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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Makeshift bomb thrown at Cairo synagogue, no dead

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/21/AR2010022100831.html

The Associated Press
Sunday, February 21, 2010; 5:20 AM

CAIRO -- A man hurled a suitcase containing a makeshift bomb at Cairo's main downtown synagogue in the early hours Sunday morning, but there were no injuries or damage, police said.

According to the police report, a man entered a hotel located on the fourth floor of a building across from the synagogue at around 3 a.m. and as he was checking in, abruptly threw his suitcase out the window.

The case contained four containers of gasoline each attached to a glass bottle of sulfuric acid meant to shatter on impact and ignite the makeshift bomb, said police, who speculated the man may have panicked.

The bag, which also contained clothes, cotton strips, matches and a lighter, fell onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel and briefly caught fire before being extinguished. There were no injuries and no damage to the historic synagogue.

The suspect fled the scene and is now being sought by police.

Egypt's once thriving Jewish community largely left the country 50 years ago during hostilities between Egypt and Israel, but a number of heavily guarded synagogues, open only to Jews, remain.

The downtown synagogue, Egypt's largest, is the only one still conducting services for the Jewish high holidays, which are sometimes attended by Israeli diplomats.

The temple, known as Shaar Hashamayim, or the Gate of Heaven, was built in 1899 in a style evoking ancient Egyptian temples and was once the largest building on the wide downtown boulevard.

Egypt's Jewish community, which dates back millennia and in the 1940s numbered around 80,000, is down to several dozen, almost all of them elderly.

Egypt and Israel fought a war every decade from the 1940s to the 1970s until the 1979 peace treaty was signed.

Despite that treaty, Egyptian sentiment remains unfriendly to Israel, and anti-Semitic stereotypes still occasionally appear in the Egyptian media.

Since an Islamist insurgency based in southern Egypt was quashed in the 1990s, there have been few organized terrorist attacks in Egypt's Nile valley and the capital Cairo. There have, however, in a number of amateurish attempts to target foreigners over the years.

In February 2009 a crude explosive device planted in a bazaar popular with tourists killed a French teenager.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Life and Death of Majority Rule

Sat 13 Feb 2010
D’var Torah on Mishpatim
Congregation Adat Reyim




By: Dr Maurice M. Mizrahi


This week’s Torah portion is Mishpatim, which is Hebrew for ‘laws’ or ‘ordinances’. The title is very appropriate because it contains no less than 53 commandments, 23 positive and 30 negative, which are collectively known as the Covenant Code. It is a primary source in Jewish Law.

I would like to focus on one of these laws. In Exodus 23:2, it says:


Lo tihyeh acharei rabbim lera’ot


You shall not follow the majority for evil


The meaning is clear: Don’t follow the mob when you know what they are doing is wrong. Don’t be swayed if a majority is against you and you know you are right. The rabbis of the Talmud deduced that if you must not follow the majority for evil, then surely you must follow the majority for good [Sanhedrin 2a]. They extracted from this verse the notion that decisions must be made by majority vote in the appropriate forum.



This is not full democracy, in that not everyone gets a vote: Only designated judges appointed to decide specific matters posed before them get to vote.

 
First, how many judges?

 
-Well, it cannot be one. It says in Pirkei Avot, “Do not judge alone, for no one may judge alone, except the One [meaning God]”. [Pirkei Avot 4:8]



-It cannot be two or any even number, because our verse commands to “rule in accordance with the majority,” [Ex. 23:2] and an even number may result in a tie, i.e. no majority.


-The minimum it can be is three, and that is the number of judges in a standard Jewish court, a bet din, which handles ordinary cases.

-For capital offenses and other life-and-death matters, there must be, not 3, but 23 judges, constituting a ‘Small Sanhedrin’. Why 23? The answer is in the Talmud:


How do we derive that the Small Sanhedrin has only 23 members? It is said [in the Torah], “and the congregation shall judge... And the congregation shall deliver.” [Num. 35:24-25] One congregation may judge [i.e. condemns] and the other may deliver [i.e. acquit], hence we have twenty [because a congregation is not less than 10]. But how do we know that a congregation is not less than 10? It is written [in the Torah], “[God said, referring to the 12 spies:] How long shall I bear with this evil congregation?” [Num. 14:27] Excluding Joshua and Caleb, we have 10. And how do we derive the additional 3?.. [We need a majority of one to acquit and a majority of two to convict, so we must have at least 22. Since we can’t have an even number, we add one and reach 23.] [Sanhedrin 2a]


Now, here comes the shocker. Having 23 judges allows for at least ten to argue for conviction and ten to argue for acquittal. But it does not guarantee it. What if the crime is so heinous and the evidence so overwhelming that no judge will argue for acquittal? Then, believe it or not, the defendant goes scot free. The logic here is that there is a spark of goodness is every person, because every person was created “b’tsellem Elohim”, in God’s image [Gen. 1:27], and if a tribunal cannot find it, bring it to the table and tie it to the case, it is not fit to judge. Note that, back then, there were no defense lawyers and no juries. The judges heard the case and the witnesses, then deliberated and rendered a majority verdict. This provision ensured that some judges would take on the role of defense lawyers, to avoid criminals going free. This point of Jewish law may be the source of the Western practice of giving a defense attorney to every defendant.



-Finally, a Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges was established, which served as the Supreme Court of Israel. Why 71? Because God told Moses in the Torah to assemble 70 elders to help him judge and govern Israel [Numbers 11:16.]. Adding Moses, this makes 71.



Our subject verse, “Follow the majority for good” was also used in a famous and critical story in the Talmud, which many call “the keynote of the Talmud”. Let me read it to you:


[The rabbis were discussing whether a certain oven was ritually clean.]


-R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument [to prove that it was clean], but [his colleagues] did not accept them.


-[R. Eliezer] told them: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!' At that point the carob-tree was uprooted 100 cubits out of its place (others say 400 cubits).


-[The rabbis] retorted: No proof can be brought from a carob-tree.'


-Again he said to them: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let [this] stream of water prove it [by flowing backwards]!' At that point the stream of water flowed backwards.


-[The rabbis] rejoined: 'No proof can be brought from a stream of water.'


-Again he urged: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it.' At that point the walls inclined to fall.


-But R. Yehoshua rebuked them, saying: 'When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what business do you have interfering?' Hence they did not fall, in honor of R. Yehoshua, nor did they resume the upright position, in honor of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing [today] thus inclined.


-Again he said to them: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!'


- At that point a Heavenly Voice cried out: 'Why do you argue with R. Eliezer? The halachah agrees with him in all matters!'


-But R. Yehoshua arose and exclaimed, [quoting the Torah]: 'Lo bashamayim hi -- It is not in heaven.' [Deut. 30:12]


-What did he mean by this? Said R. Jeremiah: [He meant] that the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; [therefore] we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because You, [God] have long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, ‘Follow the opinion of the majority.’ [Ex. 23:2 our verse].


R. Nathan met Elianu HaNavi [Elijah the Prophet] and asked him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour?


-[Elijah] replied, ‘He laughed [with joy], saying, 'My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.'


[Talmud , Bava Metzia 59b]


This extraordinary passage is no less than a declaration of independence by the rabbis. In it, the rabbis tell God that the Torah is out of His hands, and that human beings will make Torah decisions by majority vote, without interference from God. God evidently approved, and liked to see His children take charge so decisively. Rabbenu Chananel, an 11th century Tunisian sage, even said that the voice from heaven was a test of whether the rabbis would hold their ground, and that they passed the test.



In the end, Rabbi Eliezer refused to accept the majority decision and, as a result, was expelled from the Sanhedrin. But note that later Sages said that God and Rabbi Eliezer had gotten it right. The majority rendered the wrong decision. But no matter. The 12th century sage Nachmanides (the Ramban) said that people, even Sages, will make mistakes occasionally, but it is better to let them make mistakes a few times and render decisions applicable to all, rather than have different Jewish communities follow different rules.
 So minority opinions are not always “wrong”, in the sense that the logic that led from the Torah to them is not faulty. The Talmud says of them, ‘Ellu v’ellu divrei Elohim Hayyim These and these are the words of the Living God’ [Eruvin 13b]. Both interpretations are “right”, even though they may be contradictory. The Talmud also says:


If the Torah had been given in a fixed form, the situation would have been intolerable. What is the meaning of the often-recurring phrase "The Lord spoke to Moses"? Moses said before God, “Lord Of the Universe, make me know what the final decision is in each manner of the law.“ God replied: "The majority must befollowed. When the majority declares a thing permitted, it is permitted, and when the majority declares a thing forbidden, it is forbidden… The Torah is capable of interpretation, with 49 points [arguing one way] and 49 points [arguing the other way]."


[Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 22a]


Well, majority rule is a thing of the past. The last Great Sanhedrin folded in the year 358 CE, yielding to Roman persecution. After that, no more central decisions in Judaism. From that point on, new halachic decisions were made by individual Sages, who made them stick only by virtue of the respect they inspired. And their decisions were sometimes controversial even centuries after their death.



It’s a wonder we Jews lasted so long in recognizable form in spite of that.


-The Samaritans refused to accept the books of the Bible that came after the Torah and split off.


-The Karaites refused to accept the Talmud and split off in the 9th century.


-Both groups flourished for a while, numbering in the millions. The Karaites were reported to make up 40% of Jews at one time. But today their combined numbers are down to a few thousand.


-Hasidism came more than two centuries ago and promptly broke into dozens of independent sects.


-The last 150 years or so have seen a flowering of non-traditional Jewish movements in the West, each writing its own rules. The thinking was, and still is: You disagree with this or that traditional practice? Form your own movement! Associate only with those who agree with you, and vituperate against the others!
 Freedom of religious thinking is a wonderful thing, but unity of tradition is also a wonderful thing. Who is to say who is right? Nobody. But the debate does not end here. There are still a few inconvenient facts to be considered. One of them is that the retention rates are much lower for offshoots. There is a deep abyss between the retention rates of secular, humanist, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, or Conservative Jews on the one hand, and the much higher retention rates of traditional Jews on the other. I don’t think anybody disputes the fact that the shortest book in the world is the Book of Fourth-Generation Reform Jews.


And the fragmentation is not confined to the left. Among religious Jews, in the last few decades alone, movements have sprung up that vociferously oppose the legitimacy of the State of Israel, that refuse to take up arms to defend the State, that even refuse to work for a living, as long as the State, or somebody, continues to support them as full-time students (which flies in the face of established halacha), that refuse to accept modern conveniences such as Shabbat elevators, and that generally work hard to impose more and more religious restrictions, over and above those of established halacha, by reinterpreting traditional teaching to suit their purposes. It is not just the do-less we have to contend with, but the do-more as well.


I miss the synagogue in Cairo, Egypt, where I grew up. It was, of course, nominally traditional, but in the Sephardic world everybody went to the same synagogue, whether they were on the far right or the far left or anywhere in between. Their personal observance was just that, a personal matter. They did not feel the need to create new movements that reflected their philosophy, complete with their own platforms and their own rabbis and their own seminaries and their own schools and their own butcher shops and their own synagogues.


If the past is any indication, all these movements will eventually wither away and die, causing huge drops in Jewish numbers. All, that is, except one. That one will carry Judaism into the far future. I don’t know which one that is. But I do know this:

Hinne! Lo yanum, velo yishan shomer Yisrael.


Behold! The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. [Ps. 121:4]

Shabbat shalom.



Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ode to those of Abu Zaabal and Tura

By: Suzy Vidal a/k/a Sultana Latifa

 
Voices too long smothered come to our ears

They tell us of horrendous tales and tears

Keeping their secrets deep in their hearts

To the surface come crying out their hurts

An easy unprotected prey, Jewish were they not?

To bear all the sins of Israel in their flesh and blood

Some have in heavy silence carried their secrets to their tombs

Of physical repeated unbearable and unforgotten wounds

Four hundred helpless unjudged victims unfairly indicted

We cannot close our eyes to the tortures inflicted

The sin of being Jewish must forever be banished

So that neither man nor woman can for this be punished

The years are rapidly flying and our hair is greying

Before it is too late, it is now time to join our hearts in saying

you are among the Just among nations we shall not forget

To those of you up in the Milky Way we pay tribute and respect.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

And There Were None


By Sultana Latifa (Suzy Vidal)

A Jewish refugee from an Arab land

I look into the mirror and ask myself: Who are you Sultana? Belgian, Italian, Egyptian, English, Israeli? Definitely none of these but a Jewish refugee from an Arab land!

