I’m not sure how this story escaped my radar when it came out a week ago….or more specifically when Egyptian actor Karim Kassem came out..as a Jew!
But don’t worry. He’s not a Zionist.
One of Egypt’s best known young actors has surprised his fans by revealing to a talk show host that his late mother was Jewish.
The move by movie star Karim Kassem has received a positive response. It is seen as a bold step in a society where not only anti-Israel but also antisemitic sentiment is palpable, although Kassem was careful to stress that his Jewish forebears were anti-Israel.
Egypt, which had a Jewish population of more than 65,000 in 1947, today has fewer than 100 Jews, and the associations of most Egyptians with Jews are from media reports of Israelis mistreating Palestinians rather than firsthand experience.
According to a report in the London-based The New Arab website, Kassem, 30, made the revelation recently before a live audience during an interview with talk show host Mona al-Shazly.
“I feel as if I am lucky that I come from a mixed background. My whole life I have observed all religious celebrations, Christmas, Ramadan and Jewish New Year,’’ he said.
While many Egyptian Jews immigrated to Israel as they faced persecution and their situation worsened, Kassem’s Jewish grandfather, Shehata Haroun, refused to do so, condemning Zionism as a racist movement, The New Arab reported, adding that Kassem’s paternal grandmother was a French Christian.
Kassem told the television show that his unique background has given him an ability to accept others and embrace diversity.
“When I was a kid I didn’t even realize,’’ he said. “One day I came home from school and told my sister ‘the Jews have done this and that, they have big noses and are stingy.’ She then told me, ‘Karim. You don’t know. Your mom is Jewish. It was such a shock to me.’”
Kassem told The New Arab that when he was a schoolboy he was ashamed of his Jewish roots, but that he feels good about disclosing his secret.
“The reception has been very positive so far. A lot of people have reached out to me and sent me really beautiful messages, telling me that I should be proud and happy. This experience has given me renewed hope in this generation.’’
The moral of the story? Egyptian society may accept you as a Jew if you say you hate Israel.
Meanwhile, here’s the full interview. I didn’t understand one word.
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