On June 16, Egyptian channel CBC TV aired an interview with the creator and some of the actors of the new TV soap opera "The Jewish Quarter" to be aired during the month of Ramadhan. During the show, the creator of the series and an actress in it began to argue whether Egyptians draw a distinction between Israelis and Zionists.
Following are excerpts:
June 16, 2015
Series creator and scriptwriter Medhat El-Adl: We have views in which we have believed all our lives, and which we cannot change overnight. These views exist all the time. We know who our main enemy is, but we must draw a distinction between Jews and Zionists. Every Egyptian, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, is first and foremost an Egyptian, regardless of his religion. People should know that there were times when Egypt was a cosmopolitan country that accepted the other. The Muslims accepted the other, and in Andalusia, they treated the Jews much better than they were treated anywhere else in the world. This must be known because the entire world thinks that we are racist, but this is not true.
By means of this TV series, I show that we coexisted here with Jews, Armenians, and all other religions and nationalities, in a single fabric.
Interviewer: How do you want to change the stereotype [of the Jew]? There is a feeling of hostility between Arabs in general and the Egyptians and between the Israelis, and unfortunately, many people confuse Jews with Israelis. So how can you change the stereotype, and tell people that religion is distinct from nationality, and that being Israeli is one thing and Jewish another…
Medhat El-Adl: That is what our religion tells us. It's very simple. Our religion tells us that the Jews are among the "People of the Book," and therefore, one should not be hostile toward them.
Actress Hala Sedki: We have been educated in a wrong way. We have been brought up to hate the Jews – and we don't even know why we hate them – even though there is a Jewish community living in Egypt. I went to visit their synagogue, and there is a community with a lot of people, but they are afraid to say: "I am Jewish," so they say: "I am a Christian"… I watched the documentary that you showed, in which a [Jewish] woman says that she can't find a place to pray. It's like me, an Egyptian, being afraid to go t pray, and being afraid to declare my religion. If the Bahais try to achieve their own status, and we talk about freedom of speech, about freedom of religion, about peace… If we say that Egypt is open to peace, we cannot deny an Egyptian his land, his home, his religion, and his place of prayer. Why are the synagogues kept locked? That's what I'd like to ask.
Medhat El-Adl: Synagogues exist, but they are locked for security reasons…
Hala Sedki: That's because a generation – to which I belong – has been brought up here…
Medhat El-Adl: No, that's not true. We were brought up on the Palestinian issue.
Hala Sedki: They didn't make a distinction.
Medhat El-Adl: No, that's not true. Let's make this clear. There is the broader issue [of Palestine], from which our attentions was diverted by internal conflicts. The main problem of the Arabs is Israel, okay? Many [Egyptian] Jews were forced to leave [the country], not by the Abd Al-Nasser regime, but by Israel. The wealthy Jews controlled the Egyptian economy, so they didn't have a problem. Incidentally, none of the wealthy Jews went to Israel. They went to France, to Canada, and to the U.S. Only the poor Jews went to Israel. Israel is responsible for the Lavon Affair, in which they attacked American interests, in an effort to get Jews to leave [Egypt] and move to Israel. Most people do not confuse [Jews with Israelis]. Only the extremists do.