[02:39:36] Interviewer: This is Victor Sibilia, November 12th, 2017 in Toronto, interviewed by Lisa Newman and camera Jeff Friedel [ph].
[02:39:47] Camera: One second, hold it up, I'm just going to zoom in...okay one second, just resetting camera. Okay, go ahead Lisa.
[02:40:05] Interviewer: And you are?
[02:40:07] Victor: Victor Sibilia. Um, born Victor but my real Hebrew name is Haim [ph].
[02:40:15] Interviewer: Were you called Haim at home?
[02:40:17] Victor: No. when I was in Egypt I was called Victor, when I came to Israel I became Haim.
[02:40:23] Interviewer: And when were you born -
[02:40:23] Victor: [overlap] ...because my grandfather's name was Haim.
[02:40:27] Interviewer: When were you born?
[02:40:28] Victor: 1938, 7th of June. And it was in Eg- Alexandria, Egypt.
[02:40:34] Interviewer: And were you born at home or in a hospital?
[02:40:36] Victor: I have no idea. [laughs]
[02:40:41] Interviewer: Tell me about the other people in your family: brothers, sisters...
[02:40:45] Victor: Well, um, let's start with uh, my older sister Zehoun Alivaha [ph] who died, I think, seven years ago uh, from cancer. I have my second sister who, both of them were born in Egypt.
[02:40:59] Interviewer: What were their names?
[02:41:01] Victor: Mazal [ph] is the one that passed away and Chama [ph], Chama was the one that lives in Israel today. She was uh, she was, because she passed away also, the wife of Avner Shaki who used to be a minister in the Israeli government. And my uh, favourite brother, Mark. [laughs]
[02:41:24] Interviewer: Who was born...
[02:41:25] Victor: In Israel in...yeah.
[02:41:28] Interviewer: And tell me the names of your parents.
[02:41:30] Victor: David is my father and Allegra is my mother.
[02:41:34] Interviewer: And where were they each born?
[02:41:37] Victor: In Egypt, Alexandria.
[02:41:40] Interviewer: But you mentioned to me that the, one part of the family had come form Morocco.
[02:41:46] Victor: Her - my mother's father have come from Morocco. My father's father came from Tzfat and immigrated down to Egypt because there was no work in Tzvat so he came down to Egypt.
[02:42:00] Interviewer: Do you know where in Morocco they...
[02:42:03] Victor: Fez.
[02:42:03] Interviewer: Fez.
[02:42:04] Victor: Yes.
[02:42:06] Interviewer: And how uh, how long had anybody in your family, how many generations had you been in Egypt?
[02:42:16] Victor: Well, I guess...two or three. No, well, my grandfathers on both sides were not born in Egypt so they wouldn’t have been... and then there was my mother and father, they were born in Egypt and I was born in Egypt.
[02:42:32] Interviewer: Tell me about the place you lived.
[02:42:35] Victor: It was in uh, a street called Tatwig [ph] in Alexandria and I'll tell you something interesting about that street. Um, it was just one block behind the cornishe on the Alexandria cornishe which was, at the time, a very high end place to live, very, very nice. [02:42:59] And uh, the reason I said I will say something about it is because the first time I went back to Egypt...
[02:43:04] Interviewer: When was that?
[02:43:05] Victor: That was uh...you will know what happened, I don't remember the exact date, but you can look it up, when I was going to be taking the flight from Tel Aviv to Cairo my father [inaudible] who was in Toronto at the time, called me to warn me not to go to Egypt because they shot Sadat. [02:43:25] And that was the day I arrived in Alexandria. So then I went to Alexandria to look up my, my past and I was looking for hoff Tatwig [ph], shara Tatwig in Arabic and nobody knew it. finally an old man said, "Ah they changed it to Gamal Abdel Nasser street so we went there. [02:43:47] And it looked awful but it didn't look anything like what I remembered it to look like. But that's where we were.
[02:43:56] Interviewer: And what was your home like?
[02:43:59] Victor: Beautiful. Very nice. We had, my mother, my father, my father was a an executive in a jilha [ph] bank uh, which still exists till today. And my mother was a homemaker. She was a also a seamstress who did like very high-end clo - dresses for women. [02:44:19] And uh, we always had help in the house. I was always uh, walked to school by somebody. I never went by myself.
[02:44:27] Interviewer: Why?
[02:44:29] Victor: I don't know. That's what they wanted. So uh...so yeah, so I mean, I remember ever once, they guy that walked me to school, we didn't go to school, we went to a movie. Anyway so yeah, so the life was very, very comfortable, very nice.
[02:44:47] Interviewer: When you said you had help like, how many people would have worked...?
[02:44:50] Victor: There was always one woman in the house, in the apartment. It wasn't a house, in the apartment doing the cleaning and the cooking and stuff like that.
[02:45:00] Interviewer: And did your family have friends who were uh, not Jewish?
[02:45:07] Victor: I don't know.
[02:45:09] Interviewer: Did you have friends who weren't Jewish?
[02:45:12] Victor: I don't remember. What you need to understand about me is that, when I cam, when we came to Palestine, what became Israel, in, it was not a very nice thing to be having come from Egypt. [02:45:29] And every- all the kids did everything they could to kind of...block that out of their mind.
[02:45:38] Interviewer: What year did you come?
[02:45:38] Victor: 1947. So they, so to us it was like, you know, I could speak a little bit of Arabic when I came to Israel but over a few years I forgot all of it. And uh, the thing was to basically ignore the fact that you came from Egypt, lie to everybody that you were born in Israel and go on with life this way. [02:46:02] So um...I don't, I don't remember what I had there, I mean, I remember vaguely my school, my school, which was a nice school.
[02:46:12] Interviewer: What do you remember of the school?
[02:46:13] Victor: Well it was called the British Boy's School in Alexandria. And they only thing I remember about the school is there were four teams that played soccer and stuff like that, and basketball and I was on the yellow team. It was yellow, blue, red and black I think, or something like that. So, but, but, not very much else that I remember from Egypt.
[02:46:37] Interviewer: What languages did you speak?
[02:46:39] Victor: In Fra- in at home my parents spoke mainly French. Um, I didn't speak much anyway, you know so, you know, what they would ask you, you answer but yeah, in French mainly.
[02:46:52] Interviewer: And what about uh, Arabic at home?
[02:46:55] Victor: Only to the, to the help, to the women who was helping.
[02:47:01] Interviewer: Any other languages?
[02:47:03] Victor: No.
[02:47:05] Interviewer: No English?
[02:47:05] Victor: Well I mean, I spoke, I learned English in English Boy's School, in British Boy's School but no. My parents couldn't speak English at the time so we - it was just only to be in a better school. My father was very, vey interested in me going to a high-end school and so that's why he would send me there.
[02:47:25] Interviewer: Was there an Alliance school?
[02:47:28] Victor: There was, there was an Alliance but my father didn’t feel that it was the right thing, the right place for me to be. So he wanted me to go and learn English.
[02:47:41] Interviewer: Did he speak some English?
[02:47:42] Victor: No, not much. No, I don't think so.
[02:47:47] Interviewer: And what language did you speak to friends, if you were playing?
[02:47:55] Victor: You know what? I don't remember. I really don't remember. Um...I think I spoke Arabic with my cousins and I guess that would be the same as my friends. I don't think I had any friends. I mean, we really didn't. You know, after school I'd come home and I'd stay at home.
[02:48:17] Interviewer: What would you do?
[02:48:18] Victor: I don't know, play um...
[02:48:21] Interviewer: There was no TV.
[02:48:22] Victor: No, of course not. Um, play uh, whatever, read...write. But nothing that I can say was very memorable event in my life that I would remember. It was just a regular day in and day out.
[02:48:43] Interviewer: What do you remember of a synagogue?
[02:48:49] Victor: I don't. I know, I know they used to go, I know. But I don't remember anything of it. It was something that I was completely uninterested in. I was then much more aware of it when we came to Israel but in Egypt I don't think we, we went to synagogue very often. [02:49:13] I don't think so because if I did I would remember it but, I mean, we did go, I'm sure sometimes. My grandfather certainly was, on my mother's side was extremely religious and, on my father's side was religious so, I mean, I guess my father would but I don't think my father and my mother at the time were very religious themselves. [02:49:37] I think they became a lot more religious when they came to Israel.
