Haroun, the president of the Egyptian Jewish community, doesn’t enjoy hearing anti-Semitic slurs on the street. She gets nervous when she hears Egyptians are burning the churches of Coptic Christians, a much larger religious minority than the country’s tiny Jewish community.
She assumes that most of her compatriots have forgotten there are any Jews left in Egypt.
But when protesters filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square at the end of June calling on President Mohamed Morsi to step down, she was right there with them.
“The amount of people in Tahrir was breathtaking,” Haroun told JTA. “The unity between people was breathtaking. Some of the people recognized me because I was on TV. They were shaking my hand and telling me, ‘God bless you. You are a real Egyptian.’ ”
Haroun, 61, is the youngest of the 14 women who make up Cairo’s dwindling Jewish community. But though small in number, Haroun says the community is proud of its country and, like many Egyptians, supportive of the army’s campaign to quell Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that the White House was withholding some military aid to Egypt in protest of the military’s violent crackdown on Morsi supporters. But for Haroun, the army’s assertion of control is a welcome development she sees as “fighting terrorism.”
“The way they wanted things to go, it’s a fascist movement,” she said. “I hope we’ll start a new era in Egypt where everyone will be equal regardless of political beliefs. I am very confident in the future.”
When a call went out for Egyptians to donate money to the government during the unrest, the 14 Jewish women in Egypt decided to scrounge together what they could.
“We have no money, but do you agree we should contribute a small amount of money in the name of the Egyptian community?” Haroun recalled asking the women. “You know what they responded? ‘Yes, of course. We are not dead yet.’ “
Whatever happens, the Jewish community in Egypt is over. But the Christian community may survive.