Watch Elie's Story
Elie Nounou was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1930. The presence of Jews in Egypt reaches back over a thousand years. However, in the 1930’s and 40’s, with anti-Jewish sentiment growing, life for Jews living in Egypt was becoming progressively more difficult. With the reestablishment of Israel in 1948, relations between Arabs and Jews deteriorated even more.
In 1950, while attending Cairo University, Elie was in the same class as *Yasser Arafat.Throughout the many years of study in the same university, and even though they shared many of the same classes, Arafat refused to speak to Elie because he was Jewish. Despite being subjected to such hostility, rather than being angry Elie found it sad that Arafat held such hatred for the Jewish people.
In 1956, anti-Jewish violence in Egypt further intensified once Gamal Nasser seized power. He began a systematic campaign of oppression against the nations nearly 80,000 Jewish residents. By 1957 the Jewish population had fallen to approximately 15,000.
As time went on Elie also experienced discrimination in the work force, by being denied a work visa because he was Jewish, and being told he would be jailed if he tried to work without a permit. With persecution and violence against Jews in Egypt increasing with each passing day, Elie concluded it was time to flee the country. In 1958, Elie moved from Egypt to France, and eventually immigrated to the United States — he currently resides in California. Once established there, Elie made a point to help other Jews escape Egypt and start a new life in America. As of 2017, estimates show there are fewer than 5 Jews who still reside Egypt.
*Yasser Arafat is the founder of the political party of Fatah, serving as the head of the organization until his death in 2004. He also served as the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and president of the Palestinian National Authority — commonly referred to as the Palestinian Authority.