[02:49:42] Interviewer: What about Shabbat? Do you remember any...
[02:49:44] Victor: Yeah, we used to have Friday night dinner and my mother used to make fish and uh, cervelle, which is brains and I hated both. And always used to fight [laughs] because I had to eat and I said, "I'm not eating it." and then I'd go to my room and like, that was my Friday night dinner.
[02:50:04] Interviewer: Do you remember any foods that she made that you particularly liked?
[02:50:10] Victor: Everything she made was pretty god except fish and cervelle, which I now like very much. [laughs] Yeah.
[02:50:21] Interviewer: And when did you first get an idea that you might be moving?
[02:50:27] Victor: Um, I remember one day, there was a....a demonstration in the streets of Alexandria, where - underneath our window. And I remember the demonstration was against the Coptics, the Cops, you know, the Christians in Egypt. And I looked outside the window and my mother came and pulled me away and I went back again. I mean, I remember this very vividly and they were beating up a poor cop to death. [02:50:58] And I went and I got my toy gun and I was gonna shoot them so um, but, I, they pulled me away but at that point in time I think my father decided that this was the time that we were gonna leave. [02:51:11] It became very uh, as you may know, at the time King Farouk was in power but uh...but he was already not relevant in the Egyptian political life. And there was other people who wanted to take over and I think after we left he was murdered, or he died. Yeah so um, that's when, that's when we saw this demonstration on the street and it became a days, a daily occurrence. [02:51:50] So my father decided this is not the place for us to grow up.
[02:51:54] Interviewer: So this was not just one demonstration.
[02:51:56] Victor: No, no, no, this was on a regular basis where, where the...the Arabs, the Muslims had a problem with the Cops and the Jews. And when you think about that situation it's surprising because um...at one point there were like 200 000 Jews in Egypt.
[02:52:20] Interviewer: When?
[02:52:21] Victor: [overlap] Between Cairo and Alexandria. Oh, everything prior to that. There was a lot of Jewish people. Jewish people were basically the, the centre of the economy of Egypt. They were the lawyers, they were the doctors, they were the bankers. My father was a banker. They were the business owners, the shop owners um...and they employed a lot of Arabs and Arabs enjoyed working with Jewish people. [02:52:44] Jewish people had a very, very nice uh, existence in Egypt and they, they got along very nicely with everybody. In fact, whenever we went back and I went back again, I took Ora[ph] my wife to, back to Egypt I think about six or seven years ago, I mean, they uh, they accepted us as Jews and they had not problem with it. They were very happy because we, you know, we they always had their hand out for [inaudible] [02:53:17] But they, they had no problems with Jewish people. And for sure when, when I was a kind Egypt Jewish was not something that you were ashamed to be. And you didn't hide it either.
[02:53:34] Interviewer: That must have made it particularly hard to come to Israel and feel you had to hide it.
[02:53:41] Victor: No, I wasn't hiding being Jewish, [overlap] I was hiding being Egyptian. Um...no, I mean, Jewish I was very proud of being Jewish, still am. But you don't, in those days you have to remember in 1945, 6, 7, 8...there was a lot of immigration into Palestine and Israel from Europe and Poland from, wherever they come. [02:54:10] And they basically ran the country, you know, the Ashkenazi, they ran the country. And the problem with that is that we felt, we meaning Sephardic, felt as second-class citizens. And I have a very, very bad experience with it and I can tell if you want. But uh, well, when I grew up I wanted to be a pilot. [02:54:38] And I went to um, to the air force and I did the tests amazingly well, both my aptitude tests and my physical math test was fine. And then I had like a five minute interview with a psychiatrist which eventually told me that I couldn't become a pilot.
[02:54:59] Interviewer: Why?
[02:55:00] Victor: And in my opinion it was because I was Sephardic. And then I went back and I confronted them with it, I had to. But uh, they...in those days if my name was uh, Tchaikovsky or whatever I'd be in there, for sure but because I was Sibilia and I was from Egypt no. [02:55:22] So Israel, in those days, in the 50's, in the '60's, in the '70's were very, very, very uh, two-tiered country.
[02:55:32] Interviewer: What explanation were you given about not being accepted as a pilot?
