Rachel Wahba

“Exactly Similar”: from Mecca to Charlottesville

In the mid-1950’s a Saudi company approached my father, Moussa Wahba, an Egyptian import exporter of textiles from cotton goods to keffiyehs, and fine porcelain. His impeccable track record with the Gulf states was about to give him a huge order.

The request was specific: 1600 military uniforms for the Saudi army “exactly the same” as U.S. army.

My father with the help of Nomura Trading, secured an empty warehouse and enough sewing machines for the project. Finding the seamstresses was the easy part in postwar Japan.

But how could he promise “exactly the same”?

“I didn’t know what to do… and then I realized, I could promise ‘exactly similar!’”

It was a huge order, one that would give us the financial security we lacked.

Jews have a very long history of surviving. Our creativity when it comes to survival is hardwired. My entire childhood was a witnessing of my father figuring out what initially seemed impossible. He was an import-exporter barred from traveling, making the enterprise virtually impossible. Traders travel.

I remember my father’s interaction with a Japanese government official. “Stateless” made no sense to him. Weren’t we all born someplace? “You are Egyptian, where is your passport?” After going around a few times, Dad snapped, “go ask Nasser!”

Moussa Wahba had no time to cry about how his country, Egypt, stripped him of his nationality. He knew what he was, an Egyptian Jew, coming from generations upon generations of native Egyptian Jews. Once peasants in Moustawi and Mitgrhram, one of the villages heavily populated with the Jewish Wahba clan, was known to the locals as Kfar Wahba.

With his impeccable Arabic, (his first language), and classically Egyptian name, the Saudis assumed Moussa Wahba was Muslim. But he could not travel to Saudi Arabia even if he did have a passport. Jews were not allowed in to defile Islam’s Capital’s holy soil.

Mr. Oishi, a trusted employee and frequent dinner guest at our house, flew to Saudi Arabia to represent my father.

Oishi went much further than the plane trip.

“Wahba is a Jew,” he revealed, converting to Islam while stealing the deal.

Eventually, my father’s ability to remain an import-exporter in the region was so impacted by Jew hatred, it was no longer viable. His Jewish contacts had all become penniless refugees in the maabarot (tent cities), in the early days of Israel.

As a Stateless Egyptian without a passport he couldn’t reach other markets.

Variations of BDS have plagued Jews everywhere long before 1967 and the settlements.

Fast forward to Charlottesville and the White Supremacist cry, “Jews will not replace us!”

In the United States, roughly 71% of the population identify as Christian and 1.8% of the population identify as Jews. “Replace”?

In the Middle East and North Africa 6.6 million Israeli Jews are not likely to replace 360 million Muslims.

Then again, Jew hated is a very old mental illness, a phobia, irrational.

Jew hatred is deadly. We know this. The unthinkable happened with the Holocaust. The successful expulsion of close to a million Jews from ancient communities predating Islam in the Middle East and North Africa should be known. Most Arab lands are Jew-free today due to pogroms and expulsions over the past 70 years.

European anti–Israel NGO’s, and the West’s buy-in to BDS, infects idealistic young students in educational institutions fed by decades of Saudi money creating a false narrative of Arab victimhood under racist Jews. It has reached mainstream America where “Zionist” has replaced “Jew” as a dirty word. The repercussions are staggering.

The repulsive White Supremacists posing as Nazis in Charlottesville, the pathetic remnants of the KKK, the David Dukes, and Farrakhans (Nation of Islam), cannot compete with the power backing the imams from Tehran, Jordan, Egypt, London and Davis, California, but they all share the same Jew demonizing Israel-hating bed.

Exactly similar?

About the Author
Rachel Wahba is a San Francisco Bay Area based writer, psychotherapist and the co-founder of Olivia Travel. An Egyptian-Iraqi Jew, Rachel was born in India and grew up stateless in Japan. The many dimensions of her exile and displacement are a constant theme in her professional work as well as her activism as an advisory board member for JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa).