political commentary by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
I received the following note on Facebook:
Hello Mr Akiva,
Nice to see you in facebook . i am a christian young man live in Egypt . i really love jewish . short time ago i would like to come to israel for pilgrimage but i faced persecution from the Egyptian authority . i am friendly welcome people whatever they believe . hope you will accept my friendship .
A friendly note from Egypt, it’s nice to see that there are decent people the world over.
But note, this Egyptian is NOT worried about his safety in visiting Israel. He’s not worried about access to his religion’s holy sites in Israel. He’s worried about being persecuted by HIS country’s authorities if he were to try to visit his holy sites in Israel.
Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel and receives $2,000,000,000 a year in US foreign aide. (That’s $1.3 billion in military aide and the remaining $600 million in economic aide and world development projects.) The country is run by an unelected ‘president for life’ (aka dictator) and has several persecuted minority populations (of which the Copt Christians is a prominent one).
Israel has free access to holy sites of every religion. It hosts major holy sites for Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Bahai, and Muwahhid (Druze) and has open access at every site of every religion and tries to respect the culture of that religion at their sites. They face the unique challenge of conflicts between religions of certain sites (for example the Cave of the Patriarchs claimed by Judaism and Islam, the Church of the Holy Sepucre claimed by 5 different sects of Christianity as well as sites in Nazareth claimed by Christianity and Islam) and try to manage the impossible to find middle ground in such situations.
My Egyptian contact makes a strong point. Don’t call us the problem in a cultural landscape that avoids compromise. But blaming the other guy is part of that landscape.