At last we have been recognised as refugees.
We have even had Israeli coins paying tribute to Egyptian Jewry!
When the word refugee is pronounced you imagine suffering, struggles, insults, wars, prison.
Yes we went through all this.


Before 1948 we lived happily, I would say placidly. The everyday unhurried oriental life, no problems for the morrow practically planting our roots and happy to do that… but we were Yehud, Jews and that put us apart.


Come the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, all this changed radically.


We were well off and our homes beautiful but not because manna fell from heaven!
We worked hard and seriously to reach a certain standing. My grandfather woke up at 5 a.m. washed in cold water, drank his black coffee and trotted off to his shop where as a wholesaler, he sold exclusive fabrics directly imported from Great Britain.


My father worked at the Cotton Stock Exchange and was a stockbroker, whereas my mother was a very qualified Haute Couture seamstress catering for VIP ladies.
And thus we never lacked anything, cultural activities, members of a sporting club, social life and contrary to Arab children we all went to school, some to university.
A word about schools: The great majority sent their children to French-speaking schools because it was traditional to speak French at home. Except for the Lycée Français, the French schools were run by nuns or Jesuits, which may seem funny when you think the Jewish families sent their children to Christian schools.


As I was slightly on the wild side and very disobedient, I was sent off to a military academy managed by Irish generals (nuns) who would ‘tame’ me. I was the only child in the family to go to an English school. Looking back on that experience, I believe that the discipline we learned helped me to overcome the greatest difficulties of our exile.

The country was under British rule as Egypt had became a protectorate after the collapse of the Turkish Empire and administrations were mainly staffed by British officers who did not allow their employees to smoke the sheesha (water pipe) on the job!

As I was saying, the foundation of the State of Israel changed all that.
We could hardly go out without being spat at and called Yehudeya, bent kalb, Jew daughter of a dog

We were excluded from our sporting club where they said neither Jews nor dogs were admitted. Our Synagogue was shut down and out of bounds. Our Shaar Hashamaim, Gate to Heaven was a sight for sore eyes on the Friday Shabbat prayers: The ladies in their best dresses and the men in their elegant suits with their Talit around their shoulders. No weddings were celebrated or Bar Mitzvahs. Passing by the synagogue was like passing by a cemetery. No one there except the “boliss” standing guard.


The people in the Jewish community were questioned, preferably in the middle of the night. After World War 2 a lot of former Nazis found refuge in Egypt. It was said that the authorities took their advice very frequently. We were usually awakened in the middle of the night to force us to confess our Zionistic connections. When the authorities were convinced of such a connection there was only one place for the ‘so-called’ spy: prison in the middle of the desert: such infamous camps were Tura and Abu Zaabal. I had the privilege to write an Ode to the 400 (prisoners of these obnoxious places).

Under martial law anyone could be imprisoned following a denunciation from any Tom, Dick, or Harry. Being Jewish was a very serious accusation. Those were the days we dare not wear our Star of David, and even after that we did not wear any visible signs of our faith.

And strange to say, the less we could wear our star, the more Christians exhibited their cross seeming to say: look, I am not Jewish!

Needless to say there was a huge panic because of the explicit description of what the Egyptians would do to us. Apart from the verbal insults, Jews were threatened in the streets by throat slitting gestures miming the nature of their death!
Newspapers were full of insults and inciting the masses to go out and beat us up.
Egypt had the secret of extraordinary riots when thousands of people literally sprang out from the ground invading the streets, shouting and vociferating against Jews. Anyone remotely looking Jewish was beaten up in the streets.

Some people ask me: but how did they know you were Jewish? They knew! Maybe because of the colour of our skin, our way of dressing or because we did not wear the Muslim veil, THEY KNEW!

My youngest aunt who was pregnant was beaten up in the street during one of the spectacular riots Egyptians indulged in. Naturally, it was impossible for her to go on living in a country that was ready to cut you to pieces.
My mother’s family was composed of 9 brothers and sisters and my father’s of 8 brothers and sisters and it would be a lie to say we stood fearlessly waiting to see what would happen.

There was a curfew and everyone spoke in undertones, walked without looking at anyone, panic was there!

Why did we panic?

