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Israeli Actress Lectures on Shoah to Students at Cairo University

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Gila Almagor, one of Israel’s leading actresses, seems generally to have succeeded in raising the consciousness of young Egyptians about the Holocaust.

Almagor, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, lectured in Cairo this week at the invitation of the Israeli Academic Center there.

The center, established in 1982 to facilitate research by Egyptians studying Hebrew and Jewish-related subjects, features weekly lectures by Israelis.

Almagor spoke in Hebrew. For most of her audience of about 60 Egyptian university students, it was their first exposure to the effects of the Holocaust on the survivors, their children and on Israelis in general.

She used as the centerpiece “The Summer of Aviya,” an autobiographical movie in which she starred and directed. It deals with a girl’s relationship with her mother, who is mentally scarred by the Holocaust.

Almagor explained that in 1951, the period depicted in the movie, “we were trying to build the state and a new life and did not want the dust of the Holocaust to cling to what we were creating.”

But later, Israelis became more open about discussing the Holocaust. She wrote and later filmed her story in the spirit of that openness, she said.

Jerusalem Post correspondent Ben Lynfield reported from Cairo that Almagor’s film and appearance were warmly received by most of her audience.

He quoted Yahya Said, a student of Hebrew at Cairo University, who said she had “only read a little bit about the Holocaust before seeing the film. Now I sec that we really must study the Holocaust to understand who the Israelis are.”

But an Egyptian journalist in the audience suggested that Israelis’ preoccupation with the Holocaust causes them to abuse the Palestinians. To make peace, he said, they should distance themselves from memories of the Holocaust.

Almagor responds to such views by noting that her father was murdered by an Arab assailant just before she was born.

“We can decide whom to forgive, but remembering the past is an obligation,” she stressed.

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