les anges dissipés (Paris: Mercure de France, 1991). [BACK]
25. Jacques Hassoun, interview, Paris, May 30, 1994. [BACK]
26. Jacques Hassoun (ed.), Juifs du nil (Paris: Le Sycomore, 1981). Second edition, revised and expanded: Histoire des Juifs du nil (Paris: Minerve, 1990). [BACK]
27. Hassoun, interview. [BACK]
28. Ibid.; R. Stambouli, “Mémoire des juifs d'Egypte,” Information Juive, July 1991, p. 11. [BACK]
29. Victor D. Sanua, “A Jewish Childhood in Cairo,” in Victor D. Sanua (ed.), Fields of Offerings: Studies in Honor of Raphael Patai (Rutherford, N.J.: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1983); Victor D. Sanua, “Emigration of the Sephardic Jews from Egypt after the Arab-Israeli Wars,” Proceedings of the Eleventh World Congress of Jewish Studies, vol. 3 (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1994), pp. 215–22; Mary Halawani (director and producer), I Miss the Sun (Sphinx Productions, 26 min., 1983). [BACK]
30. Thirteenth World Congress of Poets [program], Haifa, Sept. 7–10, 1992; Thirteenth World Congress of Poets, The International Shin Shalom Peace Poem Competition-a Selection (Haifa, 1992, mimeographed). [BACK]
31. The research project was carried out under the auspices of the Shmu’el Neaman Institute of the Technion. Ada Aharoni showed me copies of the questionnaire. Preliminary results of Haifa and Jerusalem respondents were reported by Uri Sharon, “80% me-ha-yehudim yotzei mitzrayim mukhanim levater ‘al shtahim kedei liftor ha-ba‘ayah ha-falestinit,” Davar, Apr. 7, 1993. [BACK]
32. Ada Aharoni, “The Image of Jewish Life in Egypt in the Writings of Egyptian Jewish Authors in Israel and Abroad,” in Shimon Shamir (ed.), The Jews of Egypt: A Mediterranean Society in Modern Times (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987), p. 197. This essay brought many of the works discussed in this chapter to my attention. [BACK]
33. Ada Aharoni, “ha-Shalom ve-ha-sfinks,” in Me-ha-piramidot la-karmel; Matehet ve-sigaliyot (Tel Aviv: ‘Eked, 1978), p. 38 (my translation from the Hebrew based on the English version of the poem). Freedom Square should more properly be rendered as Liberation Square, but I have retained this minor error so that the terminology of my translation of the poem coincides with that of the Hebrew version. [BACK]
34. Ada Aharoni, “What Is Peace to Me?” in From the Pyramids to the Carmel (Tel Aviv: ‘Eked, 1979), pp. 26–27. [BACK]
35. Ada Aharoni, “Me-haifa le-kahir be-ahavah,” Musaf ha-aretz, June 20, 1975, p. 28. Reprinted in Me-ha-piramidot la-karmel, pp. 75–80. English version: “Letter to Kadreya: From Haifa to Cairo with Love,” in From the Pyramids to the Carmel, pp. 149–58. The letter was originally composed in English. [BACK]
36. Ada Aharoni, The Second Exodus: A Historical Novel (Bryn Mawr: Dorrance, 1983). Me-ha-nilus la-yarden [From the Nile to the Jordan] (Tel Aviv: Tammuz, 1992) is a slightly expanded and revised version of the original En-glish text. In the Hebrew version, the names of the characters have been changed. I refer to and quote from the English version. [BACK]
37. Aharoni, The Second Exodus, p. 36. [BACK]
38. Ibid., p. 54. [BACK]
39. Ibid., pp. 54, 55, 56. [BACK]
40. Ibid., p. 27. [BACK]
41. Ibid., p. ix [BACK]
42. Ibid., p. 60. [BACK]
43. Aharoni, From the Pyramids to the Carmel, p. 149. [BACK]
44. ‘Ali Shalash, al-Yahud wa’l-masun fi misr: dirasa ta’rikhiyya (Cairo: al-Zahra’ li’l-I‘lam al-‘Arabi, 1986). The original articles appeared in al-Majalla in the issues of July 17–23 through Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 1985. [BACK]
45. Biographical details about Anda Harel-Dagan are drawn from an interview I conducted with her at Kibutz Hatzor, Mar. 9, 1993. [BACK]
46. Anda Harel-Dagan, Avraham hayah (Tel Aviv: “Traklin” le-yad ‘Eked, 1974), p. 9. [BACK]
47. Harel-Dagan, interview. [BACK]
48. Ibid. [BACK]
49. My translation from the Hebrew. The reference is to Amos 9:13. The Israeli song is “Etz ha-rimon natan rayho” (The pomegranate tree gives forth its fruit), words by Y. Orland, music based on a Bukharan folk song. [BACK]
50. My translation. The phrase al tira appears in Genesis 15:1, Genesis 26:25, Isaiah 44:2, and elsewhere. [BACK]
51. Harel-Dagan, interview. [BACK]
52. Maurice Shammas, Shaykh shabtay wa-hikayat min harat al-yahud (Shafa ‘Amr: al-Mashriq, 1979), pp. 6–7. [BACK]
53. Maurice Shammas, interview, Jerusalem, May 5, 1994. [BACK]
54. Shammas, Shaykh shabtay wa-hikayat min harat al-yahud, p. 49. [BACK]
55. Ibid., p. 52. [BACK]
56. Ibid., p. 78. [BACK]
57. Ronit Matalon, Zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu (Tel Aviv: ‘Am ‘Oved, 1995). [BACK]
58. The literary traces of this movement have been collected for the first time in any language in Ammiel Alcalay (ed.), Keys to the Garden: New Israeli Writing (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1996). [BACK]
59. The most extensive review that I have seen is Nisim Kalderon, “Lo ha-kol sipur ehad: ‘al ‘zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu' shel ronit matalon,” Rehov 2 (Aug. 1995):48–58. See also the interview with Ronit Matalon in Davar in note 73 in this chapter and the references there to positive reviews in Ma‘ariv and ha-Aretz. [BACK]
60. Matalon, Zeh ‘im ha-panim eleynu, p. 22. [BACK]
61. Ibid., pp. 254–55. [BACK]
62. Ibid., p. 28. [BACK]
63. Ibid., pp. 28, 29. [BACK]
64. Ibid., p. 266. [BACK]
65. Ibid., p. 157. [BACK]
66. Ibid., p. 232. [BACK]
67. Ibid., p. 261. [BACK]
68. Ibid., p. 241. [BACK]
69. Ibid., p. 225. [BACK]
70. Ibid., pp. 268–69. [BACK]
71. Ibid., p. 290. [BACK]
72. Ibid., pp. 294–95. [BACK]
73. Yitzhak Levtov, “Kismah shel ha-optziah ha-levantinit,” Davar Apr. 28, 1995, p. 13. [BACK]
74. For example, Rif‘at Sayyid Ahmad, Wasf misr bi’l-‘ibri: tafasil al-ikhtiraq al-isra’ili li’l-‘aql al misri (Cairo: Sina li’l-Nashr, 1989); ‘Arfa ‘Abduh ‘Ali, Gitu isra’ili fi al-qahira (Cairo: Maktabat Madbuli, 1990). [BACK]
75. Yosef Algazi, “Gam ha-gvul shelanu sagur,” ha-Aretz, Mar. 17, 1996. [BACK]
76. Ibid. [BACK]