Saturday, January 29, 2011

The revolution in Egypt

I have taken a break from the blogging world. I am back.
The world is fixated on the tumult in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. We are watching the news because we all know the potential dangers that lay ahead of us if Egypt does not resolve their issues in a peaceable manner. The thought of the potential scenarios is reason enough to pray.
I was on a rabbis’ mission in Egypt over twenty years ago. We traveled throughout Cairo and down the Nile to Luxor and then returned on an overnight train back to Cairo. We entered and toured through the Moses Ibn Ezra synagogue which has since gone through extensive renovation.
We could see back then the extensive poverty that was spread throughout Egypt. What we learned from the tour guides back then was that the people of Egypt were a peace loving and not a revolutionary people. They could withstand much suffering as long as they had enough to live on. Even then I remember viewing thousands living and sleeping at night in the cemeteries of Cairo. I recall the little villages and the children without shoes when we stopped during our cruise down the Nile River.
At the same time we saw the great Islamic universities and the cultural elite that flocked to Cairo because there one could indulge one’s needs, according to the guides, in Cairo more than any other Arab capital. I learned of the paradox between the great civilization of Egypt and its enormous poverty living side by side. Not much has changed over the years.
I am no foreign policy expert. I do not propose to make any predictions.  I am about hope in the future. We all know that there has been a tenuous peace between Israel and Egypt. The parties have worked together to maintain the peace between them and have cooperated in dealing with the Palestinians. Considering that only 43 years ago the Egyptian President Gammal Abdul Nasser was predicting annihilation of Israel in the 67 war and then Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem and Camp David we have seen that Egypt is capable of doing evil, but also, rising to the occasion and contributing to world peace.
Most recently the Islamic fundamentalist killed Christian Coptics in Egypt coming out of their church services. They make up 10% of the population. The Muslim population reacted in favor of the Coptics and protested on their behalf. Does that happen for Christians in Iraq when Sunnis go after Iraqi Christians? The answer is no.
Facts like these give me hope that despite the chaos we see on the streets somehow peace will prevail and that whatever changes occur in Egypt, the largest and most prominent of Arab nations, will make Egypt better in the future without hurting Israel. That is my prayer.