In this article I will focus on how Egyptian Jews who migrated to Israel after 1948 and their descendants remember Egypt and how they situate themselves vis-à-vis Israeli society and culture. I will base my analysis on three semi-autobiographical novels published between 2003 and 2011 by Israeli writers of Egyptian descent belonging to three subsequent generations: Baderekh la’itztadion by Yitzhak Gormezano Goren, Kol tze‘adenu by Ronit Matalon, and Yolanda by Moshe Sakal. By analysing specific passages from these books, I will argue that even after the decline of the Jewish presence in Egypt in the 1950s, the cultural and social worlds to which their families belonged did not vanish completely but, rather, struggled for survival at a very intimate level. This ultimately produced a multifaceted archive in which the written narrative of the family’s past became an alternative homeland where historical memories and fictional details are inextricably blended.
The Egyptian public has witnessed in recent decades an active, at times heated, debate between present and former left-wing activists and a variety of Egyptian intellectuals over the role played by Jews in the communist movements. The polemic discourse particularly focused on their contribution to the failure of the various communist organizations to unite, expand and take root within the Egyptian lower classes in the first half of the twentieth century. This article scrutinizes and analyses, chronologically, the ongoing discourse as it came to be expressed in a number of important ideological venues. This lively polemic discourse sheds new light on the centrality of Jews in the development of organized communism during the monarchy period. It also adds an important dimension to the historiographic debate regarding the Jews of Egypt, generally, and their attitude towards Zionism and the State of Israel, particularly.