Monday, 14 February 2011

Lessons mi Mitzraim (Lessons from Egypt)

The news has been consistently pouring in from Egypt and I had resisted talking about it on this blog until it looked like there was something concrete to talk about. So much of what I was reading in the press was speculative: will Mubarak stay or go? When will he go? Who will take over? What does it mean for Israel?

Well, now Mubarak has gone from Cairo and from power and Egypt is in the care of a group of generals for the time being. They say they will implement the change the Egyptian people want. I hope they do for I cannot imagine what might happen if they don't.

"Cairo was lovely, but got a bit oppressive. Gone to Sharm now to relax...  love, Hosni xx"

Of course, one of the demands of the people is democracy and that means elections. Ehud Barak said on Sunday that the most likely political group to benefit from early elections would be the Muslim Brotherhood as they are currently the most organised and coherent opposition in Egypt.

How did Barak become an expert on religious fanaticism???

According to the BBC, the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest, oldest and most influential Islamic movement and has inspired others all over the world to take up a political and social Islamic program. The BBC also predicts that should the Muslim Brotherhood want to move Egypt's legal system toward sharia law this would be a popular move amongst Egyptians. I hope this is not the case. I have only been to Egypt a couple of times and only got past Nuweiba once. The three days I spent in Cairo was indeed eye-opening inasmuch as it was almost impossible to get by with English (lots of miming and pointing took place!) and once it was dark you would hardly see any women out in the streets, although you would see many men of all ages enjoying the cafes of Cairo. This was the first time I realised the depth of the conservatism in Egyptian society. But on the other hand we were warmly invited into the home of our taxi driver Farouk and his wife cooked us a fantastic meal. The Egyptians we met were welcoming and warm hearted. They knew I was Jewish and that I was studying in Jerusalem and we talked about the political situation and our mutual hopes for peace.

OK, so that was almost 14 years ago, pre-Bush and pre-911 (IMHO the two worst things to have happened for peace in the Middle East) and there was still optimism in the region about the prospects for peace, but I hope and believe that the Egyptian people will not replace the rule of a secular dictator for a bunch of religious dictators.

Spot the difference...

I called this post Lessons from Egypt because I think that instead of worrying about what might happen with the religious extremists in Egypt, Israel should be more concerned about the increasing religious fanaticism inside her own borders (as vague as those borders are - for the purposes of my point I include the occupied territories, the magnet for many Jewish extremists) and deal with that. And if that's accomplished and Israel still worries too much about the countries around her - there's a little group of nationalist extremists that could be dealt with too.

"Grant me the courage to change those things I can
Grant me the patience to accept those things I can't change
Grant me the wisdom to know the difference between the two"
The Serenity Prayer


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