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The Jewish Cemetery Project in Egypt

In 2015, Egyptians fell in love with a series that was broadcasted during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The series was called the “Jewish Ghetto”, a taboo that was previously avoided in most Middle Eastern drama. The story is about a Jewish family that lived in the 40s of the 20th century in one of Cairo’s old neighborhoods where a big synagogue still remains. The Egyptians got to watch a part of Egypt’s history that was always denied and kept in hiding.

The Jews have always been integral members of the Egyptian society along with the Greeks and Italians who founded a lot of industries that managed to help with the development of Modern Egypt. They were extremely good with commerce and built huge department stores in most Egypt’s big cities.

But after the Military coup in 1952, the Jews felt the threat and some of them knew that it was time to let go of the country where they were born. After living in harmony within the Egyptian society, some of the Jews started to feel the hostility and most of them chose to leave the country. It wasn’t until 1956 when Israel attacked Egypt that Jews were told that they were no longer welcome. They fled under the cover of the night the same way they did in the time of Moses. They had to leave their homes and their money starting from scratch. Most of them never had the chance to get back.

After the Egyptian series, people started to feel that maybe the history they have been told wasn’t true after all. The series showed how the Jews were merely people who lived in peace and minded their own business. In fact, they were prosecuted and attacked for no reason, even forced out of their homes and away from everything they owned. Later on, the Egyptians were surprised to see a group on Facebook calling for helping Jews in order to find the cemeteries of their ancestors. The group is called “The Jewish Project in Egypt”. The group admins are members of the new generation who were born and raised in the New World after their grandparents left the Middle East and its struggles. Most of them are Americans or of European nationalities. They simply ask Egyptians to take photos of different synagogues that still exist in Cairo and Alexandria, in order to help them get more information about their stolen past. Some people were extremely for the cause and strongly believe that there is no point in denying the Jews of Egyptian origins from their rights to visit the tombs of their ancestors.

As a matter of fact, a lot of Israelis and Jews are always welcome in Egypt and can safely visit most places. However, there is still some tension when it comes to discussing historical issues. Would it better to let bygones be bygones? Or should Egyptians and Jews open the door to the past? Some Egyptians strongly believe that the Jews are peaceful people who were not treated with justice while others are mixing up issues of the Jewish past and the War between Egypt and Israel. However, only time will tell how successful this project can be and whether it can be a good chance to get a closer look at the past.

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