Tag Archives: Egypt

Jew of the Week: Yolande Harmor

Yolande Harmor

Yolande Harmor

Yolande Gabbai Harmor (1913-1959) was born in Alexandria, Egypt. She went to school in France and returned to Egypt at 17 to get married. Working as a journalist, she soon became a noted writer in Egypt, as well as a popular socialite and member of Egypt’s “high society”. Meanwhile, Harmor was also drawn to Cairo’s Zionist circles. In 1945, she was recruited by the Jewish Agency and became a secret agent, gathering intelligence about Egypt’s royalty and politicians. She was able to get close to people like the Grand Mufti of Cairo, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even Egypt’s King Farouk himself. Her intelligence reports included detailed accounts of Arab military plans and troop numbers, giving the nascent Israeli state critical information to win the War of Independence. In July of 1948, Harmor’s cover was blown and she was arrested. However, as a favourite of some of Egypt’s most powerful people (many of whom had fallen in love with her), she was dealt with fairly lightly. After a few months, it became apparent that Harmor had developed stomach cancer. She was released from prison and deported out of Egypt. Harmor moved to Paris, and served on Israel’s UN delegation, and then for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Throughout this time, she continued to use her sources in Egypt to secure key intelligence information. In 1951, Harmor finally settled in Israel. Unfortunately, her efforts for the State of Israel were soon forgotten. Saddened, and further weakened by the passing of her beloved second husband, Harmor succumbed to her cancer at the young age of 46. In recent years, her incredible story has come to light once again. The city of Jerusalem established ‘Yolande Harmor Square’ in 1997, and a documentary film about her life was released in 2010.

Words of the Week

The Jews have been objects of hatred in pagan, religious, and secular societies. Fascists have accused them of being Communists, and Communists have branded them capitalists. Jews who live in non-Jewish societies have been accused of having dual loyalties, while Jews who live in the Jewish state have been condemned as ‘racists’. Poor Jews are bullied, and rich Jews are resented. Jews have been branded as both rootless cosmopolitans and ethnic chauvinists. Jews who assimilate have been called a ‘fifth column’, while those who stay together spark hatred for remaining separate…
Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin, ‘Why The Jews?’

Jew of the Week: Ahmed Zayat

Ahmed Zayat holding the trophy at the 2015 Preakness Stakes

Ahmed Zayat holding the trophy at the 2015 Preakness Stakes

Ephraim Ahmed Zayat (b. 1962) was born in Cairo to a wealthy Orthodox Jewish-Egyptian family. His father was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s personal doctor. Zayat studied in the US at Yeshiva University, and then at Boston University, where he got his Master’s in business and health. He then spent some time as a real estate investor in New York (working for past Jew of the Week Zev Wolfson), before returning to Egypt to run Al-Ahram Beverages. Zayat turned the company into a huge success, particularly through its popular alcohol-free halal beer catered to the Muslim world. He sold Al-Ahram to Heineken in 2002 for triple the original price, making it the largest buyout in Egypt’s history. Zayat then turned his attention to horse racing. He first learned to ride horses as a child growing up in Egypt, and had competed in various show jumping tournaments, winning a couple of national titles. Zayat soon started his new company, Zayat Stables, to breed his own race horses. His horses have gone on to win two dozen prestigious competitions. At one point, he was America’s number one race horse owner. Most recently, his horse American Pharoah made history by winning the Triple Crown – one of just 12 horses to do so, and the first since 1978. Before the final race, Zayat had American Pharoah’s jockey Victor Espinoza visit the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to pray for success. Zayat still has big investments all over the world, including being the main shareholder in Egypt’s largest glass container manufacturer. He is also a noted philanthropist, donating large sums to various important causes, including Jewish schools.

Words of the Week

From the time that God said to our forefather Abraham, “Go from your land…” and “Abraham went on, journeying southward,” began the process of birurim – of extracting the sparks of holiness that are scattered throughout the universe and buried within the material existence… By Divine providence, a person wanders about in his travels to those places where the sparks that are to be extracted by him await their redemption…
– Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch

Jew of the Week: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg (b. 1933) was born in Brooklyn to an observant Conservative Jewish family. After earning a degree from Cornell, she pursued law at Harvard – one of just nine women in a class of 500 – and then completed her law studies at Columbia. During this time, she became the first ever woman to be published in two law reviews. She would later co-found the first law journal dedicated to women’s rights, and participated in some of the greatest cases on women’s rights before the Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, she is considered one of the key figures in ending gender discrimination. In the early 60’s, Ginsburg was a law researcher, spending time at the prestigious Lund University in Sweden (and co-authoring a book in Swedish). Following this, she was a law professor at Rutgers, and then at Columbia, where she was the first female professor to get tenure. In 1980, Ginsburg was appointed to the US Court of Appeals, and after 13 years of service, was elected to the Supreme Court (by an overwhelming 96 to 3 Senate vote). She has served continuously since then, and still rules on the Supreme Court today, despite being the oldest Justice at 82 years of age, and having battled two different cancers. Amazingly, she has never missed a single day of her Supreme Court duties. In 2012, she traveled to Egypt to assist in their transition to a democracy. True to her feminist roots, a couple of months ago Ginsburg co-authored ‘The Heroic and Visionary Women of Passover’ that looks at the central role of the female figures in the Exodus story. She has been ranked by Forbes as one of the ‘100 Most Powerful Women’ and among TIME’s list of 100 greatest icons.

Update: Sadly, Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on September 18, 2020.

Words of the Week

You can’t have it all, all at once. Who—man or woman—has it all, all at once? Over my lifespan I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time things were rough. And if you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it.
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg