Article By Israel Bonan

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner and directly to Israel Bonan]

Why I Am So Angry

I am perplexed, to say the least. So please help me out here.

It took me over 37 years before I cared to share my story with my own family and my own children; the Story of My Exodus from Egypt after the '67 war with Israel. It was not a pretty story, but then it was not the worst either, some of my closest friends remained incarcerated under worst conditions in Egyptian jails for over 3 years, I was spared such fate, my jail experience was only for 6 days.

I asked myself, why I kept quiet about it for so long? Was I ashamed of the experience? Well at some level I must have been. I am sure a lot of us do not wish to share episodes of physical abuse with others, or the experiencing of a terrifying moment or two, where losing one's life may have been at stake. But that was not it.

Was I so absorbed in making a life for myself and my family, instead of cogitating, and looking at my own belly button, so to speak, and dwell on the negative and forget that to be alive is to experience such life to its fullest? Well, maybe some of that too, we were refugees, we got help, we moved on, we succeeded in our careers, so what's the problem? Let's forgive and forget. I say no again to that, it was not enough of an excuse.

Maybe it is the irony of it. Here is a terrorist of the worst kind, Chairman Arafat who saw to it, to put the Palestinian problem front and center in the world's eyes and attention, and gave the Palestinians a "cause celebre", while in the background kept them in tatters and in tents. He made sure that his own family and cronies lived high on the hog and yet it is only the Palestinians and what they lost that still is front and center in the Middle East narrative. Theirs is the only story of suffering; theirs is the only story worth being told. Are we being punished because we succeeded, and the world cannot empathize with people's success?

The irony does not stop there. A lot of organizations now are cropping up advocating reconciliation with Egypt, a noble and necessary step to advance the cause of Peace in the Middle East. I too, am a peace advocate and will cherish the day when that event comes to be, so what's the problem then?

It came as a surprise to me, during the past year, that the aging Jewish community from Egypt is not of one mind on the subject of our history in Egypt. It is not that they were totally unaware of it, I was mostly surprised that for some they wished to deny it. Why bring it up? What purpose will it serve? We need to mute it out. And I ask myself why?

I do not wish for anger, but anger is the only emotion I currently experience. When I referred to our community as an 'aging' one, it was supposed to imply, the maturity and experience, the enhanced ability to reflect and measure our responses and finally our generation will gradually fade from the scene. So what do we want, to disappear without our stories being told? Do we have and need Six million of us dead before we react to what happened to us? Of course our miseries dwarfs by comparison to the Holocaust experience, but it was a tragic one nonetheless. How can we fathom reconciling without Egypt and her Government apologize to us, at a minimum, for what they did to us and our parents before us?

Are our sensibilities so jarred by the stories, that we chose to ignore them? It's only Palestinians and the Chairman that do that sort of thing, and not us? What will get you angry, with me? More than 3 years in jail, losing more than our self respect, more than abandoning our hard earned fortunes?

I ask you, what have we learned from old age? What have we learned from relationships; that we can slap each other, go to bed and forget about it the next morning? NO, we learned, to confront the problems, talk about them and apologize when apology is called for, and here we are, we were blissfully wedded to Egypt, only she slapped us silly, stomped on our human rights and took all our community property without even a judicial review; and now we go to bed and wake up in the morning and let's forgive and forget? What kind of logic is that? Please get angry, with me.

True reconciliation, that is so one sided is abhorring to me. I beg you to get angry with me, it is our right to ask for an apology, it is our right to ask for restitution and it is our right to ask for our self respect back. It is Egypt's turn to recognize what she did to a community that participated fully in her well being, only to be wronged in return.

It is a two way street, reconciliation is. I crave it, but I also crave my self-respect, I also crave my dignity and I also crave leaving a clean legacy to our children after us. I need to be able to tell my sons, looking them up in the eye; that we were wronged but did not accept it or rolled over and played dead.

Israel Bonan, 19/May/2005

Originally published by the Historical Society of Jews From Egypt


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