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The above statement was made by Elaine Friedland in the context of another discussion. I think it is actually a very important subject to discuss especially by Jewish members of Mepeace. But also by others. Do we also say that Muslims require a Muslim state in order to be free? How about Christians, Bahai, Hindus, Budhists, Animists, Gypsies, Atheists, Homosexuals, etc? What is the definition of "Jewish" in Jewish state? Is it observing Halacha laws? How much Jewish is enough "Jewish"? Who is Jewish? If anti-Zionist Jews becaome a majority in Israel, would it be a "Jewish state"? But the most significant thing is do Jews really require a Jewish state "in order to be free"? Are US Jews not free?

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Well said, and honest too Corey. Most Jews I know don't like to hear Zionism called a 'secular religion'.

However I find it unfortunate that in our need to create this 'so-called' security blanket we have created a Ghetto for ourselves, and a Ghetto for the Palestinians, both '48 and '67. I certainly did not come back to live in the Middle East to be confined to a bubble of pseudo-western society with a Jewish flavor.

It's time we grew up and truly live in the region we seem to think is home. I spend most of my professional time and half my social time with Palestinians and we get along just fine. Israelis and foreign Jews need to grow up. Security blankets are for infants, and are just a psychological crutch with little use in the real world.
Alexandria's last Jews sad to see empty shul on Simhat Torah

By BRENDA GAZZAR
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt

Inside the grand Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in this bustling seaside city, five mostly elderly women and a middle-aged man from the Jewish community here gathered Tuesday evening to commemorate the holiday of new beginnings: Simhat Torah.

For the dwindling Jewish community of Alexandria, where fewer than 25 members now remain, six local attendees is nearly par for the course. And new beginnings seem far away.

The last minyan witnessed by the synagogue was last Yom Kippur, when participants sent by the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and several foreign visitors attended services.

"Now you see what the situation is," said Naftali Twitoo, an Israeli of Tunisian origin who regularly visits the country to lead holiday prayers here, following the service he conducted. "It hurts me that there aren't [more] people [here], but there is nothing that can be done."

At one point during the evening service, the soulful Mizrahi chanting of Twitoo was almost overpowered by the verses from the Koran emanating from a loudspeaker at a nearby mosque. At least 15 armed guards in uniforms stood watch around the high walls of the synagogue during the brief Simhat Torah service.

Members, who mostly spoke French among themselves, kissed the Torah during the service, feasted on rich pastries and then later congratulated one another with the traditional Arabic holiday greeting: "Kul Sana w'Antum Taibeen."

But it was hard not to notice that some familiar faces were missing.

In late July, the Jewish community of Alexandria lost its president of eight years, Dr. Max Salama, at the age of about 94. A native Alexandrian and long-time fixture of the Jewish community, Salama served as the dentist to the country's noble classes, including relatives of King Farouk's family and the brother of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser.

Indeed, a few members of this rapidly aging community are now living in convalescent or nursing homes, including the meticulous registrar; a petite, spunky woman who has recorded all the births, deaths and marriages in the community for more than three decades.

And others in the community are finally leaving. One woman, who was born in Alexandria and spent all of her 86 years here, said she was making final preparations to leave Egypt and join her daughter, her grandchildren and great grandchildren in Australia.

"I feel the necessity to be with family," she said, later asking that her name not be used for the article. "I'm a bit lonely now. I don't go out much due to transport problems. It's not easy for me."

This traditionally cosmopolitan city is said to have boasted a community of tens of thousands of Jews of both Ashkenazi and Mizrahi descent, but some were expelled as French or British citizens during the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. Others were expelled and/or imprisoned for up to three years during the Six Day War. Some, too, left on their own accord, feeling that there was a brighter future for them as Jews in countries like Israel, America and Australia.

It is estimated that there are no more than 75 or 100 Egyptian Jews in the whole country, with the majority being concentrated in Cairo.

But others, including Ben Youssef Gaon, the new president of Alexandria's Jewish community, decided to stay, feeling that Egypt has been their only home.

Gaon, 53, is one of the youngest members and says he has been treated well by other Egyptians because of the respectful way he treats others.

His father, Joe Youssef Benyamin Gaon, of Cairo, was a successful tailor for the upper classes, and even fitted clothes for former Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser. Because his father was well-known and respected, Gaon believes their family was not expelled or forced out of the country. "He wasn't involved in politics. He was a simple man," Gaon said of his father from his office, where a picture of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hangs above his desk. "Our religion was something that was in our hearts."

Today, Gaon says, he is still accepted as a Jew. He is often invited to dinner by friends during Ramadan, for example, and brings his friends sweets during their traditional feasts.

But it is clear that many Jews here are careful not to draw attention to themselves. Several members of the community declined to be interviewed for this article or asked that their name not be used.

Some feared their children could be affected at their workplace if it was discovered that one or both their parents were Jewish.

Many of the women in the community intermarried with Christians or Muslims and quite a few members even converted to Islam to facilitate marriage or raising children.

"We'd rather have a low profile here," said one Jewish woman, 77, who asked that her name not be used. "We don't like our stories being known all over the place because our position is not clear. When people think about a Jew, they always mix us up with Israel... Of course it upsets me, as I have nothing to do with politics."

Another woman asked a foreign visitor to contact her friends in Israel for her since she did not feel comfortable calling Israel herself through an Egyptian clerk at a call center.

But some argue that such preoccupations may no longer be of concern within the next decade or two.

"We were only four ladies for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succot," the 86-year-old woman who is moving to Australia said earlier this week. "We're very few. You feel very sorry to see this synagogue empty."
There have been Jews living in Alexandria ever since it was founded - almost 1000 years before Muslims first arrived in Egypt. Supposedly, 40,000 when Rome conquered Egypt in the first century. Now this beautiful synagogue is the mausoleum for a vanished community. A communit that survived centuries of discrimination, only to end up being substantially expelled.

"But it is clear that many Jews here are careful not to draw attention to themselves. Several members of the community declined to be interviewed for this article or asked that their name not be used.
Some feared their children could be affected at their workplace if it was discovered that one or both their parents were Jewish.
Many of the women in the community intermarried with Christians or Muslims and quite a few members even converted to Islam to facilitate marriage or raising children."

Do those Jews sound like "Free" people?
Dear Fred:

You make a very interesting observation. There used to be a saying that in fighting monsters (whether real or perceived) one has to be careful not to become a monster. The recreation of the European ghetto in the form of an "independent" state of Israel is an interesting issuelly free to explore. It relates directly to this issue of freedom. How free does one be and is freedom involve oppressing others. Where the German people really free at the height of Nazi power? Now with Israel holding hundreds of nuclear weapons, the fourth or fifth strongest army in the world, and having successfully removed most of the native Palestinians from their lands, how free do Israeli citizens feel? How secure? How stable? I ask these questions because as a Palestinian I also do not want to be dragged into false hopes of freedom based on segregation? Would I not feel better and more free living near someone like Fred and a really democratic society for all its people rather than in a supernationalistic paranoid militarized state even if that state is called "Palestine"? Obviously there are differences between Zionism and Palestinian nationalism on so many different levels and I do not intend to equate those who lived here for hundreds of years to those who came under the banner of Zionism and took the land by various means. But psychologically there maybe some similarities now.
Freedom or liberty, Mazin?
Because "liberty" usually referred to freedom of choice, especially the absence of government restriction on the freedom of each individual tomake their own choices.
Can you or someone here define for me the concept of "nation" as it relates to Jews. What is a nation? I thought the word is a European word with latin roots that relates to nationstates as promulgated in the 19th century. And if the word is equivalen to Am as in Am Yisrael, people of Israel, then what is a people. Aren't all human people? Is it a tribal thing? I am not clear.
I need to go, but this a UMMA (in Hebrew too) which is what is recognized as the Nation of Muslims (here I need you to describe this term to me :)

http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GLOSSARY/UMMAH.HTM

The sacred text of Islam, the Qur'an , uses term, ummah, to refer to the community of believers. The term is used to describe both individual communities, both great and small, of faithful Muslims and to refer to the world-wide community of believers—in the latter sense of the term it is synonymous with dar al-Islam, or "The House of Islam," which refers to the world Islamic community. In its widest sense, however, the term, both in the Qur'an and in Islamic tradition, sometimes refers to all believers in monotheistic religions (including Christians and Jews) and sometimes to the entire human community. Strictly speaking, however, the ummah almost always refers to the Islamic community in either concrete reality or in the abstract. Since Islam was inaugurated by Muhammad, it is Muhammad that is the founder of the ummah .


Islam is a societistic religion; both the revelations of the Qur'an and Islamic tradition stress the social life of humanity and the ethics and mechanics of human society. This societistic focus is not secular; by ordering society along the ethical lines prescribed in revelation, human beings enter into a more proper relation with God.
Fine question, Mazin.

The roots and words “Gen-,” “gens,” “gente,” “gentile,” “nascio,” and “nation” are all derived from the meaning “born”.

So nation in its original sense referred to a tribe, yes. And has a Latin etymology, as you said.
But the underlying socio-political reality to which the relatively new word "nation" refers is of course much older than that word.
Just as Ibn Khaldun was doing "sociology" even though Auguste Comte invented that word 500 years later.
I've seen this kind of mistake made before, where people said that such and such an historic regime could not be 'fascistic' because the fascists only arose in Europe in the 1930s.
That's as absurd (or nit-picky) as the position that Greeks alone were polite and urbane, and they were all so blessed; while all barbarians were brutal and unsophisticated; just because the Greeks invented the word "barbarian."
No, said Eratosthenes. Greeks can be scoundrels and barbarians fine people, and the underlying reality is what counts, more than the word or label.

Same here.

In fact, it is more than the Roman tribal notion of a gens, or a tribe, and not bound by allegiance to any given ruling family or government - as what gave rise to the European nation states (Hapsburg Austro-Hungary, Franks, Burgundes, Castilians, Hanoverians, Scots, Latins under the House of Savoy....). It is also an association based on a will to community, which is at heart a religious (and given this particular religion, also a linguistic and cultural) community, where those who want to join count as full members as those who belonged by birth. And over the millennia, I have to think that but for the converts, there would be no Jewish nation at all - and that that too was part of the Divine plan - so extreme have the persecutions been. It is no secret that those Jews who lose their religion and will to community are much more likely than those in the Torah observant community, to see their children assimilate and adopt other, non-Jewish, identities. Then they stop identifying themselves as part of the group, and in time stop being identifiable by anyone as part of the group. But part of that observance requirs access to our urheimat, motherland, and group home. Israel, Zion, Jerusalem, It's everywhere repeated in our prayers. So in that sense there is at least one similarity - a tie to a particular place, even if it is not where we came from - it is where we most will to be in community.

Yes, all people are people. And all people who objectively follow the Lord's teaching and adhere to His rules by which nature operates (or Logos, in Greek) will be strengthened thereby, Jew and non-Jew alike. Those who share in our will to community are welcomed to join in community with us. Those who do not- it's a free country; or at least it should be.
I agree. Sometimes I feel language actually obstucts rather than help understand concepts and ideas. Language is rather dangerous and is used in many ways that destroy a human's ability to think. Take patriotism ("love of the father country"), it can be as benign as loving the smells and nature where we are born and as vile and destructive as to result in genocide, ethnic cleansing etc. Whether in Nazi Germany or Israel, otherwise rational sane people can be moved to do horrific things in the name of linguistic jiu jitsu!
And yes, we must insist that what ever country we live in is indeed free where people who want to drive a car on the sabbath can do so in safety and those who live in a house and farmed a land for hundreds of years can also do so in safety. Those who want to join a tribal thinking should be free to do so but only if the tribe does not develop a cult mentality and oppresses all others who are not part of the "in-community"
I also agree with you on this (though I object to calling this a fair discussion if you mention twisting words for evil causes in Israel and Nazi Germany, without also mentioning that it is done in Palestine as well. And nothing ISrael has done was nearly as insane as what the Nazis did - so please enough with the Nazi comparisons. They're wrong and a hindrance to the progress of our discussion here, They are an example of the langauge-twisting of which you complain!).
Especially when dealing with multiple-language situations,
where translations are not at all precise, the danger of misunderstanding is huge.
Then there's the cultural meanings.
Anyone who wants to drive a car on Shabbat - has the free will to do it, generally.
What is a government to take that away? But there are limits. I am not obliged to buy him a car to do it.
And anyone who tries to drive through Bnei Brak on Shabbat is an idiot and an instigator.
Same thing - anyone who wants to drink alcohol should be allowed to, but in a bar, or their home.
Neither you nor the government have to buy it for them, and If they try to do it in a mosque, they're an idiot and an instigator.
This logic can be repeaated a million times for every specific element of culture, to the point where like-minded people will voluntarily group together for common convenience and comfort. But voluntarily.
And thus at liberty to do so. And this has to do with that idea of punching where someone's nose is.
How does that play out in each specific situation is the trick.

As for the rest of your statement; No-one farmed the land for hundreds of years - no-one lives that long.
But seriously, all who were born there are" natives" (another darn Latin word) and should be encouraged to cherish the land and even more, each other. Just as all those who moved there willing to be in community with them, whether Jew, Muslim, Christian, Bahai, or even atheist.
I do not believe in real property rights just inhering in later generations out of the merit of earlier ones. Not for Palestinians and not for Israelis. They inhere in each individual based on their unique facts and merits.
Can you share with us your summary
I think this is all public domain but I would like to see how you are presenting it. I am sure we all benefit from that.
I actually just framed questions. There is already a significant discussion and useful commentary on the question. I did not make an opinion yet. I am learning a lot reading the other comments.

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