By: Alexa Szafranski (11th Grade)
This Tuesday, Hussein Aboukbar, a former devout Muslim, adressed students and faculty about growing up trained to hate the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Aboukbar, a speaker brought in by Stand With Us, captivated the audience by narrating his journey from a child who viewed Jews as the enemy, to a professor teaching Jewish studies and Hebrew to college students in America.
Born to an average middle class Arab Muslim family in Cairo, Egypt, Aboukbar explained how antisemetic ideals were instilled in children in the Middle East through outlets like TV shows, comic books, and movies. He even showed videos, pictures and comic book pages that illustrated the propaganda that all Jews were evil and inhumane.
Hussein’s hatred spurred him to teach himself Hebrew and decode the Jewish system at only 15 years old. But through his research, he found that Jews were not blood-drinking savages, but rather actual human beings.
Aboukbar decided to study Hebrew at Cairo University, but found the professors there to hold the same ignorant and hateful beliefs about Jews that he had grown up with. With nowhere to turn to broaden his knowledge about the Jewish people, he was finally able to visit the Israeli embassy, where he was able to converse in Hebrew with an Isreali for the first time. But this visit resulted in making him a target of the Egyptian equivalent of the FBI. Viewed as a potential spy, Aboukbar spent two months in an Egyptian prinson for charges of treason, where he was tortured physically and emotionally.
Finally, upon being released, Aboukbar was able to flee Egypt and come to America as a political refugee. In America he was able to realize his dream of teaching Hebrew and Judaic studies at a universtity. He was even able to visit Israel, a monumental experience in his life.
Aboukbar does not only support Israel, but he yearns for his fellow Arabs to adapt the Democratic values of Israel and overcome their unhealthy obsession with harming Jewish people and Israel supporters.
Hussein Aboukbar’s persistence to fighting for the Jewish people and their right to the state of Israel is one that students felt extremely inspired by and hope to take with them in the real world.
“He was really good because I have never heard a point of view like that before,” said Danelle Levi (11th Grade). “It was so amazing to see someone who hated Jews so much become an advocate for them when some Jews aren't even advocated for the Jewish people.”