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Egypt sent condolences to Navon family on president’s death

Empathy underlines trend of warming ties between Sissi regime and Israel, shifting cultural perceptions

Yitzhak Navon with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1980. (photo credit: GPO)
Yitzhak Navon with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1980. (photo credit: GPO)

The Egyptian government sent a letter to the family of former president Yitzhak Navon, expressing its condolences over his recent death, Army Radio reported Thursday.

Fluent in Arabic, Navon became close to his Egyptian counterpart Anwar Sadat, who signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 during Navon’s tenure as president. Navon visited Cairo in 1980, at Sadat’s invitation.

Less than three months ago, President Reuven Rivlin sent Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi condolences upon the death of his mother.

Rivlin wrote: “On behalf of the citizens of the State of Israel and myself, [I] send you our sincere condolences on the sad passing of your dear mother. Our sympathies are with you at this difficult time. May she rest in peace and may you know no further sorrow.”

Official relations between the two countries have been relatively warm since Sissi rose to power after ousting Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Sissi’s fight against Islamist militants in the Sinai and his opposition to Hamas have created common strategic interests with Israel.

In June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “deeply welcomed” Egypt’s appointment of its new ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, after a three-year hiatus. That month, senior Israeli and Egyptian officials met in Cairo for the first time since 2011.

A scene from the Egyptian drama Haret al-Yahood, or Jewish Quarter, broadcast over Ramadan 2015. (YouTube screenshot)
A scene from the Egyptian drama Haret al-Yahood, or Jewish Quarter, broadcast over Ramadan 2015. (YouTube screenshot)

On a cultural level, long-held Egyptian taboos on Israel and on discussion of Egypt’s once-thriving Jewish community have been easing recently. A soap opera that aired over Ramadan this past summer portrayed a Jewish family in 1950s Cairo dealing with the political and social upheaval of the era. The show, “Haret al-Yahood,” or The Jewish Quarter, was a hit in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

 

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