How sad that Jews hide their identity in Arab countries, in case they get a hostile reaction. Dhimmi does not begin to describe this American Jew in Cairo, who writes anonymously for the Forward. In spite of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, she accepts as reasonable the spurious distinction her interlocutors make between 'Jew' and 'Israeli'. Yet 80,000 Jews were expelled from Egypt - just for being Jews. I blame westerners for rationalising and putting up with such bigotry.
"I never knew him personally, but it seems I’ve lived a life quite like Andrew Pochter, the 21-year old Jewish American tragically killed in Alexandria, Egypt on Friday. “He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East, and he planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding,” a family statement read.
"Here in Cairo there is a network of us Jews who, like myself, came to Egypt with a similar mindset. Just last week I met another “Member of the Tribe,” as we call them. He’d spent time, too, in ‘Disney Land’, our local code for Egypt’s neighbor across the Sinai. "Last September we held a tashlich service of sorts on the Nile. We went out on one of Cairo’s popular felluca boats and symbolically tossed Egypt’s legendary brown baladi bread — the kind they riot about when subsidy cuts are threatened — into the muddied Nile water. Shabbat potlucks followed with friends of all faiths and makeshift vegetarian cholent. We chanted kiddush over Egypt’s infamously mediocre Omar Khayam red wine. For Passover we gathered and broke matzo with some of the last Jews of Egypt. It was a night I could never have imagined.
"Being a Jew in Cairo is not easy, but you make of it what you want. It is not a life of silence, but for me the insecurity comes because there are no clear lines about what is right and wrong. The Cairo congestion combined with a steady dose of rumors has a way of numbing reflexes.
"Walking in the streets I’m an obvious foreigner. “What’s your nationality?” men at kiosks are quick to ask. In the Middle East I’ve come to know it is not uncommon to be asked your religion at the start of a conversation. In a way, it is like an American asking “What do you do?” It is a means for people to try to place you as a foreigner within a framework that they now. But sometimes when I’m close to losing it with a cat-caller in the streets, I cynically wonder to myself, ‘Would you still want me now if you knew I was Jewish?’ (all the more so - ed)
"In over a year in Egypt and five years exploring the Middle East I have received less than a handful of hateful responses when disclosing my religion — though I also do so cautiously. When I tell Egyptian friends or acquaintances that I’m Jewish, they often say, “You know, we have no problem with Jews. We are all brothers and sisters.” Some add one caveat, “The problem, you see, is just with Israel.” Soon after, another, “You know, you really shouldn’t tell most people that.”
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An American Jew in Damascus