Dad and the Egyptian consul were friends. Of course they were. Both loved their Egypt, loved giggling over uniquely silly Egyptian jokes, smoking their cigarettes as elegantly as Bogart in Casablanca. Playing backgammon while Umm Kultoum seduced from the gramophone. A bit of Cairo entered their hearts in Bombay, India. They were friends, these twenty-something Egyptian guys in their snappy sharkskin suits.
The Wahbas were deeply rooted in Egypt originally as peasants. They once populated a village so heavily it was known to the locals as “Kfar Wahba.”
One afternoon the Consul was moved to exclaim, “Moussa, you are more Egyptian than I!”
With unbridled pride Dad repeated this story so many times it is carved on my phantom roots. It was the ultimate compliment, the Muslim telling the Jew he (the Jew), was more native then he, the Muslim, in a Muslim land.
“We were real Egyptians;” Dad was relentlessly proud of the fact. I got tired of hearing it. To me, he was a “real Jew” who paid a deep price, it trumped his nationality.
After the war the unthinkable horrors about the Holocaust came out. Dad’s heart was in pieces. He visited the Consul, newspaper in hand, tears filling his eyes, voice shaking, to share what he had found out about the death camps. Instead of grief, the Consul scolded him;
“Moussa, what are you thinking? You are Egyptian! What do you have to do with those Jews?”
It was downhill from there and the slide was fast. Perhaps he knew the day would come, or he just compartmentalized as we do to get on in life. Dad was no slouch, he left Egypt several years earlier when he saw Hitler’s plan to get rid of Jews everywhere take hold in Egypt. He remembers seeing Mein Kampf selling wildly in 1939 (as it continues to today), feeling “There is no more future in Egypt for Jews.”
It takes tremendous courage to see “the writing on the wall.” He was not responding to “fake news” or “conspiracy theories” or “Holocaust mentality” which was not a reality yet.
Jews who refuse to see the frightening trajectory in Muslim lands fail us. Doesn’t it matter that almost every single country in the Middle East and North Africa is Jew-Free today because they pauperized us and kicked us out? Ignore the Jewish history from Arab lands long enough and it will go away. Islamists count on this as they work to get rid of Jewish Israel.
Disavow and point to Israel’s flaws, blame Israel for intransigence in impeding Peace. It’s all because of Settlements? This level of Denial and Arrogance is nothing short of suicidal. Obviously convenient (who doesn’t want to be liked?) and cowardly (it’s easier to pretend) we think we can have it both ways. A false sense of power feeds the belief that if we empathize and love those who hate us they will change their minds.
It’s not rocket science. Read the hateful source material coming out of Islamic countries and Islamist mouths. They mean it. Seriously, stop the mea culpa.
We can begin by differentiating between Muslim and Islamist. We can begin a campaign (push UNWRA) to re-educate by delegitimizing mind numbing Jew/ Israel hating textbooks feeding Arab and Palestinian children poison. In my father’s Egypt, there is no greater villain than the Jew, no greater evil than Israel. Skirting the surface and making excuses for this hatred of Jews in general and Israel in particular is sheer cowardice. Being seduced by the warmth of Middle Eastern culture (yes I miss it), as they want us dead is a problem.
Build bridges with Muslims and Christians who recognize Israel as a sovereign Jewish country. Support Muslims who are not Islamists, stand up for Arab and African Christians living in horror and fear as their churches are burned down, their daughters taken and enslaved.
Start screaming my Jewish rabbis and community leaders, make brave noise now.
“Moussa where is your stick?” The Consul taunted as he took away Dad’s passport and made us stateless. Moses, he laughed, you were so sure you could be both Egyptian and Jew, so sure you came to me crying about those Jews Hitler got rid of. When will you Jews ever learn?”