Once home to a community of over 75,000 Jews, Egypt’s Jewish community today has shrunk to merely seven. Many of the Egyptian Jews who left Egypt willingly or forcibly in the late 1940s and 1950s, or in most cases their offspring, still reside in Israel.
Filmed by Corey Gil-Shuster of the Ask Project (otherwise known as Ask an Israeli/ Ask a Palestinian project), a set of interviews reveals a glimpse of the rarely spoken-of Egyptian culture that still lingers on behind closed doors in Israel.
Either born in Egypt or born to Egyptian parents, it seems that certain Egyptian habits can withstand the test of time and make it past wars and political disputes, such as Molokhiya, Umm Kalthoum and old Egyptian movies.
Speaking to the younger generations that may never have experienced Egypt firsthand, Erez from Tel Aviv describes how his half-Iraqi, half-Egyptian family still watches Abdel Halim and Farid al-Atrash’s movies on Friday afternoons.
“I used to watch [the movies] as a kid,” Erez says. “But today, I feel a real connection to the music.”
While many Egyptian-Israelis expressed their enthusiasm to visit Egypt one day, if they haven’t already, Moshe, whose parents were both born in Egypt, had his own concerns. “I don’t want to go to a place that doesn’t want me, or that is dangerous for me.”
Unlike all of the other interviewees, Julie was born and raised in Egypt.
“I watch the TV everyday and cry for what the terrorism is doing to them,” she says in reference to the things that still connect her to her country of birth. “I love them, what can I do? They are good people, especially al-Sisi.”
“I have visited Egypt seven times [since I left],” continues Julie in Arabic. “I loved seeing the school I went to and the homes we used to have – we had one in Cairo and one in Alexandria.”
However, as much as she yearned for Egypt and the memories she left behind there, she feared living and dying there was no longer an option. “There is no longer a place for Jews in Egypt.”