For the first time in a decade, the Israeli Embassy in Cairo is planning to host a reception this week in honor of Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Alongside the excitement, however, there have been some domestic events that have cast a cloud over the festivities.
One prominent example was an image with anti-Semitic undertones that appeared in an Egyptian weekly. Moreover, many senior Egyptian officials attempted to have the event cancelled altogether.
In recent years—due to the fear of terrorist attacks, turmoil in the country following the Tahrir Square Revolution that toppled two presidents and the 2011 attack on the Israeli embassy—Israeli diplomats lowered their profile and left Egypt. A new ambassador was appointed, in fact, only in 2016.
This week's event is scheduled to take place Tuesday at the Cairo Ritz Carlton under heavy security. It will be hosted by Ambassador Dr. David Govrin and hundreds of influential Egyptians, including government ministers, parliamentarians, businessmen, journalists and cultural figures.
Chef Shaul Ben Aderet will oversee the culinary aspects of the event, and will prepare a Middle Eastern meal including lamb chops, hummus, shakshuka, falafel, a variety of salads, Moroccan fish and kadaif (shredded filo dough) cookies.
A diplomatic drama has been brewing behind the scenes lately, however, as many Egyptians are not pleased at such steps of normalization between the two countries. After invitations were sent out, senior Egyptian officials tried to have the event canceled and even notified the Israeli embassy of their intentions.
The official reasoning given was security considerations, but the belief is that they feared the reaction of the Egyptian street.
Jerusalem refused to back down, however, and applied pressure to the Egyptian government to cancel the veto. The Prime Minister’s Office communicated to the Egyptians via several different channels that the event was critical in order to resume normal diplomatic relations.
With the intervention of senior Israeli security officials, the Egyptian opponents caved and the veto was canceled. The event is set to take place as planned.
Crisis was not altogether averted, however, as an anonymous source leaked the event's details to the Egyptian weekly political magazine Rose al-Yūsuf, which then published a photo of the invitation including the location, alongside a photograph of the Israeli ambassador, with the clear intention of wanting to spoil or endanger the event.
The magazine’s front page included an anti-Semitic caricature that looked as if it came from the Nazi propaganda tabloid Der Stürmer: a Haredi Jew reading the Bible while the main title proclaimed, “Israeli embassy celebrates 70 years to the Nakba at the Ritz hotel.”