Sunday, June 21, 2015

Egyptian TV series does not call for 'normalisation'

 With thanks: Lily 

Update: whereas the usual suspects (Islamists) have slammed the series as an attempt at 'normalisation' with Israel, Magda Haroun, who heads the tiny Jewish community in Egypt, has criticised the series for depicting Jews as rich. She points out that the gateways of the Jewish Quarter were not as splendid as they are depicted  (indeed, much of the Old Jewish Quarter of Cairo was a slum). Not all Jews had  refrigerators in the 1940s - indeed only the king and a few others had them at that time.  The scenes inside the synagogue are imaginary and the Jewish worship rituals mostly gibberish;  no one, let alone Jewish women, wore mini-skirts in 1944 ; the scene about the air raid of Cairo grossly misrepresents the Jewish community as having better access to shelters than non-Jews. 

Trailer for Haret-al-Yahud, Egyptian TV series for Ramadan

Egyptian viewers are currently glued to their Ramadan TV soap opera, Haret al-Yahud. As already remarked on Point of No Return, Jews are portrayed in a more sympathetic light than in the past - reflecting the new Al-Sisi regime's thinking. This does not mean that the series advocates 'normalisation' with Israel - far from it.

In this TV studio discussion (via MEMRI) with the makers and actors of Haret al-Yahud (Jewish Quarter), the scriptwriter,  Medhat al-Adhel, says he has tried to evoke the cosmopolitan Egypt of the past where different communities rubbed along in harmony. He also evokes al-Andalus in medieval Spain, where Jews thrived under Muslim rule.

Al-Adhel says that Israel is still the Arabs' primary enemy. The panellists are agreed that a distinction must be made between Jews and Zionists: Egyptian Jews are Egyptians first.

However, one actress is appalled that Egyptian Jews are not even able to practise their religion in freedom (She thinks there is quite a community, although there are in fact only eight Jews living in Cairo). She asks why all synagogues are locked. She was told that Jews are afraid to say they are Jewish, describing themselves as Christians.

The writer El-Adhel puts forward the novel idea that Israel is to blame for enticing poor Egyptian Jews to Israel as a result of the Lavon affair. The wealthy Jews expelled by Gamal abdul-Nasser did not go to Israel, but to Europe and elsewhere, he maintains.

According to Wikipedia, The Lavon Affair refers to a failed Israeli covert operation, code named Operation Susannah, conducted in Egypt in the Summer of 1954:

Egyptian Jews were recruited by Israeli military intelligence to plant bombs inside Egyptian, American and British-owned civilian targets, cinemas, libraries and American educational centers. The bombs were timed to detonate several hours after closing time. The attacks were to be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian Communists, "unspecified malcontents" or "local nationalists" with the aim of creating a climate of sufficient violence and instability to induce the British government to retain its occupying troops in Egypt's Suez Canal zone. The operation caused no casualties, except for operative Philip Natanson, when a bomb he was taking to place in a movie theater ignited prematurely in his pocket; for two members of the cell who committed suicide after being captured; and for two operatives who were tried, convicted and executed by Egypt. "

This explanation fails to account for the flight of  14, 000 Egyptian Jews to Israel in 1948/49 following violence - ironically,  much of it in the Haret al-Yahud in Cairo - arrests and internment. A substantial number of Jews expelled by Nasser also went to Israel.


This extract from the 3rd programme in the series shows that the prayers and rituals are mostly made up.(Clip: Elder of Ziyon)


Sylvia said...

Egypt is returning its ambassador to Israel. Maybe that's related.

Sylvia said...

Anyone who has followed internal news in Israel this week couldn't have missed the total turnaround that took place in the culture wars. As we were resigning ourselves to hearing more insults and degrading name-calling by the cultural Ashkenazi "elites", such as the "behemot speech" by actor Eran Kotler, help has come unexpectedly.

The new Culture minister on whom those self-proclaimed "elites" will have to rely for funding is no other than Miri Regev, an Israeli-born Moroccan Jew. You can imagine the fury.
After the first clash was over, Regev is bracing for another war: she now announced a "more just" distribution of resources for culture. I hope it means what I think it means.

bataween said...

Hi Sylvia
I have been following the 'culture wars'. Please see latest post.