Egypt Calls for Reparations - from Biblical Times
Middle-Eastern countries have a tendency to hold a grudge against Israel, whether over Israel winning the 1967 war or daring to establish independence in 1948.
But, as of earlier this month, an Egyptian columnist has called for Israel to pay Cairo reparations - and this time, it's Biblical.
"We want compensation for the [Ten] Plagues that were inflicted upon [us] as a result of the curses that the Jews' ancient forefathers [cast] upon our ancient forefathers, who did not deserve to pay for the mistake that Egypt's ruler at the time, Pharaoh as the Torah calls him, committed," Ahmad Al-Gamal, a writer for the Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' daily. Translations of the article were provided by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
"For what is written in the Torah proves that it was Pharaoh who oppressed the Children of Israel, rather than the Egyptian people. [But] they inflicted upon us the plague of locusts that didn't leave anything behind them; the plague that transformed the Nile's waters into blood, so nobody could drink of them for a long time; the plague of darkness that kept the world dark day and night; the plague of frogs; and the plague of the killing of the firstborn, namely every first offspring born to woman or beast, and so on."
"We want compensation for the gold, silver, copper, precious stones, fabrics, hides and lumber, and for [all] animal meat, hair, hides and wool, and for other materials that I will mention [below], when quoting the language of the Torah," he continued. "All these are materials that the Jews used in their rituals. These are resources that cannot be found among desert wanderers unless they took them before their departure..."
Later in the article Al-Gamal claimed that Israel stole the materials from ancient Egypt, purely out of spite.
"The stories of the Holy Scriptures state that the Israelites set off from the [Nile] valley at night and went to the Sinai Peninsula. This is known to be a desert, where there is no use for large quantities of gold, silver, precious stones, meats, oils, fabrics and the like. Therefore, it is clear that the Israelites took all these things from Egypt before they left."
He quoted a translated version of the Torah, allegedly to prove his point.
"Chapter 25 of Exodus, on the [Israelites'] departure [from Egypt], states: 'The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering... These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them."
He continued by calling on the international community to calculate the modern-day value of ancient shekels for compensation.
": 'The total amount of the gold from the wave offering used for all the work on the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel...'," he noted. "I call upon everyone with an interest in Torah studies to instruct us on a scientific basis what is the [precise] meaning of the word 'talent.' How many grams is it currently worth, what was the weight of the sheqel during those days, especially as it was made out of solid pure gold and pure silver?"
The events Al-Gamal describes are from the Pesach, or Passover, story of the Jews being freed from ancient Egypt. The Torah does say that the Israelites were by G-d told to take spoils from Egypt, notably during the plague of darkness.
However, Al-Gamal is not the first Egyptian to demand compensation. The Jews were asked to return those spoils at a much earlier period in history.
In fact, the Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin tells that the Egyptians came before Alexander the Great (approximately 330 B.C.E.) when he conquered Asia Minor and demanded that the Jews repay them for the gold and silver that the Torah says they took from Egypt during the Exodus. It recounts how Talmudic scholar Gviha ben Psisiah said to them that the same Torah that recounts how the Jews took spoils from Egypt also recounts how they worked as unpaid slaves for 210 years. Therefore, he claimed, they are owned an enormous sum of wages for that period. The Egyptian representatives asked for a three day hiatus to come up with an answer, but not finding one, they fled.
In the same article, Al-Gamal also calls for compensation from the Turks for invading Egypt during the Ottoman period, from the French for Napoleon's invasion in the 19th century, and the British for 72 years of occupation.