Another Exodus, Not By Choice
It was 1956 and the cost of a gallon of gas was 22 cents a gallon, the average price of a new home was $11,700.00 and the box office movie hit was “The 10 Commandments” starring Charlton Heston.
Interestingly, 1956 was the year that the U.N. dispatched the world’s first peacekeeping force and it was because of Egypt; it was due to the Suez crisis after Egyptian President Abdul Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal Company bringing Egypt, Israel, France and the U.K. to war.
The movie “The 10 Commandments” was the story of Moses who is commanded by God to return to Egypt to free the Hebrews from slavery. The most famous line in the movie is undoubtedly when Moses stands before the Pharaoh Rameses and demands “let my people go!”
That same story of “Exodus” can be heard each and every year the world over when Jews celebrate the Passover holiday which commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
Fast forward to 2012, where gas is averaging $3.82 a gallon, the average price for a new home is $372,000.00, and the last functioning synagogue in Egypt has been closed.
It’s rare for me to have difficulty writing an article given the fact that I concentrate on Israel, the Middle East, terrorism and Islam. However when something news worthy occurs, but no news outlets report it, it is almost impossible.
That unfortunately was the case with this story, it took me more time to try and track it down then it did to write it.
What I found most surprising is that the story of the closure of Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt was not even on the website “Historical Society of Jews from Egypt“, but then again, the latest post on their website was from February 2012 and given the current situation in Egypt perhaps it is understandable.
The article “Jewish Life In Egypt” from the website “Jewish Action Online” gives a brief history of the Jews in Alexandria, Egypt,
Jews have lived in Alexandria since 332 BCE, shortly after the city was first founded. Alexander the Great encouraged Jews to move there, and they did in great numbers. Indeed, the Talmud discusses the massive synagogue of Alexandria in which those sitting in the back could not hear the cantor, so large was the synagogue. Centuries later, in Maimonides’ day, Cairo’s Jewish community was a center of Jewish commerce and scholarship.
The article goes on to explain the numbers and what became of many of the Jews,
Even in modern times, Jewish life flourished in Alexandria. Up until the 1940s, as many as 80,000 Jews lived in Egypt, significantly contributing to the country culturally and economically. But after the birth of Israel in 1948, and in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli wars, thousands of Jews fled Egypt. The shuls (synagogues) were sold, torn down and built over or locked up. Today, there are fewer than fifty Jews — most of whom are intermarried, elderly and poor — left in all of Egypt. Insecure and afraid, the few Jews left are careful not to draw attention to themselves.
I would not have heard the story of the closing of the last synagogue in Egypt had it not been brought to my attention by my friend Rabbi Aryel Nachman. It originally appeared in “Frontpage Mag” on August 31, 2012. Yet, every other story I could find on this was just a regurgitation of the Frontpage story,
For the first time in 2,000 years, this year there will be no Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services at the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria.
The synagogue was the last ‘working’ synagogue in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have banned High Holiday services for “security” reasons.
Levana Zamir, who heads the International Association of Egyptian Jews in Israel, comments: “It seems this is really the end of Jewish life in Egypt. The authorities have found a way to take over the last Jewish bastion, since all the remaining synagogues are already archaeological and tourist sites. It is very sad.”
The history of this synagogue is truly amazing; it is the largest in the Middle East and the way it stands today is from a rebuilding in the mid-19th century. Before its last rebuilding it had been destroyed twice; the last time under the decree of Napoleon. It was later repaired by an Italian architect and financed by members of the local Jewish community together with Sir Moses Montefiore.
A wonderful seven and a half minute video of the synagogue and the making of the model was done as part of an exhibition of the Prophet Elijah Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt.
But the importance of this synagogue goes far beyond its historical value; this was the last remaining functioning synagogue in Egypt. Now the Jews that have remained there no longer have a place of worship other than their own homes. This is more of the new “Democratic” government and what the so called “Arab Spring” has brought us thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood and the likes of the new Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi.
The fact is Anti-Semitism is on the rise from Europe to the U.S. and the Muslim countries are doing what they do best… Not allowing other religions to even exist. Just the other day we saw more Anti-Semitism rear its ugly head when a Rabbi in Berlin, Germany was assaulted for being a “Jew,”
According to the Berlin police, four young Arabs punched Rabbi Daniel Alter several times in the face on Tuesday because he was Jewish and wearing a yarmulka, and threatened to kill his six-year-old daughter. Doctors performed surgery on Alter’s fractured cheekbone.
The fact that those that committed the assault threatened to rape both the Rabbi’s 6 year old daughter as well as his wife shows the mindset of these animals. But this is not an isolated incident, what we are seeing is 1938 and the start of “Kristallnacht” all over again.
Yes, Kristallnacht – The night of broken glass. The instructions to the German people were very explicit as explained by the ‘library’ website Finding Dulcinea,
SS head Reinhard Heydrich issued a memo to state police departments stating that “demonstrations against the Jews are to be expected in all parts of the Reich in the course of the coming night.”
It gave specific instructions: Jewish businesses and homes were to “be destroyed but not looted” and non-Jewish property was to be protected. As an example, Heydrich instructed that “synagogues are to be burned down only where there is no danger of fire in neighboring buildings.”
This is nothing new to the Islamic world; the SS was following in the footsteps of the Islamic storm trooper boots. Since the time of Muhammad in 632 Mosques were regularly established on the places of Jewish or Christian sanctuaries.
But this was not exclusive to Judaism or Christianity, the destruction of Hindu temples in India during the Islamic conquest of India occurred as well. In each location that Islam conquered following the conquest they would take any place of worship, demolish it and a Mosque would be built in its place. Does the name Cordoba ring any bells?
With the closing of the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue we see the end of over 2000 years of Judaism in Egypt. The Jews have been shut out regardless of how many may remain, the Coptic Christians there are being murdered for their beliefs and all the while the world stands and applauds the exciting new Arab Spring Democracy.
Then again, the world applauded another who also wanted to show he had the “master race” in the Olympics of 1936.
UPDATE: According to the Jerusalem Post late September 3, 2012,
A member of the Jewish community of Alexandria on Monday denied reports that Egyptian authorities had canceled Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers in the city citing security concerns saying he would personally lead the services during the High Holidays.
“The only difference is a rabbi and cantor who usually lead the services were denied entry to the country,” the official, who is in close contact with the remaining Jews in the country, told The Jerusalem Post.
According to the website Chabad.org,
Two weeks ago, the Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Alexandria, Egypt, Rabbi Avraham Nino-Dayan, contacted Chabad.info with a request to send Bochurim for Tishrei to help with a Minyan in the city which has had close to 2,000 years of continous Jewish presence.
After much hard work we were able to convince some Bochurim to go there, and discussions were taking place about the dates for the flights.
At the last moment, the Egyptian government decided to cancel the trip and notified the Jewish community that “for security reasons” they will not allow Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services at the “Eliyahu Hanavi” synagogue, the last functioning synagogue in Egypt.
So, the Rabbi and Cantor were denied entry to Egypt. What were the reasons behind that if not to attempt to stop the services?
Let us watch and see how this unfolds. As history has shown us, it may just be a matter of time before this synagogue is closed for good.