An Egyptian lawyer was arrested in September on charges of spying for Israel after the owner of an internet café in which he had been sitting noticed he was speaking Italian, French and Hebrew on the phone and surfing the Mossad’s website.
The lawyer, Ayman, told Egypt’s al-Nahar TV in a clip posted and translated by watchdog group MEMRI that he had decided to learn Hebrew before the most recent wave of bloodshed in his home country had begun.
Describing himself as “the kind of person who always wants to do unusual things,” Ayman said there were few lawyers in Egypt who were able to speak Hebrew, suggesting that his newly acquired language skills could give him a professional edge.
He said he had begun to learn the language starting from the alphabet and basic greetings, but only knew three or four sentences at the time of his arrest.
“I was on my way to learn the Hebrew language, and Allah willing, I will,” he said.
In response, Egyptian TV host Riham Saeed asked Ayman if he, an intellectual, was unaware that both the Quran and the New Testament stated “that America and Israel have devised a global plot to take over the Middle East.”
Ayman defended his “far-fetched” ambition, insisting normalization with Israel was a realistic aim.
The café owner, meanwhile, said one of the messages Ayman had received in Hebrew read, “Shalom Ayman, you are the State of Israel’s eternal ambassador in Egypt.”
He added that the Egyptian people had rejected normalization and that an ordinary citizen like Ayman could not instigate normalization on his own accord.
“That’s unacceptable,” the cafe owner said. “He’s got to be a spy.”