Anti-Semitism and Madness in Egypt

Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s archaeology head honcho and Indian Jones wannabe, has again made some pretty strong anti-Semitic remarks. One can be a bit sensitive about the subject, and in the past he’s always “explained away” his ant-Semitic remarks (see PaleaoJudaica for more info here, and here) …

I've written before about the rise in anti-Semitic comments I hear here. In London they come from large companies and from individuals. One of the most 'popular' posts on this blogs remains my post about Holocaust denier 'Lady' Michele Renouf

Since anti-Semitism has become so 'acceptable' in London, it's not surprising it's 'acceptable' for a leading archaeologist in Egypt to make stupid comments about Jews.

But now they are taking things one step further in Egypt - Jews have been banned from using the Maimonides Synagogue in Cairo for prayer. It's been declared a piece of Egyptian cultural heritage, an 'antiquity' and no longer allowed to be used as s synagogue by the few Jews that were not hounded out of Egypt ... 

Like many other archaeologists, I thought that the character Zahi Hawass was modelling himself on in the Indian Jones movies was Indie. Clearly we were wrong - it's the Nazis.

Update - I've closed comments as life's too short to listen to nonsense from some people.


  1. This is sad and it is equally unfortunate this hero of archaeology is not "called on it" by the archaeological establishment in the United States and Europe.

    Best regards,

    Peter Tompa

  2. Tell me, these (real) Nazis, they restored synagogues or destroyed them?

  3. Paul, it is great to see you showing your true stipes. Even Titus was said to have weaped when the temple burned to the ground as the Jews were being killed and those that survived taken into slavery, it was considered one of the wonders of the world at the time. Hitler was not above admiring the art while killing the artist.

    For you to throw your support (be it ever so subtle) behind Hawass and this situation is disgusting.

  4. Sadly, a restored synagogue without Jews brings to mind Hitler's proposed, "Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race." See http://www.scrapbookpages.com/czechrepublic/prague/josefov/jewishmuseum.html

    Certainly, Hawass' vision of Jewish sites minus Jews does not rise to that level, but it is troubling nonetheless.

    Indeed, it's not all that different than the vision of the Iraqi power elite under Saddam and even under the current democratic government.

  5. Well, once again we see here the tendency for a certain milieu to jerk their knees without engaging brain. I asked a question. Dorothy King called the Director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities a “Nazi” because the SCA had RESTORED a neglected building as a witness to Cairo’s multicultural past. I asked whether Nazis rebuilt synagogues or destroyed them. No answer to that one as yet.

    This is the problem of what to do with old buildings which cannot fulfill their former use because no longer needed as much as in the past. In England there are many ancient churches now in state or local authority care preserved as historical monuments because there is no active congregation. Is that “sinister”? If the Head of English Heritage refused to allow a Christian group to hold a mass in one of the churches that is now English Heritage property, is that sinister or anti-Catholic? I do not see the argument here, just because its Jews asking, and not Druids wanting to hold a wicker-man ceremony in the middle of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, or Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Catholics for that matter in the chapel of Orford Castle in Suffolk, does that make it suddenly “sinister”? That really seems like paranoia rather than logical.

    In fact there are several other restored synagogues in Cairo. There is the Ben Ezra one for example which I visited (to see the genizah), then there is the one that is still used for worship by Cairo’s tiny Jewish community, the Chaar-Hachamaim Synagogue Shar'a Adly, right in the centre of the city. You can see pictures here:
    But Sacred destinations says “the synagogue is seldom used because there are too few remaining Jewish men to hold a service (10 is the minimum)” and Wikipedia says that there are 30-40 people left, mostly older women. So how many synagogues does the Cairo Jewish community need? More to the point, how many can it afford to run? (Why was the Maimonides Synagogue in this sate of neglect in the first place if the Jewish community needed it so much as a place of worship?) I really do not see there would be grounds for the SCA giving them yet another synagogue after the organization had spent millions of pounds of state funds rectifying the damage caused by decades of neglect. How would such a small congregation finance the ongoing costs of running this building (maintenance, upkeep, guarding it) on top of the one they can barely cope with already? Dorothy, go and see the latter and make a donation towards its upkeep if you are so concerned. It is an interesting building. But Hawass heads an organization that has the responsibility of looking after these ancient monuments as best they can and is surely within his rights to decide how they are to be used. Giving it to 30-40 old ladies to run really would not be protecting that building would it?

  6. My understanding from the articles is that the Jews banned from praying would likely be from abroad, not so much the few remaining Jews living in the country. Hawass' comments from the articles cited speak for themselves and belie the excuses Paul Barford makes for him.

  7. It does not make any difference where these people come from, the Director of the SCA is entitled to determine what the interior of this building is going to be used for, it is not as if in Cairo there is no building where foreigners of many religious faiths, including Judaism, can pray. I really do think an attempt here is being made to build a Jewish mountain from a heritage management decision molehill.

  8. This strikes at the core of the issue- Just who's cultural heritage is it? Why ban people from praying at a site? I am not Jewish, but regardless of an individuals faith the SCA has no right to "punish" an entire group based on the preceived injustices of a nation.

    This strikes at the heart of the underlying nationalistic issues. Jews are being punished in part because they "drank wine". What next? What happens to any Jewish antiquities discovered which do not meet with Hawass' officially sanctioned history? Are they hidden or destroyed? What gives him the right to control someone elses cultural property or identity?

