Albert Arie, one of the last remaining Egyptians with Jewish roots, dies at 90

Former communist, anti-Zionist activist converted to Islam in the 1960s but remained committed to preserving Jewish-Egyptian heritage

Albert Arie, an Egyptian with Jewish roots, in October 2020. (Screenshot: Facebook/Al-Arabiya)
Albert Arie, an Egyptian with Jewish roots, in October 2020. (Screenshot: Facebook/Al-Arabiya)

One of the few remaining Egyptians with Jewish roots, Albert Arie, has died just ahead of his 91st birthday, according to media reports Thursday.

“Today the Jewish Community in Cairo and its NGO to preserve Egypt’s Jewish heritage, the Drop of Milk Association, lost our pillar of strength, wisdom and support, the legendary Albert Arie who leaves many broken hearts behind,” tweeted activist Soraya Bahgat.

“No words can do this great man justice,” she wrote about Arie, who converted to Islam in the 1960s to marry a Muslim woman.

Arie was born in 1930 to a middle-class Jewish family. He turned down countless opportunities to leave Egypt along with some 100,000 Jews who left in the exodus that surrounded Israel’s creation in 1948.

A communist activist, he served more than ten years in prison in five jails from the mid-1950s, where he came into contact with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

He was an outspoken anti-Zionist, and told the Al-Ahram newspaper in 2015 that he had “worked along with members of the leftist Democratic Movement for National Liberation (Hadeto), to combat the ideology.”

He came out strongly against the claim that Egypt’s Jews suffered persecution after Israel’s creation, particularly by the Muslim Brotherhood.

“This is really absurd, I mean yes they did carry out some attacks against some Jewish targets but to try and reduce the whole story of Egyptian Jews post-1948 to these attacks is not just reductionist but certainly insulting to the truth,” he argued. “The Muslim Brotherhood were not really at odds with Jews. The Jews were not their best allies of course but they were not their major adversaries.”

Despite his views on Zionism and conversion to Islam, Arie and his son Sami Ibrahim remained committed to preserving the Jewish-Egyptian heritage.

“Today, there are only a few elderly and a couple of middle-aged people and this will all be gone in a matter of a very few decades,” Arie told Al-Ahram.

“The thing to do now is to make sure that the history of Egyptian Jews, which is basically part of the history of Egypt, should be well-documented and their monuments should be preserved so that maybe one day the full story will be accurately told, away from the purposes of political propaganda or commercial gains,” he said.

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