Reading Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as a kid, I wondered what it was like to be an American in the thirties. How clear was it from half a world away that Germany was sliding into the darkness? I thought about that moment recently while reading news reports from Egypt.
There’s way too much violence, terror and repression in Egypt these days for one post. Groups under attack include:
- Journalists: I wrote last week about crucifixions of regime opponents, including journalists. The National Post’s Jonathan Kay and others have labeled the reports false. Middle East specialist Raymond Ibrahim explains here why he believes the reports are probably true. And former Muslim Brotherhood member Walid Shoebat reports that Al-Haq wa-Dalal Radio interviewed several eyewitnesses to the killings.
- Women: The BBC reports that sexual harassment of women is increasing since the recent presidential elections. They say it has now reached “epidemic” proportions.
- Christians: Coptic Christians are increasingly being kidnapped and held for ransom. A new human rights report describes dozens of kidnappings in the city of Nag Hammadi alone.
- Political opposition: President Morsi’s chief rival in the recent elections, Ahmed Shafiq, has been banned from the country.
But, since the Jewish High Holy Days, the Days of Awe, start later this month, let’s talk today about Egypt’s Jews.
Egypt’s last synagogue effectively shut down
After over 2,300 years, Jewish life in Egypt is ending. Arutz Sheva reported yesterday that the last functioning synagogue in the country, the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, will hold no Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur services this month. The article said the new government had banned them for “security reasons.”
The Jerusalem Post, however, reports that the services haven’t actually been banned. (Move along. Nothing to see here.) It’s actually just that the rabbi and cantor who conduct the services have been denied permission to travel to Alexandria, along with the men necessary to compose a minyan.
So much more subtle than just padlocking the door, don’t you think?
In case you’re a little foggy on Jewish ritual practice, you have to have a minyan–ten men over the age of 13–in order to hold public services. A few people can still get together and read some prayers. But critical parts of the service can’t be done without the minyan.
This will be the first time in 2,000 years that Alexandria–which, in living memory, had a Jewish community 80,000 strong–will not have a minyan for High Holy Day services. Four old men and 18 old women are all that remain of Alexandria’s once-thriving Jewish community.
Less than two years ago, Mubarak’s government was planning to restore the synagogue, widely considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Morsi’s government has canceled those plans. Just like it canceled Pesach services there earlier this year.
Twelve years ago, one of the remaining women, Alexandria native Linda Mattatia, then in her mid-70s, told an AP reporter:
It is not difficult to keep our traditions. We don’t feel anything against us. The neighbours are very nice. We have friends. We do our own thing.
The article was entitled “Egyptian Jews Feel at Home in Alexandria.” It’s hard to imagine it being written today.
And while Egypt ramps up violence against and repression of the press, women, religious minorities and the political opposition, the United States is:
The New York Times reported Monday that the Administration says the debt forgiveness is part of “an American and international assistance package intended to bolster [Egypt's] transition to democracy.” I can think of several ways of describing suppression of the press, women, religious minorities and the political opposition, but “democracy” isn’t one of the first fifty or so that come to mind.
We suspended the aid over human rights concerns. Now, since things are getting worse, not better, Secretary Clinton has simply waived the requirement that Cairo make progress toward democracy before receiving military aid.
♦ conducting joint military exercises with Egypt–while reducing by 2/3 our participation in a scheduled join exercise with Israel
According to Egyptian media reports, the purpose of the joint exercise is to enable Egyptian forces to practice both defensive and offensive tactics–over both the Sinai and the Red Sea. Why again is this a good idea?
As Egypt ramps up violence against and repression of her own minorities, we forgive her debt, resume military aid and help her practice making war.
How stupid can we get?
Not even Chamberlain helped train the Wehrmacht.