Ilan Grapel, arrested by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on spy charges and released months later, writes that he tried to teach his captors Zionism during his arrest and that they asked for forgiveness.
Writing in The Washington Post Monday, the American resident who served in the IDF and also was a pro-Arab activist, displayed a constant thread of optimism, if not naïveté, in his published letter.
He stated that he hoped that his visit to Egypt during the anti-Mubarak rebellion “would prove that my Zionist ideals could coexist with support for the right of human migration and sanctuary. I also hoped to convince the Arabs I met that my Zionism did not have to be antithetical to their interests and that we could work together for peace.”
He admitted that his solitary confinement and charges of espionage and incitement were a result of his “attempts to educate and interact with the local population,” which supposedly wanted to replace Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak with a government that promotes democracy and free speech.
“During the summer, I emphasized my Israeli background, even when I entered Egypt as an American,” Grapel wrote. “I identified as a Zionist Israeli to all of my Egyptian friends, taught them Hebrew and showed them Israeli movies. In return, I received lessons in Arabic, Islam and Egyptian culture.”
Grapel did not connect the cultural lessons he received with his arrest and threat of five life terms in prison. He wrote, “On June 12, two dozen state security officials barged into my hostel room, handcuffed and blindfolded me, and transported me to their general prosecutor…."
“I was terrified and confused. Over time I also became angry and lonely. The initial 14 days were the ‘best’ part of my imprisonment because there was at least human interaction. The prosecutor and I bantered about politics, religion and the Middle East conflict. The conversations were jovial, mostly innocuous, save for some random accusations,” on of which was that Grapel used “seductive powers to recruit Egyptian women.”
Grapel insisted that not only was his adventure not reckless or wrong, it also should be used s an example of explaining “the Israeli viewpoint…, given the pernicious myths about Israel and Jews prevalent in much of the Arab world.”
Before he was released, he wrote, his captors told him, “Shalom, we hope you forgive us.”
Grapel said he favors co-existence and that “to those who wrongly held me, I say simply, I forgive you.”