Preserving Records of Ottoman Jewish Cemeteries, Thanks to Bernard Lewis

On July 1, an Israeli organization for the study of the bygone Jewish communities of the Ottoman empire announced the launch of a database of Turkish Jewish cemeteries. Michael Curtis writes:

A key figure in the development of this project was Bernard Lewis, the British-American scholar who died in 2018 aged one-hundred-and-one, who can be considered the most erudite and influential historian and analyst of Islam and the Middle East in modern times. . . . The idea of the database started in a conversation in the mid-1980s between Bernard Lewis and a Turkish friend, Nuri Arlasiz, a collector of Ottoman art who wanted to save the Jewish cemeteries of Istanbul from being plundered or destroyed by natural causes. . . . . Arlasiz asked Lewis for help to save them.

Lewis [supported] the idea but had a different point of view, proposing that the Jewish cemeteries should be documented since they would have little chance of surviving without a living Jewish community.

Lewis consulted with Professor Minna Rozan, then head of the Diaspora research center at Tel Aviv University, [who] went to Istanbul in 1987 to examine whether Lewis’s idea was feasible. [Then] Rozan, taking a sabbatical from her position at Tel Aviv University, spent two years . . . documenting the Jewish cemeteries in Turkey with a research team who sorted through over 100,000 photos of 61,022 tombstones to establish the database. Emphasis was put on the most ancient tombstones and those threatened by neglect or urban expansion. Some cemeteries have been destroyed, wholly or partially, by construction of the ring road around Istanbul.

The research covers 28 different cemeteries, including Karaite and Italian ones in Istanbul, as well as those from communities in Western and Eastern Anatolia which ceased to exist after 20th century wars and immigration.

Read more at New English Review

More about: Bernard Lewis, Jewish cemeteries, Ottoman Empire, Turkish Jewry

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