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Film asks 'how did the Jews of Egypt turn into enemies?' Cairo synagogue (archives) Photo: AP
Film asks 'how did the Jews of Egypt turn into enemies?' Cairo synagogue (archives) Photo: AP

Egypt bans film about Jewish community

Security services stop screening of documentary following lives of country's Jews in first half of 20th century until they left in large numbers in late 1950s

News agencies
Published: 03.13.13, 15:43 / Israel Culture

VIDEO - Egyptian security services have banned a film about the Jews of Egypt on the eve of its scheduled release, the director told AFP on Tuesday.


“The film was banned by National Security,” Amr Ramses said by telephone from New York.



The film, "The Jews of Egypt," a documentary that follows the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century until they left under duress in large numbers in the late 1950s, was screened in Egypt last year in a private film festival and had been approved by censorship, a regular procedure in Egypt.


It was meant to be screened in three cinemas on Wednesday.


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“The head of the censorship board said National Security wanted to see a copy and they refused” to have the film screened, Ramses said, adding he planned to take legal action to have the decision reversed.


The film director describes it as a documentary about the cosmopolitan Egypt in the early 20th century, asking, "how did the Jews of Egypt turn in the eyes of Egyptians from partners in the same country to enemies?"


The film is based on testimonies of researchers, political figures and exiled Egyptian Jews.


Trailer creates big buzz

Film producer Haytham el-Khamissy said he heard from the chief of the censorship authority that a security agency asked to view the movie before granting it a license to be shown in theaters.


"I was shocked when he told me this and when I learned that this had already happened" before the 2012 festival screening, el-Khamissy said in a statement posted on the film's official Facebook page.


"There is no excuse for this except delay and obstruction," he said. "I announce the delay of the screening of 'Jews of Egypt' until a solution is found for this inexplicable problem, inherited from long years in the parlors of the Egyptian state securities and which aim to terrorize thought and repress creativity."


The trailer had already created a big buzz in Egypt, with so little locally produced material about the Jews of Egypt.


Under the former regime of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, security authorities kept a tight lid on discussions of religion and minority groups, occasionally banning books or rejecting movie scripts that dealt with such issues.


Egypt's once thriving Jewish community largely left Egypt more than 60 years ago amid hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Estimates say about 65,000 Jews left Egypt since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, most of them traveling to Europe and the West. Some settled in Israel.


Their departure was fueled by rising nationalist sentiment during the Arab-Israeli wars, harassment and some direct expulsions by then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and attacks on Jewish properties.


Only scores of Jews, most of them elderly, remain in Egypt. Synagogues are heavily guarded and are mainly tourist sites now.


AFP and The Associated Press contributed to this report



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