[02:55:38] Victor: No, no explanation. Just a letter saying, "You're not accepted. We're sorry to tell you, you're not accepted." Now I remember very clearly that my uh, IQ test was at 145, which is not bad at all and I passed 100% of all my physical and my math and physics exams, 100 percent, no mistakes. [02:56:06] I was pretty good at it and I thought for sure I got accepted. But five minutes with the psychiatrist, no. So, you know, like...I'm sure somebody could find many reasons why the psychiatrist would decide they didn't want the colour of my eyes or my attitude or my aptitude. I just thought it was because I was Sephardic. [02:56:31] And I was not the only one. A lot of people like me would get turned down.
[02:56:35] Interviewer: Did your family have a reaction to that?
[02:56:38] Victor: My family didn't even know because I wasn't at home at the time. I left home when I was 14 years old and I went to live in a kibbutz. So from the kibbutz I went to the army to do the, the acceptance.
[02:56:53] Interviewer: Going back a little farther. When you first came to Israel, you've told me you had to live in a tent.
[02:56:59] Victor: Yeah, we went to Benyamina, which is Bet [ph] Olim, which is a bunch of tents and [laughs] I remember my father coming there with a white suit and a tie and it's like...what am I doing here? But uh, but that was it and in the first couple of weeks I was, I was sent away to a mossad because they couldn't handle me being there around. [02:57:26] And at the time I think I was uh, ten years old uh, yeah we, ten years old and uh, I went to a mossad and then I came back to the house when they finally moved into a Bet Olim where they had a, more of a...structure to live in, than a tent.
[02:57:48] Interviewer: The mossad was...
[02:57:48] Victor: Just a bunch of immigration, immigrant kids who were sent away because they parents couldn't afford to feed them. I mean, this was a very, very had time where there was no uh, welfare or unemployment or anything like that and most people who came, including my pa - my family didn't come with money.
[02:58:08] Interviewer: Now some more about that. Because in Egypt there was money.
[02:58:13] Victor: Yeah, but we had to run away. We couldn't take anything.
[02:58:17] Interviewer: How did you do that?
[02:58:18] Victor: Um...see, every Jewish person in Egypt, in my opinion knew somebody in the government. So um, my father, being a banker, knew a few customs people and stuff like that and he basically made arrangements for them to to let us out. [02:58:37] Because you couldn't get a visa to leave but uh, and we were only Egyptian citizens, we were not French or Italian or anything. So he make arrangements for us to leave with basically the suitcases that we have with clothes, that's all. They - I mean, he brought some money with him but uh, the money was spent basically in France because we stayed six months in Marseilles in a hotel. [02:59:07] To, to wait for a ship to take us to Haifa...because of the situation with the British government who wouldn't allow - so finally when they were able to, able to do it we just took the - we came on a cargo ship. Now when we left Alexandria it was a beautiful ship with, you know, rooms and bedrooms and showers and everything else but the ship that we took to Israel was a cargo ship.
[02:59:36] Interviewer: So did you have nay help from any Jewish organizations in this...?
[02:59:41] Victor: No.
[02:59:43] Interviewer: Ordeal?
[02:59:43] Victor: No. No. Uh, I know my father almost immediately went to work for a bank, the bank Leomi [ph] and that was his thing and, I mean, every now and then he would bring a couple of cans of pineapple that some of his customers would bring, which was a big holiday for us. We didn't get these things. But that's about it. I mean, you know, no he wasn't, we were not getting any help from anybody.
[03:00:12] Interviewer: Going back again to when you were getting ready to leave. What was the reaction of people around you? People you knew or kids you knew?
[03:00:21] Victor: No idea. Don't forget, I was nine years old. I mean, nobody consulted me on anything. I was just - okay we're going.
[03:00:28] Interviewer: Do you remember what you personally had to leave behind?
[03:00:33] Victor: No.
[03:00:34] Interviewer: Toys or...
