Over the Centuries, the Island of Malta Has Sheltered Jewish Refugees and Amassed Jewish Slaves

Some 150 Jews live in Malta, making up under .o4 percent of the population. The tiny island nation has been a home to Jews since at least the 1st century CE, although some evidence suggests that Jews first arrived with Phoenician merchants as early as the 9th century BCE. But while Malta gave refuge to Jews in the 15th and 20th centuries, it has also been the site of much persecution, and from the 16th through the 18th centuries had the dubious distinction of being the only European country where large numbers of Jews were slaves. Gail Dubov writes:

Mdina, [a] walled city. . . was Malta’s medieval capital, when one-third of its population was Jewish. A sign [now] marks the old Jewish silk market on Carmel Street. In medieval times, Jews were responsible for supplying the oil in the street lamps, exempting them from guard duty. . . .

The Catacombs of St. Paul date back to Roman times. Recently reopened, they were early burial tombs of Christians and Jews, surprisingly well preserved. Carved menorahs can be seen etched in the limestone archways and tomb walls. One, a burial spot of a husband and wife who died 2,000 years ago, displays a menorah in the stone above them, proclaiming that a Jewish couple had been buried there. . . .

Jewish families arrived [in Malta] from Spain in the 15th century, fleeing the expulsion and Inquisition. But eventually many were forced to convert to Christianity. To this day, family names with Jewish origins like Michallef, Ellul, Hellul, and Azzopardi dominate the island. Napoleon arrived [in 1798] and seized the island, freeing Jewish slaves. It was the British who ruled from 1800, establishing English as an official language and [the modern-day capital of] Valletta as an important crossroads to the Middle and Far East. Jews from Gibraltar, England, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, North Africa, and other Mediterranean cities immigrated to Malta and established businesses.

[More recently, Malta], was the only European country to welcome Jews without visas during World War II.

Today, Dubov notes, the island “has a fine kosher restaurant.”

Read more at Moment

More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Jewish history, Slavery, Spanish Expulsion

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy