|BASSATINE NEWS the ONLY Jewish newsletter reporting directly from Egypt|
|A Community Chronicle put out by the Jewish Community Council (JCC) of Cairo since 1995|
CELEBRATED @ CHAAR HACHAMAYIM SYNAGOGUE ON ADLY PASHA STREET
26 DECEMBER @ 17:00
To all our friends, Happy Hannuka, Merry Xmas, Eid el Adha Saiid
|BASSATINE CEMETERY SEEN FROM SATELLITE|
|RARE PHOTO OF GRAND RABBI OF EGYPT|
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Viva Cazes Douek who added following comment:
"Ces photos parues dans Juifs d'Egypte. Mon Pere, David Cazes,tres proche du Grand Rabbin Haim Nahoum Effendi, et proprietaire de La Voix de l'Orient, hebdomadaire en francais de notre vie de tous les jours, recevait ce jour de Kippour en 1952, le General Naguib. Tres interessant de voir tous nos Juifs coiffes de tarbouches, et drappes de leurs taleths, et de leur dignite. Etonnant que rien ne mentionne notre Grand Rabbin sur les murs de la synagogue. Peut on y remedier, et comment?"
Viva Cazes Douek (Vivadouek@aol.com)
Below is a rare photo of Egypt's Grand Rabbi at the 1948 Victor Pardo- Becky Bivas wedding in Chaar Hashamayim. (courtesy unknown donor)
|WHAT HAPPENED TO CAIRO'S LAST GRAND RABBI|
By the time the distinguished scholar and Grand Rabbi of Egypt, Haim Nahum, passed away the Jewish community of Cairo had considerably dwindled. His successor Rabbi Haim Moussa Douek was also Turkish-born (Gazianteb). He watched on as his flock literally diminished by the day until it was his turn to leave Egypt in 1972. He arrived in Paris, France where had to wait 5 months in order to be granted permission to enter the United States. He died two years later in Brooklyn.
|HANNUKA CELEBRATIONS @ CHAAR HACHAMAYIM|
Vera Akerib (R) with Sheena and Marcele Halfon (Madame Shehata Haroun)
Today a West Coast Californian from San Fransisco, Rothstein, 56,
studied at the Lycee Francais Bab al-Louk (class of '67).
With wife Denise Setton and daughter Claire he re-discovers his native Cairo and the landmark Zogheb Bldg No. 2 Midan al-Opera where he lived with his family as a young boy/teenager. Father Alphonse Rothstein owned a razor-blade workshop at No. 14 Kantaret Ghamra, Sakakini.
Chaar Hashamayim holds special memories for Rothstein, "It is there that I did My Bar Mitzvah and where I obviously spent many Shabbat services and Holidays."
(Hannuka photos courtesy Samir Raafat)
|PHOTOS OF JEWISH LANDMARKS IN EGYPT|
photo of Haim Capucci Synagogue in Haret al- Yahoud. (courtesy Zbigniew Kosc)
During his tour of Egypt Zbigniew Kosc took beautiful photos of Cairo and Alexandria's Jewsih landmarks. These can be admired on his website
Another website to be visited for its magnificent photo content is that prepared by D. R. Cowles
|BASSATINE CEMETERY: RETRIBUTION OR THEIVERY?|
Following is a (slighlty edited) message from freelance tour operator Omar Zaki:
A city tour guide by profession I read with great interest Mr. Aaron Kiviat's article I buried my Father's Tallis at Bassatine.. He writes beautifully and it was as though I were there myself.
The funeral scene as he describes it is very moving. I am old enough to remember how I too attended one or two funerals at Bassatine; these were the burials of my Jewish school-friend's parents and relatives. The last one was in 1972. I have not entered that cemetery since but I have nevertheless been to many others in the meantime.
I would like to draw Mr. Aaron Kiviat's attention to a fallacy he unintentionally elected to perpetuate; one that snugly corresponds with a popular notion certain commentators like to hear and restate.
"All the grave stones are like stone boxes above ground. They all used to be covered in elaborate marble with the names and dates carved onto the exterior. However, after Egypt's defeat in 67' a crowd of vengeful locals decided to get back at Israel by stealing all of the marbles off the graves."
That is incorrect. The marble slabs were being pilfered even before the June 1967 war and for the record there was no "vengeful" motivation behind it. It was purely economic.