[03:00:35] Victor: There was nothing special that I cared about. I was actually happy to leave I think. You know, going away on a ship. Great thing. And, and we, we really didn’t' understand this leaving situation. You have to remember one thing, I mean, up until the age of nine I lived in an apartment, everything was fine, I was taken to school every day and I came home and I had a nice meal and everything was fine and all of a sudden we're going on a ship to France and I though, ah, this is nice. [03:01:03] Um...I don't think at the time, and I'm pretty sure, there was no discussion that we were going to Palestine. We were going to France. So...it was fine, I mean, for me and I didn't even know whether we were coming back or not because we didn't take a hell of a lot with us. Each one had a suitcase. [03:01:24] When we got to France the, the truth became known that we are not going back to Egypt and we're going to be going to, to Is - to Palestine...Israel, we called it Israel.
[03:01:39] Interviewer: Do you remember when you were told that?
[03:01:43] Victor: Yeah, I don't remember the day or the time. I remember I was told that and I was fine. I mean it, it, I was not, I was much more involved with growing up. I was much more involved with what, what I, what I can do today to play you know what I mean? [03:02:00] I wasn't involved in politics of countries or anything like that. Only when we got to Israel that you started feeling like you’re part of something. Not in Egypt.
[03:02:12] Interviewer: Did you ever hear of Zionism when you were a teenager?
[03:02:14] Victor: [overlap] No, no.
[03:02:16] Interviewer: You had no idea.
[03:02:17] Victor: No never.
[03:02:19] Interviewer: Did you parents do you think?
[03:02:20] Victor: Maybe. Probably. Probably because I mean, they were very involved in the Jewish community, all their friends were Jewish and I'm sure they, they didn't just get up and leave. I sure they, they knew what was going on and they knew what was going on in Israel or Palestine. So yeah, they did - my father wouldn't have just gone up and leave because...there was not something better to do. [03:02:43] I'm sure he was very familiar and very aware of what was going on and what will be going on so.
[03:02:49] Interviewer: You said their friends were Jewish. Did they have non Jewish friends?
[03:02:53] Victor: Don't know. I don't think so. I really don't think so because most of their friends were basically family members, like, you know, my, my mother's brothers were friends with my father, you know, they were basically uh, they knew each other from before. [03:03:11] And, and I'm sure they had some friends but I think they were all Jewish. They did not consider having a Muslim friend [inaudible]. I don't think so.
[03:03:25] Interviewer: Do you remember any occasions like a wedding or a bar mitzvah or a celebration in the family?
[03:03:33] Victor: No. No, I mean, I'm sure there was but I don't remember.
[03:03:43] Interviewer: And...any um...superstitions or things that your family...was...caught up with? Beliefs that they had?
[03:04:01] Victor: Well every family has that. Every family has superstitions. Jewish people have more than others um...huh. So um....I'm sure my parents had that too. Not something that I would have been aware of or introduced to but um...I'm sure they did.
[03:04:29] Interviewer: Before you left Egypt, what were your dreams about what you might do in your life?
[03:04:36] Victor: I didn't have any. I mean, at the age of nine, you know like, what I wanted to do was play all day. I mean we just played, we just had, you know, played soccer or basketball or stuff like that. At that age you have to remember we, we lived in a country where life was nice. Life was very, very un...unstressful. [03:04:59] My father came home every day, he looked like a suit, like a - and we had a nice apartment and everything was fine to a point where you don't get to think about what you want to do. You're doing it. You’re fine. Everything is good. You don't think that one day you're gonna want to have - get married and have six children or something. [03:05:21] So you're basically living day by day because everything is wonderful so you don't need to be, I mean, I think people sit down and dream about what they want to be when they're exposed to not having. When you're exposed to difficulties or seeing somebody else doing something that you wanted to do and that's when you think about [it?]. But we didn't have that. We were, life was wonderful.
[03:05:48] Interviewer: Do you remember seeing poor people, and not necessarily Jewish, but poor people -
[03:05:53] Victor: [overlap] Oh yeah. when you go to the market you see a lot of poor people but they were not us. They were them. I mean they were...we, we had no...affinity or connection to these people. just -like the woman who worked in our house. You know, I don't even remember their name. They - we never called them by name. We called them by uh...
[03:06:15] Interviewer: What did you call them?
[03:06:16] Victor: We, like um...I don't, I forget the Arabic word uh...uh...but it's like uh, housekeeper. Like housekeeper.
[03:06:28] Interviewer: [Arabic]
[03:06:29] Victor: [Arabic] But in Arabic it was not so bad. Yeah.
