Issue ID: 04
A Look inside a Modern Classic
Memory and Forgetting among Jews from the Arab-Muslim Countries. Contested Narratives of a Shared Past
It is often argued that Egyptian Jews did not participate much in the cultural and political life of monarchical Egypt1. Even though this is partly true in comparison to other Jews in the Middle East such as the Iraqis, one should not forget that from the 1920s on middle and upper class Egyptian Jews wrote historical books and promoted cultural activities centred on Egyptian (Jewish) history, following the historiographical revival promoted by King Fu’ad. Such interest in history continued during King Faruq’s reign, when the Cairo Jewish journalist Maurice Fargeon published two important historical monographs, Les juifs en Egypte (1938) and Médecins et avocats juifs au service de l’Egypte (1939). Considering the nation as an imaginative space and not just a political entity, the aim of my essay is to investigate the relationship between Jews and non-Jews in interwar Egypt, so as to explain how back then the binary oppositions Jews/Muslims and Jews/Arabs were not as rigid as they later appeared. To the contrary, many Jews attempted to forge a shared memory that connected their history to that of modern Egypt or – as Fargeon wrote – the prophet Moses to King Faruq.