Sunday, March 14, 2010

Egypt finds excuse to cancel Maimonides ceremony

Supreme Antiquities Authority head Zahi Hawass (photo: AFP)

They had stayed away from the official inauguration of the restored Maimonides Synagogue on 7 March on the grounds that it was a 'religious' ceremony. Now Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosny and Antiquities Authority Chief Zahi Hawass have found another excuse to cancel today's second ceremony: Israeli aggression against Muslims and the 'provocative' drinking of 'alcoholic beverages' at the earlier ceremony ( presumably a celebratory Le'haim over a glass of champagne). Ynet News carries this Associated Press report:

Egypt has canceled the inauguration of a restored synagogue citing the Israeli oppression of Muslims in the territories as well as excesses by Jews during an earlier ceremony at the synagogue.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities restored the ruined Ben Maimon synagogue in Cairo's ancient Jewish quarter and was set to unveil it to the press Sunday following its rededication a week earlier in a private ceremony.

SCA chief Zahi Hawass said in a statement that the cancellation of ceremony comes following "provocative" activities by Jews at rededication, including drinking alcoholic beverages, as well as "aggression by Israeli authorities" against Muslim sanctuaries.

The synagogue was named after Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, a famous physician, philosopher and Torah scholar who was born in Cordoba, Spain, in 1135. He eventually moved to Cairo, where he died in 1204 and was buried inside the synagogue. The remains of the rabbi, who is known in the West as Moses Maimonides, were later transferred to the Holy Land.

The synagogue was built in an area called Haret al-Yahoud, or "The Jewish Quarter," a reflection of how medieval Cairo was divided up into religious and ethnic neighborhoods. It was declared an antiquity in 1986 due to its historic architecture and religious importance, Hawass said.

The area around the synagogue is now known as el-Gamalia. It used to be a slum filled with garbage-covered dirt streets until the government recently cleaned up the area to attract tourists.

Read article in full

Haaretz article

AFP article

Article by Michele Mazel, wife of Zvi, former Israeli envoy to Egypt (French- thanks: Levana)


victor said...

Egyptians, especially those like Hawass, like one-way streets. The aggression is always perpetrated by others (Israelis, Europeans, etc.) against "innocent" Muslim victims. Hawass is obviously unconcerned by Muslim aggression towards the Jewish shrine of Ezekiel in Iraq. He likely doesn't even care about the wholesale expulsion of Jews from Egypt. Hawass exposes his own hypocrisy.

bataween said...

It seems to me that these officials are happy to earn brownie points from the US by restoring Jewish buildings (which will reap plenty of dividends from tourism) but cringe from having anything to do with live Jews. The thought of having had to mingle with two ex-Israel ambassadors and black-hatted rabbis must have filled them with dread.

victor said...

Bataween, you're right. And I daresay that if I had been at the earlier ceremony myself, I'd have turned to drink too, if only to forget, even for a few moments, that I was in Egypt at all.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Egypt's Jewish population, which numbered in the tens of thousands and enjoyed complete religious freedom, began a mass exodus after Egypt and several other Arab countries fought a war in 1948 with the new state of Israel. Only a few dozen Jews still remain in Egypt.

This is the last paragraph of the AFP article. Except for the numbers, I don't think you would agree that this paragraph is factual. More proof that the press is unreliable.

Z Hawass gets a lot of good publicity for himself and the Egyptian govt through his archeological work. He seems so reasonable and scholarly and devoted to his work. This is the side of him that you don't see when he talks about a pharaoh's tomb.

Empress Trudy said...

Hawass is on American TV all the time. He's practically foaming at the mouth about how archeology, world history even, begins and ends with ancient Egypt.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Here is a commentary on the affair of the synagogue rededication in Cairo and the two main personalities involved, Hawass and Farouk Hosny: