Seizing Books and Registers
Apr 17, 2016 — AHL EL KITTAB – PEOPLE OF THE BOOK: Take away PEOPLE, there should remain BOOK. The end of the Jewish community in Egypt is rapidly drawing close . The outrageous events of the past couple of weeks show we are now rapidly drawing close to its very memory. Pre-empting our previously known petition to President Sisi, the Jewish Community Cairo (8 people), of their own volition, and disdainful of any prior consultation of, or information to any Jewish organisation, gave away to the Egyptian government the libraries of Adly and Ben Ezra. Pressing the point, 10 people from the National Archives descended on the Jewish Community Alexandria, who had shown no such desire of abandoning their heritage. They thus forcefully seized all personal religious and civil identity registers; an entire collection dating back to 1830, whilst obliging the community to accept this. You can see what I am talking about in my 2 posts of February 9th 2016 and 4 posts of 1,2,4 and 5th February 2016 in the Heritage of Jews from Egypt.
Of course one can legitimately ask what authority did they have? If you are the last one to switch off the light does that automatically give you the authority to empty the house? One can ask: was it theirs to begin with? Did they buy it? Contribute to it? Or just even use it? The answer is no. Our parents and grandparents did. Have those Egyptians who constantly complain of Israeli “fait-accompli” not shown thereby that they have become masters in the method themselves? The answer is yes.
That these books and registers need to be preserved and protected should be obvious to anyone. That the solution was to give them away to the government shows neither understanding nor respect for our religion but is a reflection of exacerbated nationalistic feelings and a personal mission foreign to the problem. Any future visit to a hoped-for Jewish Museum will now be tantamount to a visit to Tutankhamen’s empty tomb. Maalesh? Well Howard Carter doesn’t think so.
Rabbinical or recognized Jewish authority access to our registers is essential for Jews. None exist in Egypt. We can therefore mourn as much as we want the feeling of rape, it is now essential to be practical. Will Egypt allow us to scan all these registers? Will we have free, unfettered access, as we have been requesting for the past 14 years? Will there be a dedicated catalogue allowing researchers to research? Academic work relating to the Genizah documents, held by the National Archives of Egypt, is notoriously scarce and one can only ponder why. We have written to the Minister of Culture to that effect and we of course await an answer to our Petition to President el-Sisi and our appeal to President Hollande visiting this weekend. I have a sneaky feeling that no one in Egypt will reply. Planes and boats will be more important than books without a people. William the Silent would say “It is not necessary to hope in order to persevere”. So will praying help?