At the time Cairo was not as big as it is today. For a cast that has been active since time immemorial, it was open season for grave robbers to raid unattended cemeteries, especially one left unguarded by a hurriedly dwindling community. First to go were the marble tombstones. The re-cut and re-polished marble re-appeared on the market as tops of coffee tables, mantelpieces or stair slabs. The more resistant granite tombs were left intact as were those carved in limestone that had no market value. Surely a vindictive crowd would have tried to destroy these as well.
When I walked around Bassatine cemetery in 1972, a period where a defeated Egypt and a victorious Israel were bombing each other at the Suez front, I did not see a single anti-Jewish graffiti, hate message or racial scribbling reinforcing the "vengeful motivation" theory. Had such graffiti survived I'm sure Mr. Aaron would have reported it in his letter to his father.
Had Mr. Aaron asked around he would have learned that the fate of Bassatine Cemetery was replicated in most of the poorly guarded neighboring Muslim cemeteries, again for the same economic reason.
Should Mr. Aaron come back to Egypt I shall gladly take him to my grandparents' semi abandoned Muslim cemetery in Cairo's "al-Ghaffir" district. There he will see for himself how all of my ancestors' marble headstones were torn off the tombs. Likewise, for my other older ancestral tombs in the southern city of El Minia. There too the marble tombstones were stolen since none of the surviving descendants bothered to visit that far away gravesite. The chief culprit here was the guard himself who failing to receive his salary decided to sell off the marble!
Tomb raiding has been a transmittable vocation since Pharaonic times. Which is why most abandoned or poorly guarded cemeteries, irrespective of denomination, were robbed of their valuables this century and the last and the ones before it....
On the other hand burial grounds, burial vaults and funeral chambers that are properly looked after or guarded avoid vandalism. Such is the case with my maternal family's burial grounds, which is constantly refurbished and properly maintained. As the Arabic saying goes al maal al sayeb ye'allem el sarka--unattended assets will assuredly attract thieves.
Hence the Jewish Cemetery of Alexandria which has always been within a guarded high wall enclosure stands intact today. Another example that Mr. Aaron missed is the marble-jammed Mosseri Cemetery in Bassatine. Up until the mid 1990s it benefited from a high wall, a massive gate and an old guard who lived on site with his extended family. Its impressive marble treasures were still there in 1996 when I last visited it with a couple of Jewish tourists.
The interdenominational American Cemetery in Old Cairo, which also includes expired Jews, is still intact thanks to the guards who look after it. Which is why I venture to say that had the open air non-enclosed Bassatine Cemetery been properly guarded with a wall built around it, most of the marble slabs would've have survived as well.
Editor's note: With the help of private donations and under the direction of the Weinstein family of Cairo, Egypt, a wall around the open-air Bassatine Cemetery was constructed in phases starting late 1980s completed mid-1990s.
|CAIRO'S LISCOVITCH ALLEY|
What we know today as Al-Geish Avenue, which runs on an east-west axis south of the medieval al-Azhar/Musky district, was in fact the Khaleeg Channel or waterway. It threaded its way from the Nile at Fom al-Khaleeg in Old Cairo next to the Aqueduct, ending somewhere in the agricultural fields north of Shubra.
Once filled in al-Khaleeg Canal became (Fom) al-Khaleeg Street with a tramway running where picturesque boats and small fellucas once bobbed.
When Prince Farouk was born in February 1920, his father, King Fouad, wanted to name an Avenue in honor of Egypt's crown prince. The choice fell on al-Khaleeg Street which now had to be enlarged--a process that meant removing part of the buildings along the street.
One of the houses earmarked for partial removal belonged to Jacob Liscovitch.
"My grandfather arrived to Egypt from Russia in 1905," says Dr. Ruth Kimche. "He lived in the corner of Farouk Avenue and a small alley that today leads to the Ashcenazy Synagogue. In those days what became King Farouk Avenue was then a normal street with another name."
According to Ruth's findings based on her grandfather's memoirs (written and published in Yiddish in the New York-based Amricaner), most of the tenants of the buildings that had to be destroyed were upset and tried to resist this decision without success. "My Grandpa understanding that there is nothing to do against a decision of a king, did not resist and even demolished by himself the corner of his house that had to be removed. His act was so appreciated by the authorities that they gave him the honor to call the small alley where his house was Ruelle Liscovitch-- Haaret Liscovitch."
It was at the end of Liscovitch Alley that the Ashkenaz Synagogue was built later on. And it was thanks to funds provided by Jacob's brother, Issac Liscovitch, President of Cairo's Ashkenazi community, that the Synagogue was rebuilt after 1945, when demonstrators set it afire on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
Dr. Ruth Kimche was born in Cairo in 1944 at No. 11 Soliman Pasha Street.