[03:06:35] Interviewer: So you called the person by their occupation.
[03:06:38] Victor: By their occupation yes. We didn't even know their names.
[03:06:42] Interviewer: Really?
[03:06:45] Victor: And also there was quite a bit, not a big but a reasonable turnover so, you know, they'd come...these women, mostly women, would be coming from the villages, not from Alexandria so they’re basically, my parents [muffled] I'm should would find them through some kind of a arrangement. [03:07:07] But they would come from villages and, for them, living in an apartment is something they've never done. So they used to sleep in the kitchen or in the bathroom. There was a, like a blanket on the floor and that's where they slept. Because we had, I remember we had the three room apartment. There was a dining room, and there was a dining room and then my parent's bedroom, my sister and I's bedroom and there was like a salon, you know? [03:07:34] But she wasn't allowed to be in any of those rooms.
[03:07:37] Interviewer: Was not allowed to.
[03:07:38] Victor: No.
[03:07:41] Interviewer: So she would be in the kitchen...
[03:07:42] Victor: In the kitchen or in the bathroom. She would be sleeping there.
[03:07:45] Interviewer: And she did your laundry.
[03:07:47] Victor: She did everything yeah. She did everything. Because my mother would be out sewing dresses and my father would be out working in the bank.
[03:08:00] Interviewer: Do you remember your mother socializing with...
[03:08:02] Victor: Yeah, they played cards a lot. [laughs] And she was a very good poker player. [overlap] She would ask us what you want us to buy, to buy us with all the money she was gonna make.
[03:08:14] Interviewer: She would play with other women or was it...?
[03:08:17] Victor: Yeah, yes, yes. I remember more of this in Israel than I did in Egypt but she was also doing this in Egypt.
[03:08:27] Interviewer: And your dad not so much?
[03:08:29] Victor: Oh yeah my dad also played cards yeah. We, two three times a week they used to come to our apartment and people played.
[03:08:36] Interviewer: And played for money?
[03:08:36] Victor: Yes, of course.
[03:08:40] Interviewer: Were you allowed to watch?
[03:08:43] Victor: Didn't want to. Wasn't interested. But when, when I was interested, yeah, I was allowed to watch. I'd go sit beside my mother because she felt it would bring her good luck. [laughs]
[03:08:57] Interviewer: What did you mother call you?
[03:09:00] Victor: Um...Victor.
[03:09:03] Interviewer: Not a special...?
[03:09:04] Victor: They used to also call me Toto. I don't know why.
[03:09:07] Interviewer: Toto?
[03:09:08] Victor: Toto, yeah. I don't know why. But my aunts used to call me Toto. My mother called me Victor.
[03:09:20] Interviewer: Was your dad happy about your school since he wanted you in that school. How did he feel it was going?
[03:09:27] Victor: I don't remember him indicating a preference or likelihood or not. I mean, he just basically, he was there, okay fine I was going to school. There, it wasn't that this was going to be my university stuff you know, like, stuff that you learn and uh, I believe that throughout my childhood my father knew that one day we'll be leaving. [03:09:58] I believe that. He never indicated that. [overlap]
[03:09:59] Interviewer: Why do you believe that?
[03:10:00] Victor: I believe that because...there was nothing that happened in our family to indicate that there is a forward movement in terms of achieving things, in terms of, "Okay let's do..." like, for example okay, what do you want to be? Do you want to be a shoemaker? Do you want to be a doctor? Do you want to be...this never, this was never discussed in our house. It didn't matter what I wanted to be. [03:10:27] I mean, I wanted to be a pilot so, but...you know, I liked airplanes. But you didn't see much of them then but, just in pictures. But um...there was no...okay one day you're gonna be a rabbi, or one day you're gonna be a lawyer or something. None of that.
[03:10:47] Interviewer: Are you saying that about the whole family as well? There wasn't the forward goal thinking...?
[03:10:51] Victor: I'm saying that about anybody I knew like, for example my cousin [Mayer?] whom I told you was here Rosh Hashanah. I mean him and I basically grew together so I was either at his house or he was at my place and we would basically play together. So um, he didn't have much of a vision to where he wanted to be um...and neither did his brother and we were friends the three of us. [03:11:18] And there was girl living in our floor in the apartment, she just wanted to be along with us. That's about it. There was no...we didn't have any...life, life plans of what we want to achieve and what we wanted to be. Nothing.
