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Egyptian Jewish Leader: Sisi Will Bring Egypt in a Cosmopolitan Direction

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's military leader (in uniform, foreground), is seen at a polling station in Jan. 2014 for Egypt's vote on constitutional reform. As democratic advances in Egypt (and Turkey) dissipate, Egyptians have come to support reinstating the very same elements they violently ousted in 2011.  Photo: (AP Photo/Egyptian Defense Ministry via Facebook, File)

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s military leader (in uniform, foreground), is seen at a polling station in Jan. 2014 for Egypt’s vote on constitutional reform. As democratic advances in Egypt (and Turkey) dissipate, Egyptians have come to support reinstating the very same elements they violently ousted in 2011. Photo: (AP Photo/Egyptian Defense Ministry via Facebook, File)

Levana Zamir, the head of the International Association of Jews from Egypt, stressed that Sisi is bringing Egypt in a more cosmopolitan and less hateful direction. She believes that it is good for everyone that he is Egypt’s President.

Levana Zamir, the head of the International Association of Jews from Egypt, told the Foreign Policy Association in an interview that she believes that Sisi will bring Egypt towards a brighter future, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, who “was the best friend of Hamas, wanted women to cover their bodies from head to toe and arrested a man and a woman walking together in the street, to see if they are married. If they are not married, it is a sin. It is too fanatical and religious for the people of Egypt.”

She stressed that Egypt is a secular country and will always be so. Zamir noted that Sisi is even more against the radical Islam than Mubarak was, because Egypt suffered so much from the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet aside from fighting against the Islamists, Zamir noted that Sisi will bring Egypt in a less hateful and more cosmopolitan direction.

“During all those last years, Egyptians started to have nostalgia for the regime that was in Egypt, when there was a Mediterranean and cosmopolitan atmosphere in Egypt back when the Jews were in Egypt,” Zamir explained. “These last 10 years, the young generation, the 20 and 30 years old, are asking themselves what happened to this flourishing country. What happened to the Jews is happening to the Copts.”

Zamir explained that in the movie the “Jews of Egypt,” the Egyptian Amir Ramses went abroad to Switzerland and interviewed Jews that were born in Egypt. “He didn’t come to Israel for he was afraid they would kill him. But he could interview Jews that didn’t come to Israel. He asked them, what happened? They spoke about being expelled and how we had to begin from zero in another place, just because we are Jews. The film has been projected in the Egyptian cinema. I even heard an Egyptian actor on television stated that he regretted that Egypt is not anymore like it was during Farouk’s time. It was a liberal and flourishing time,” Zamir emphasized.

Levana Zamir

Levana Zamir

“What happened in Egypt is not all of a sudden,” she stressed. “They are fed up with the poverty, lack of work, food, and Egypt being a poor country. Egypt was once a rich country when it was open to the Mediterranean countries. When it was closed and an introverted Arabic regime, Egypt has always become poor. You can see this all over the history. Rome used to receive their yeast from Egypt, who also produced cotton and food. Now they have to import them. Egypt is finished. So, people like Sisi know all of that.”

Already, the domestic situation within Egypt has begun to improve, Zamir noted. The level of incitement against Jews and Israel in the Egyptian media has not been this low since the days of Anwar Sadaat. “Mubarak spoke about solving the Palestinian problem. It was just something to say to make the Egyptian people be quiet. With Mubarak, began some kind of hate. People, 30, 40 years ago who were born during these years, they have the hate in their hearts, but the intellectuals are awakening and asking why Egypt is so poor. That is why there was the revolution. They had enough. So with Sissi, there is no hatred in the newspapers. When there is no hate, when there is the acceptance of the other, there is peace. They have accepted the other, which hasn’t happened for 40 years now. For Sisi, the Palestinian problem is not the first priority. He wants a strong Egypt,” she emphasized.

Zamir explained that it is second nature for the Egyptian people to be open and hospitable: “They always welcomed the other, until Nasser and Mubarak. Nasser was the first one to expel the strangers. Sadaat came and he declared that there would be openness in Arabic. During Sadaat, there was so much love between Israel and Egypt. There was no hate. The Egyptians were happy when Israelis walked on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. Many Egyptians came to Israel. I did an Israeli-Egyptian painting event in Cairo. Since Mubarak, it all stopped. All of the cultural exchanges stopped. Egyptians couldn’t come to Israel. They needed a visa.”

Zamir stressed that Mubarak closed off Egypt to the introverted Arabic culture and the country lost out by doing this. Under the Muslim Brotherhood, the situation worsened even more, as many churches burned and the tiny Jewish community left in Egypt lived in fear, as the Muslim Brotherhood hated minority religions. However, under Sisi, the churches have stopped burning. She declared that Sisi is trying to change the atmosphere of hate and transform Egypt once again into a cosmopolitan Mediterranean country: “He is for openness, for the Egyptian people is an open one. They were born in this hate and now they will recover, I hope for them,” she concluded.

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is based in Israel and publishes in a variety of media outlets throughout the world. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media." Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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