Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Egyptian Jews fight to reclaim seized property

The return of the Cecil Hotel in Alexandria to its Jewish owners could set a precedent. The Jerusalem Post reports on a conference opening in Haifa on Egyptian Jewry:

An organization representing Egyptian Jews is seeking to increase awareness of their culture and history, and to mark Egyptian Jewry's own nakba, or catastrophe, their exile resulting from the Arab-Israeli wars.

In a conference in Haifa on Wednesday, the World Congress of the Jews from Egypt will also focus on recent initiatives to reclaim property taken from Egyptian Jews since 1948.

An estimated 100,000 Jews lived in Egypt in 1948. Today, estimates of the country's Jewish population run the short distance from 20 to 100. Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands expelled in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948-49, 1956 and 1967.

Often the expulsions were performed "politely. They just took your work permit away. [After that] my father, an export-import merchant, just decided we would leave," said Prof. Ada Aharoni, head of the World Congress of the Jews from Egypt.

The congress lobbies for the restitution of property and recognition of the historic tragedy of Egyptian Jewry, and seeks to add their story to Jewish education curricula around the world.

Earlier this month, the Cecil Hotel, a four-star hotel in Alexandria that belonged to the Metzger family until it was nationalized in 1952, was returned to the family. Nationalized five years before the family was expelled, the 86-room hotel was resold to Egypt after its return, according to Agence-France Presse.

In its heyday the Cecil hosted such figures as Winston Churchill and Al Capone. In 1996, an Egyptian court ruled that the hotel should be returned to its owners, but the ruling wasn't implemented for fear it would establish a precedent for the restitution of nationalized Jewish property.

The study of the dissolution of Egyptian Jewry - and of a culture and literature that were abruptly ended by the wars - could help heal the troubled relationship between Arabs and Jews, according to members of the World Congress of the Jews from Egypt.

Read article in full

Egypt sues for King David hotel (Ynet News)

Jerusalem Post article

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