Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jewish sites in Egypt

THE ART NEWSPAPER: Fight to preserve Egypt’s ancient Jewish sites:
New leader wants the government to recognise that “Jewish temples are like the pyramids and the Sphinx”— an important part of the country’s history
(Lauren Gelfond Feldinger).
The new elected head of Cairo’s declining Jewish community, Magda Haroun, said she will campaign to save Egypt’s Jewish synagogues and other historic sites—but according to reports, she will reject offers of help from Israel, because she wants the Egyptian government to recognise that the sites are an important part of their history. “Jewish temples are like the pyramids and the Sphinx,” she told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. “They are part of Egypt’s history that cannot be ignored.”

Haroun’s election, following the death last month of 84-year-old Carmen Weinstein, is a good sign for Egyptian heritage, an Egyptian filmmaker told The Art Newspaper. Amir Ramses, whose documentary “Jews of Egypt” was released on 27 March, spent four years researching the country’s Jewish communities and heritage sites. Haroun, a 60-year-old-lawyer, “gets what she wants”, Ramses said. “She is very keen to protect Jewish heritage and keep it a part of Egyptian culture and history, just as [with] any other religious historical heritage.”

Officials have alienated Egyptians from the Jewish part of their historical legacy over the years because of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the secular Christian filmmaker said. Haroun will fight to make the Jewish heritage sites more accessible to the Egyptian public “for the first time…in years”, Ramses said, adding that only the Ben Ezra synagogue in a tourist district is accessible. “It is the Egyptian government’s duty to handle the Jewish history in equality to Muslim and Christian,” he said.