The Uneasy Life of a Jew in Egypt

After Andrew Pochter's Killing, an American in Cairo Reflects

An American Jew in Cairo: Living as a Jew in Egypt’s capital comes with its challenges but also moments of incredible bonding with others.
Getty Images
An American Jew in Cairo: Living as a Jew in Egypt’s capital comes with its challenges but also moments of incredible bonding with others.

By Anonymous

Published June 30, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Less than a week later I heard about Andrew’s death while at a dinner at a friend’s apartment, just two metro stops from Tahrir Square. I was the only Jew that night in a mix of Americans and Egyptian gay men, often disproportionately represented in ex-pat circles. Conversation turned to the recent DOMA decision, and one of the gay Egyptians asked, “Wait, do you all know we are gay?” I laughed. It was clear to me from the start. But the incident reminded me once again of a simple fact — everyone has parts of them that at times they feel they cannot share. A degree of alienation is innate to the human condition. I am by no means alone in Egypt.

A few months back I stopped indulging strangers’ questions about my religion. I have my values, I tell them when asked whether I’m Christian or Muslim. “And that’s the most important thing, right?” “Yes, yes,” they always agree. I decided to do so in response to an online campaign started by Egyptians to have religion removed from their identity card. It seemed like a new way to keep an old conversation going.

I wonder what I’ll say, if I’m still around these parts, 10 years from now. For I know I am here in a particular moment of transformation for Egypt. Into what, I cannot speculate. But I know it was not and will not always be this way. There were more tolerant times, and this makes me hopeful that history will repeat these parts again.

Jews once lived openly amongst Egyptian Muslims and Christian Copts in a time before the wars — 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 — that became defining moments for the modern Egyptian state. In the years that followed Jew became aligned with Israeli and Zionist that for complicated reasons — both real and imagined — become popular to fear, and even hate. Now I find myself, like many of my Egyptian, American, Jewish, Muslim, and Israeli counterparts, trying to make something new of these changing times.

No one story can capture it all, but that’s not a reason not to share them.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.