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CAIRO - In the 20 months since Egyptians took to Cairo streets to sweep away the old
corrupt regime, and with it the guardians of the Camp David peace treaty,
pro-Israel sentiment has been hard to come by in Egypt. But one group of
scholars could be a vital bridge to keeping the lines of communication open –
the Hebrew lovers.
Each year, some 6,000 Egyptian students break away
from the pack and opt to study Hebrew, instead of the more popular courses
offering German, French and even Russian.
And while this figure may seem
small in a country with a population of more than 82 million, before the
revolution the number of students was growing.
These students speak
Hebrew, they read and translate Hebrew literature, and some have even visited
Israel – a rarity in Egypt.
Most support the continuation of the peace
treaty with Israel, even though the majority is critical of Israel’s attitude
toward the Palestinians. But vitally, they are able to see beyond the
stereotypes and anti-Semitic images that are endemic in Egyptian media: A case
in point: one of this year’s hit TV shows for Ramadan centered on a retired
Egyptian policeman plotting a bank heist in Tel Aviv. There, his adventures
bring him into contact with ultra-Orthodox Jews who bear a striking resemblance
to Nazi caricatures, brutal Israeli soldiers and a small number of secular Jews
who spend most of their time calling for the extermination of Arabs.
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