When the Jewish shops were confiscated and an ignorant ‘sequester’ (that is the name given to the man who lorded it) put in your place,
When Jews were not allowed to work at the stock exchange,
When a Jew could no longer retrieve his or her money from the bank without being checked out on an established black list,
When people, even women, started being arrested and put in prison in the desert,
When it became impossible to go out fearing an imaginary air raid by the Israelis and consequently be the target of wild Arabs in the street,
When you had to be careful of every word you pronounced,
When it looked very much like Nazism without the STAR on our lapel,
When there was only one way to survive:
FLEE! FLEE! FLEE!

Because of all that was said above there was a visceral fear. World War 2 had shown what could be done to defenceless Jews. Some like my grandmother, my mother and her sisters had panic attacks (though that medical term was not known then).
Panic that terrible word:
The families got ready even if they had to leave everything behind, but it was no longer viable to be a Jew in Egypt.
There were strict rules for leaving:
If you left then you were never to come back again
You could not transfer your own money. It was left to the Egyptian government.
If you had an Egyptian nationality you lost it and became apatride, without nationality

Those who lived in the vicinity of the Royal Palace were forced to move, the King was afraid of Jews.

But notwithstanding the sacrifices, two thirds of the Jews in Egypt left.
The great majority could no longer cope with the harassment and they were willing to give up everything they had worked and hoped for as long as they could escape the unspeakably harsh terror treatment reserved to Jews. On my mother’s side all the brothers and sister except one brother left. On my father’s side one brother and two sisters remained. The rest went to Israel.

Even that was dangerous for those who remained. Policemen came in the middle of the night to question the remaining family.

There were no direct routes to Israel. The state of war went on even when the war ended.

The Jewish refugees therefore left for either France or Italy by boat and were placed in camps: in France it was Marseille, in Italy it was Livorno (Leghorn) awaiting the possibility of transportation to Israel. All of them city people waiting for a new life!
Later, after our second exodus (1957) when we were able to meet our families by going to see them in Israel, still avoiding any Arab territory but through Greece, they told us in detail of the difficulties of their life and living in tents. City people, bank managers or employees who now had to earn their living by working on the new roads or lifting cement bags off trucks.

But once more they did not sit down in the streets holding out their hands begging, or crying to the U.N.

They struggled and worked hard.

As one of my uncles said: “we rolled up our sleeves and worked!”
The following two or three years in Egypt were more or less calm except that we were still very badly considered; being Jewish was like wearing a scarlet letter. All the family had gone but for us leaving the aged grandparents and flying off was not possible. Family solidarity was not a vain word.
It took time but my grandfather recuperated his shop, the ‘sequestre’ left and work could be resumed.
A word about the ‘séquestrer’ as they were called:
In general he was a man who did not have much schooling, had no idea of how products were made, or how to handle business. But nothing could be done without his approval (that maddened my grandfather who had been trading for well on 50 years). So he would come home and pull his hair out telling us about the stupidity of that sequester. All we could do was tell him to be patient. We also encouraged my grandmother to believe in peace promising that she would see her dear children again as soon as a peace treaty was signed. The peace treat only came 40 years later with Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem. Meanwhile, her heart had given way and she never saw them again. She was only 55.

Come January 1952:

The morning started off peacefully. Gradually the masses invaded the town, and the terrifying roars came closer. The town was on fire. They had set fire to Cairo! We lived in Malika Farida Street a few metres from The British Officers’ Club. That club was invaded and fire put to it. My best friend who lived just opposite the club saw the burning officers thrown from the windows and left downstairs on the ground blackened and smoking. It was horrendous!

In front of our house was a shop selling alcohol, it was invaded and all the bottles thrown into a bon fire in the middle of the street. The bottles kept popping for hours on end sounding like gunshots.

We shuddered home, shaking and praying hanging on to our Mezuzah nailed on every door, hoping the crowd would pass on. But they burst into our building looking for Yehud, Jews.

Our hall porter, called a Bawab in Egypt, swore to them there were no Jews in that building. But we rushed up the metal service stairs looking for an escape: Fire everywhere, on the left, on the right and in front of us. There were five of us: my mother, father, my younger sister and my nonno, grandfather, with a kitchen knife in his hands!

Well, and that passed away too and life settled down again, everyone going about his business. As the French say: tout passe!

I registered at university (The American university at Cairo) at 17, in 1953. Those were the happiest years in my life. After the strict nuns I enjoyed the diversity and freedom University offered me! I could give way to my artistic inclination by being part of an actor’s guild and directing a play or taking care of the sets. And my love of sports found opportunities as never before. I was part of the basketball team and captain of the tennis one. I was a member of the Square Dancing team.
The Touring club organised a visit to Upper Egypt and the Valley of the Kings where we sweated it out visiting the sights. I was doing very well in my studies except for Arabic never having had one hour of that language in my very English schooling. And for the first time in my life I was in love. Who could ask for more?
At A.U.C. there were guests invited to ‘speak’ to us such as Helen Keller, blind deaf and dumb. Other visitors were the Harlem Globetrotters who gave a whirling exhibition.

Then we were invited to the U.S. Embassy to demonstrate square dancing where we had our first taste of hamburgers with ketchup. In short as I said in my book: these were the Razzle Dazzle years.

1956! The Suez Crisis! War!

It fell on us!

The French, English and Israelis attacked Egypt because Nasser nationalised the Canal. Pandemonium broke loose. No one ever thinks of those civilians in war. All the Jewish French and English subjects were given 24, 48 hours to leave the country. They could only have one suitcase and ten Egyptian pounds. The apartments went to officers, the money and businesses to the government to punish us for what was happening.

And what about us Jews, responsible for everything as usual?


  • Once again prison,
    Loss of the Egyptian nationality,
    Confiscation of shops,
    Ostracisme,
    Etc! Etc! Etc!




All the borders were closed, only those expelled could leave; even then there were not enough planes to cater for this massive expulsion, they had to wait for their turn meanwhile receiving the visits of officers who had their eye on the apartments and listening to their comments on furnishing and decoration! Farewells were heart rending. Who knew when and where we would see them again!

My father being of a very distant Italian origin and having kept his nationality, we were consequently Italians. My mother went to the consulate to ask for their help. She was told:
We are not at war with Egypt and if you want to leave it will be through the desert and at your own responsibility! (Imagine the Sahara Desert? They did not offer to supply camels!).

University was closed, the American teachers flown to safety by their government.
As usual the American cultural centre was looted (every time the Egyptians had a grudge, they marched to the American Cultural centre and destroyed it).
The Americans always rebuilt it!

My grandfather’s shop and money once more confiscated, he had been put on a plane to Milan with his one suitcase and a piece of paper giving my cousin’s address in Milan.
It was a tragic mistake. He only spoke Arabic and no one understood what he was saying.

He cried like a schoolboy trying to explain that his children were in Israel. An interpreter was finally brought along and my cousin was contacted. (By the way she later told us we were morons to have put nonno on a plane all by himself ).It was true but we were afraid he would go to prison.
My mother who had a sharp tongue kept insulting Nasser, praying his house would crush over his head! (Yekhreb betak ya Nasser)

One day the Police came and took her away. She had been denounced by one of her apprentices whose uncle belonged to the Muslim brothers.

What must be known is that during a crisis, everyone unites against Jews. After her short imprisonment nothing could make my mother stay. She packed off all our belongings and we went and lived in a hotel. The furniture was sold at auction and our former servant bought most of it!

We no longer had anything: no home, no job: my father as a Jew could not work at the stock exchange. The clothes we had packed were stolen during the night at the hotel and when we called the police they treated us as though we were guilty. I was only a few months away from graduation and had to present my thesis so I hung on by my teeth to my studies.

My mother and younger sister left. I went on living at the hotel with my father.
All the Jews left Egypt, country of their birth, either by force or of their own ‘free will.’

And then there were none!

After visiting my aunts and uncles in Israel, we settled in Milan convinced that as Italians we would get help the same way the French and the English had helped out the expatriates. Nothing came our way, (once we received a can of cheese from America). We went down and down and down living in a boarding house in two rooms. It was the worst years of our lives.

Broken lives but who cared? An Italian told me we deserved it because we Jews had crucified Christ. My parents did not survive their exile. My mother died at age 55 and my father 57.

P.S. There is a follow up to that black period. A much happier one! I have been blissfully married to a Belgian for 50 years; have three wonderful, intelligent grown children and three equally beautiful grandkids.

As the French say: les chats ne font pas des chiens!

Suzy Vidal (Sultana Latifa)
The following article could also be viewed at http://hsje.org/mystory/therewasnone.htm