Rabbi Ovadia Yosef z"l spent three years in Egypt - between 1947 and 1950. It was a time when conditions deteriorated dramatically for Egyptian Jewry. He was even accused of being a Zionist spy, he recalled in a fascinating Ynet News interview with Refael Bashan in 1972 (with thanks: Jeremy):
"Because of his old
age and frail condition, at times I would represent Rabbi Nahum (the chief rabbi of Egypt - ed) before
the powers-that-be. I recall visiting King Farouk, to pay his respects
on his birthday, despite the fact that we are talking about 1948, at the
height of the War of Independence;
I was treated with royal respect and an honor guard of police and soldiers who saluted me outside the palace.
What did you (and the king) discuss?
"(Simply) It was just polite talk. We drank steaming hot coffee and shook hands.
What was Faruk's relation to Egyptian Jewry?
"It was OK. But when Egypt
began to suffer defeats on the battlefield, the situation
deteriorated. Regarding myself, they began to (absurdly) suspect that I
was an Israeli spy. Occasionally, we were surprised by searches by the
secret police. I remember one night Egyptian officers broke into our
house with guns, demanding: 'Where is your gun?' I told them: 'You want
to know where my gun is, come, I'll show you'. And I took them to my
library and said: 'Here, here are my weapons'.
"Afterwards the Egyptians began
spreading rumors that I was disseminating Zionist propaganda, and they
berated me for giving speeches in Hebrew. The truth of the matter was
that they were right; I was telling worshipers to do everything in their
power to come to Israel through Italy and France. Regarding the Hebrew
issue I told the Egyptian authorities that I am speaking the language
God gave the people of Israel.
Rabbi Yosef in Cairo (Photo: David Rubinger)
"After three years, at the end of 1950 when my contract ended, I returned to Israel and was appointed a justice in Petah Tikva.
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