  9. One can not change the mind of an idiot, so it is best to ignore p. barford. there will always be people like him, unfortunately.

  10. Ahhh But it is a worthwhile endeavor to point out the idiots to their audience so that the reader that sees then as an authority learn to question their madness and lunacy.

  11. "Anonymous1" and "anonymous2", I raised a point about calling the SCA’s Director a “Nazi”, and asked a question. You will note that neither have been addressed, neither by those who sign their names under their posts nor those who in cowardly fashion do not.

    Mr De La Fe, “whose heritage” is it? Is it yours? Had the Jewish community of Cairo invested in this building, spent millions of pounds on its restoration and then they were told to leave by the SCA, then I think you might have a point. In the circumstances when these potential users of the building were and still are incapable of making it fit for use - let alone worship, then I fail to see that you do. Before the SCA spent money on making it usable again, it was a “earthquake-damaged, roofless and moldy wreck “ (http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=170334). A “Nazi” (the term Ms King used) would have bulldozed the wreck.

    Still less justified in your use of the term "punish" a group. The formerly ruined building is being looked after now and those who are looking after it in fact do have a right to say how it will be used. Reserving it for religious use of a very small minority community which already has a building reserved for the purpose seems a bit much.

    I note that you have not answered my question either - is this any more "Nazi" than not allowing a Christian group the use for worship of the chapel at every Medieval castle in English Heritage hands all over England? Think a little and answer the question before joining in with the throwing out of insults. Can you?

    Let us note that this building is in EGYPT, a country that has been predominantly Moslem for nigh on 1300 years. A country that is not terribly close politically to Israel these days. Maimonides came to Egypt under the Ayyubids, not a Jewish state. This is not Jewish heritage in Israel, is it? Foreign Jews visiting Cairo are guests in a foreign country - why would they be making demands of their hosts that they should supply them with yet another freshly-renovated place of worship when the community already has one - which they are unable already to see to the upkeep of? Why actually were these Jews, the ones now making demands of the SCA, not concerned to put the roof back on after it collapsed in 1992 but were content to “pray amid the rubble”?

    As I said, there is a perfectly good synagogue in Cairo, adequate for the purposes of worship of the small community there and any visiting foreign Jews. Why, actually, are the Jews raising a fuss in their newspapers about not being allowed to have full access to a second one?

    Dorothy King asked somewhere else on this blog why there are so many people who even today in "London" criticize the Jews. Perhaps the reason in part lies in precisely this kind of attitude (that the whole world should be obliged to hand over anything they ask for just because they are Jews). A little balance might be in order here - rather than just gratuitous insults.

  12. I dont have much time to write out a thought provoking answer, but I do want to point out that the reasons why Jews are being denied said access to the building are as punishment.

    Second, whether or not a building is restored by a government agency should not make much of a difference if that agency is charged with the preservation of major historic and/or cultural property within a nations borders. In the case of Egypt, there is little choice in the matter. You either do it Hawass' way or you dont get to do much of anything at all besides hard labor or whatever form of punishment they give in prison.

    You seem to be making one of my points. You are treating the building as if it were personal or state property instead of the cultural treasure it is, "we" recognize that there are MANY things which are not portable antiquities and which should be deemed the property of mankind. Maimonides is one of the most important historic figures of modern Judaism. I would wager that if a Jewish organization would have stepped forward and offered to pay to have the building restored to its former glory it would have been bulldozed to the ground. So what is your point?

    How is this "Nazi-esque"? Again, it is pretty clear that Hawass and the SCA spent so much as a nickle on restoring this building to earn political points and not out of love for it's historic value. They are now using it as political capital and they are thumbing their noses at ALL Jews, not just Israel and saying "This is ours and we can do with it what we want." They are refusing to acknowledge that many groups of people view this site as being culturally significant. It means little if anything at all to the average Egyptian, but it is a major historical site to millions of Jews.

    Say what you may about Israel and the tension in the Middle East but they have displayed considerable level headedness when it comes to how they treat the temple mount and non-Jewish sites and/or major finds. Imagine if tomorrow the IAA decided to declare the mount a Cultural Treasure and since they had done illegal digging on the site to "modernize it" it was now off limits to everyone but authorized personnel and/or no praying were allowed?

    Cultural treasures should not be treated as pieces in a political chess game. They are the property of mankind in general and any group that has a direct link to the history of a site should be given special consideration.

    The fact that you would make such a statement as your last paragraph spells out exactly where your head is. I wont bother to elaborate on it because I refuse to waste my time right now to address ignorance and racism.

  13. Some of the comments are clearly from an idiot, and whilst I appreciate efforts to argue against them - they are a waste of time. Those kinds of people would probably have applauded the confiscation of paintings during the Holocaust - and claimed they were German 'cultural property'.

    There is a big difference between a building's religious use lapsing, and banning prayer there. And arguing over this point is missing the issue.

    Hawass justified preventing Jews from prayer there and cancelling the ceremonies by saying "Israel is the Zionist enemy, and I gave this enemy a strong slap in the face," - which is impossible to explain away.

    Hawass also believes in some stupid conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the world - see here: http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/2049.htm

    It's pretty clear cut that he's anti-Semitic, and I find it distasteful that anyone would try to justify his views - unless they themselves share them?