A 20th century musical great, Ignace Tiegerman, rests in the Bassatine Cemetery. Born in 1893 in Drohobycz, Poland he died in Cairo, Egypt in 1968. In between these two dates and countries Tiegerman's life was full of unexpected twists and turns. To find out more read:
Could he have dethroned Horowitz?
Photo courtesy Henri Barda in Paris, France
Last July 2005 an item appeared in the Israeli newspaper "Ha'aretz" claiming that:
"A synagogue in the Egyptian capital Cairo, built in 1934, is to re-open on Friday, following many years of closure... The head of Cairo's Jewish community, Carmen Weinstein, and Israel's ambassador to Egypt, Shalom Cohen, arranged to open the synagogue, which had been closed as very few Jews remain in Egypt. Cohen said the Israeli embassy will help with the maintenance of the temple. Located in Cairo's Me'adi neighborhood, the synagogue is named after its founder Meir Biton. It was the first house of worship built in the neighborhood, years before Me'adi's first mosque. At that time, almost all the homes in the vicinity were Jewish-owned."
The above is an example of poor journalism where the writer of the article failed to validate the facts thus coming up with a misleading report. Unfortunately, other news agencies replicated that erroneous piece of news either quoting the Jewish Telegraphic Agency or Ha'aretz. Yet for the record the reporter got one fact right. The Maadi Synagogue was indeed named after its founder Meyr Y. Biton. It would have been difficult to claim otherwise since his name is right there on the Synagogue's exterior facade!
On the other hand, the claim that the Synagogue had been closed and that the JCC president Carmen Weinstein and the new Israeli ambassador to Egypt agreed to reopen it is either a figment of the reporter's imagination or a reckless twisting of the facts by his/her informer.
Even though the Synagogue does not routinely open on Shabat it has nevertheless remained accessible for the last 27 years after a temporary closure of thirteen years from 1967 until 1979.
Had the reporter bothered to check with the JCC rather than confine him/herself to one self-serving source, he/she would've learned that most of Cohen's eight predecessors had not only prayed at the Maadi Synagogue but one of them celebrated his son's Bar Mitzvah there as well. Other Bar Mitzvah's followed including that of an American diplomat's son in 2003.
Ever since the mid-1980s most High Holidays (Rosh Hashana excepted*) were celebrated at the Synagogue. The Maadi temple has also hosted several foreign dignitaries and local visitors alike and has been the venue for educational visits by local schools. Most of these events were reported over the years on the JCC's website.
As for the absurd suggestion that the Maadi Synagogue was the recipient of financial assistance, this is completely erroneous. The JCC is the sole and unique guardian/custodian of the Maadi Synagogue and has been and remains until today its sole financial backer with regard to its general upkeep and maintenance as well as the occasional refurbishing. To date no assistance has been forthcoming from any third party.
Note: Cohen's eight predecessors were: Eliahou Ben Elizar, Moshe Sasson, Shimon Shamir, Efraim Douek, David Sultan, Zvi Mazel, Gideon Ben Ami, Eli Shaked
* Rosh Hashana is celebrated at the Adly Street Synagogue in downtown Cairo.
Note: Maadi Temple "Meyr Biton" is temporarily closed for repairs.
|IN THE PRESS|
"Egyptian friendliness a surprise to student visitors"; [Jerusalem Post - Daily Edition] By Orly Halpern. Jerusalem: Mar 2, 2006. pg. 06
Extract---The number of Israelis traveling to Egypt has not yet returned to pre-intifada highs. But Professor Yoram Meital, Chairman of the Herzog Middle East Studies Center at Ben- Gurion University, is increasing that number. Meital brought BA and MA students for a two- week trip to visit Egypt.
[Arnon Begani] was one of the Israelis who never hesitated to say where he was from, he ...
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C O N T A C TJewish Community Council (JCC) of Cairo
# 13 Sabil El Khazindar Street
Midan al-Geish, Abbassia, Cairo
tel: +20 2 2482-4613 - tel/fax +20 2 2736-9639
open daily 10:00 to 15:00
Friday 10:00 to 17:00
Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fostat (Old Cairo)
For visits to other Cairo synagogues or Bassatine Cemetery contact JCC
please note the Jewish Community Council of Alexandria is an independent entity separate from the Jewish Community Council of Cairo