Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CLXVIII. The Second Exodus (3 of 6)

After the dust settled, French and British nationals received expulsion orders. The French and English were not alone; many Italians, Greeks, Armenians, and, of course, Jews were asked to leave within a certain period of time. Often, no reasons were given.

Many Jews did have not any nationality; we referred to them as apatrides (stateless). But, if they were born in Egypt, wouldn’t that mean that they were automatically Egyptian? No! According to some obscure law you had to be a true Egyptian to be entitled at birth to the Egyptian nationality. The next question, of course, is what is the definition of a true Egyptian? I have no idea. I raised the question with many people, and all I got for my efforts were contradictory and confusing answers.

Whatever the case, the question now was, how could the apatrides Jews emigrate from Egypt if they had no nationality and therefore no passport? Long before The Second Exodus that problem had been resolved. A number of apatrides had over the years immigrated to various countries. They were provided with what is called a Laissez Passer or Feuille de Route. An apatride that, say, immigrated to Brazil in 1935 was provided with a Laissez Passer and the immigration visa from the Brazilian authorities. Eventually, he would become a Brazilian national.

Fine, but after the Suez Canal Crisis, the solution was no longer that simple. Instead of the odd emigrant that requested a Laissez Passer, you had thousands! And that’s not all. Even a Laissez Passer required some documentation, starting with a valid birth certificate.

To the credit of the Egyptian authorities, and the numerous countries that received The Second Exodus’ Jews, formalities were simplified, and expedited quickly. For the most part, when you were ready to leave, the necessary compromises were made and you left. However, we were still left with one issue; many senior Jews had no birth certificate. Few people in the 19th century and early 20th century bothered with a birth certificate. Many people, back then, viewed it as a liability! Obscuring your real age can in many cases prove beneficial! What now?

According to the existing system, birth certificates were issued by the religious community offices. The Jews had what was called the Jewish Rabbinate. It issued birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates. It also had many other functions that are not relevant to us here. There was a Rabbinate in Cairo and another one in Alexandria.

At the best of time, the Rabbinate was very busy issuing all these certificates – when the people in question were already registered! But for births, many of the members of the old generation were never registered. So how can the Rabbinate issue, when required, a birth certificate? A guessing game accompanied by the proper bribes (for the official to accept your guess!) went on. Fine, in normal times. But these were not normal times; there were literally thousand of requests for birth certificates for individuals that were never registered at birth! I wish I was a fly on the wall in, say, Cairo’s Rabbinate! But I wasn’t! The details I have are sketchy, and unreliable, but for what they are worth here they are.

Many Jews volunteered to help the registrar. More guesses were made within those walls than in a casino! The story those volunteers heard were often akin to fairy tales! They were required to meet one main criterion: If the “facts” provided were reasonable, accept them. But reasonable was, of course, in the eyes of the beholder!

No matter. Eventually, everybody was provided with the “proper” documents. And the Jews of Egypt were able to disperse across the world, each one going to his or her own “Promised Land.”

Back to my family. Being Italian nationals, none of that applied to us. It was out of the question for an Italian not to register a child at birth. We all had a bona fide birth certificate, and an up-to-date, Italian passport.

We were never asked to leave Egypt, and we therefore didn’t need to make hasty arrangements; but dad has had enough. He had long discussions with mom and they eventually agreed to leave as soon as possible. The issue here was simple: sooner or later we had to leave, so why wait? As well, we had a country to go to. Finally, Maurice volunteered to liquidate the business.

And so the process began. There were quite a few formalities, and travel arrangements had to be made.

A day came when we sold the furniture that have been a part of my early life. The furniture never went anywhere, the family that rented our apartment bought them for a pittance. Actually, we were never paid since they didn’t have the money at that time! It didn’t really matter for each person could only take a small amount of money, the rest was simply left in our bank accounts.

We could buy and take as many clothes as we wanted, and we did just that. The number of suitcases we had was phenomenal. We also filled many fourre-tout (a canvas bag with strings on top, you threw in such things as underwear, undershirts, socks, shoes, and the like). At the end we had enough clothes to last us for the rest of our lives! We took so many socks, I was still wearing them in the early ’80s, some 25 years later! I still have a drawer full of undershirts!

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