[03:11:35] Interviewer: But did you have any sense that your parents, for themselves or for the whole family...
[03:11:39] Victor: No, no, I didn't.
[03:11:40] Interviewer: ...that future ambition.
[03:11:42] Victor: [overlap] I didn't, no I didn't.
[03:11:47] Interviewer: Do you remember, was there a death of anybody in the family when you were in Egypt?
[03:11:52] Victor: Yes. Um...a woman who is my mother's sister. Um...killed herself, burned herself up and um...we all thought it was terrible but um, life went on.
[03:12:13] Interviewer: Do you remember her funeral?
[03:12:16] Victor: No.
[03:12:18] Interviewer: Just that that happened.
[03:12:19] Victor: just it happened, yeah.
[03:12:25] Interviewer: And today, would you say you are a Sephardi?
[03:12:30] Victor: Yes.
[03:12:31] Interviewer: And what elements of Sephardi...
[03:12:35] Victor: What does it mean to be a Sephardi?
[03:12:36] Interviewer: Yes.
[03:12:37] Victor: To start with it's what you're not. You're not an Ashkenazi. And this in, in itself has a lot of weight to it because if there was no such thing as Sephardi and Ashkenazi then I'd be an Israeli, like all the other Israelis, regardless where they came from. But...that's not the case. [03:13:02] The case if you are Sephardi whether you like it or not and uh, I am proud of being. In Israel they call me [Hebrew] and I'm a very [Hebrew]. And I say that. And uh, so it's not what you are, it's what you're not. And I find it very disturbing that many people in Israel today think that they are either Sephardi or Ashkenazi. [03:13:30] And when we were growing up we always thought that in 20 years this will never be. And it - today it's even more than it was when we were kids. So that is not something that is going away anytime soon.
[03:13:46] Interviewer: Are there Sephardi traditions that you have...
[03:13:50] Victor: No, no, no. It's what, it's what you treat it as. Not because of a tradition that you do that because you are Sephardi you do A, B and C. It's be - it's how you're treated, how you're looked at and how you're, now in, for example in Israel today, when I go to Israel um...[03:14:08] They treat me as a Sephardi but I am an accepted Sephardi because they think I have money. And if you have money in Israel you’re accepted anywhere. And uh, but if I didn't have money, or if they didn't think I had money then they would have nothing to do with me.
[03:14:26] Interviewer: What about your own preferences in things like food, music...
[03:14:35] Victor: [overlap] Well food, I love middle eastern food. I mean, my wife and I have pretty much been all over the world and uh I, when I worked in Israel I worked for a British European airways and I used to spend a lot of...nights in very fancy hotels and eat very fancy foods. [03:14:55] And this is not something that I was...lacking. I had all the amenities I ever wanted to have. And uh, but I always, like for example when, when we go to Israel everybody wants to take us to these fancy restaurants. I want to go to a bohasan [ph]. That's what I like. So um...that's, I like this stuff and uh, music uh, I remember when we were growing up in Egypt, there was no music. We didn't have a radio. But when we came to Israel uh, we had a radio but they were always listening to Arabic music and I hated it. ![03:15:38] But our next door neighbour was a, a couple from Poland and they had a daughter my age and they had disks, records of mu - classical music and I used to go to their house and enjoy listening to it. And that's something that I kept all my life. And that's my favourite music today.
[03:15:58] Interviewer: So classical European.
[03:16:00] Victor: Yes. Yeah classical music.
[03:16:04] Interviewer: Did you ever have music lessons?
[03:16:06] Victor: No. I would loved to have had but I didn't.
[03:16:09] Interviewer: Do you know why?
[03:16:11] Victor: Ha, I remember uh, when I was in Israel I asked my father if I can have piano lessons. So he bought me a flute and he says, well, let's start with that. And that wasn't what I wanted. So forget the flute and uh, eventually when I finally had enough money I bought my own piano and I taught myself to play.
[03:16:35] Interviewer: Do you play till today?
[03:16:36] Victor: Yeah. I'm mean I'm not a pianist but I play enough to enjoy it.
[03:16:46] Interviewer: That's wonderful. Can you tell me about - you mentioned that there were very religious members of your family in Egypt. Can you tell me about them?
[03:16:59] Victor: No. No, I don't. I don't know. I mean, I remember seeing my grandfather, whom you saw the picture of once. He was sick and he stayed at our apartment and I wasn't allowed to go into his room but I did get to his room once and I saw him. [03:17:17] But that was it, I never saw him either before or again after. I saw my grandmother a couple of times because she used to be there. But uh, no, I never did.
[03:17:30] Interviewer: What do you remember, again, back in Alexandria, of Jewish holidays?
[03:17:36] Victor: Nothing.
[03:17:37] Interviewer: Pesach.
[03:17:39] Victor: Nothing.
[03:17:41] Interviewer: Rosh Hashanah?
[03:17:42] Victor: [shakes head] Nothing. No. Not, not that it wasn't done. It's important for me to assert that. I'm sure it was done but it didn't mean anything to me and therefore, for a kid that it mean anything to, it's not something you will remember. Especially when, by choice, I chose to completely eliminate anything to do with Egypt when I came to Israel. So...I don't remember, no.
[03:18:20] Interviewer: How old were you when you went back the first time?
[03:18:23] Victor: Oh well, when did they kill Sadat? Fifteen years ago? I'm 80 now so maybe in, no, no, no...no, a lot more than that. I was there, I was there, I know my wife now for 30 years this [muffled] and uh, it was about five years before that so 35 years ago, so I would have been 40- 42. [overlap] Then I went back.
[03:18:49] Interviewer: What made you go back then?
[03:18:52] Victor: I wanted to see where I came from. See the other thing that I decided was that, I decided later on in life that I was very stupid to blank it out of my mind. So I had a very, very uh, close uncle that lived in France and at the time...I asked him that every time that we spoke, we speak in Arabic. [03:19:13] So that I uh, I get to practice Arabic and I'm doing very well and I have a friend in Toronto here I speak Arabic to all the time. So yeah, so it's, it's something that I want to go back to and when we went to Egypt, the first time around, when they killed Sadat that was the day they actually shot him. I was there in the afternoon. [03:19:37] It wasn't anything that you need to worry about. The only thing that everybody knew is that the casinos were closed. But everything else was open. And we did a tour and then I took my wife - well you saw the movie - about seven, eight years ago we went back there again. It, it's an amazing country to visit. It is. I mean, Egypt has probably more historical areas than Israel even. [03:20:07] I mean when you look at what's there, what has happened during the pharaohs and they preserved it pretty good, pretty well. Uh, I mean it's amazing what you see there, absolutely amazing. I mean, we went to Luxor and you can see what they built there. I don't know if you've ever been there but it, it's unbelievable what they did 4000 years ago. And even Israel doesn't have anything like, close to this. Nothing in Europe, nothing in America. So, I mean, you know the, the Mexican pyramids is in Chile that's one thing but...nowhere near what happened in Egypt. So Egypt was a very, very advanced, very, very intelligent, very uh artistic, very scientific...country in all the years that Egypt was there. From the pharaohs on. [03:21:03] You know like, the Romans used to come there and everybody used to look at Egypt as the up, the upscale country. So yeah, so there's, it was very important for me, and for Ora [ph] to see what really Egypt was all about and she loved it.
[03:21:20] Interviewer: Will you go back again?
[03:21:21] Victor: Yeah. Yes, I would.
[03:21:23] Interviewer: And when you go, have you visited graves of any of your family?
[03:21:29] Victor: No. Um, I shouldn't be saying that but my parents are buried in Jerusalem [cemetery]. I don't even go there when I go to Israel. I don't know, I feel that I would much rather look at her picture then go to a grave. You know, I mean...pictures [inaudible].
[03:21:52] Interviewer: And did you have occasion to get to know other former Egyptian Jews in Israel or since?
[03:22:03] Victor: Oh yeah...
[03:22:03] Interviewer: ...or in Canada?
[03:22:03] Victor: Oh yes, yes. And uh, yeah. I mean I have an Egyptian friend now that we play tennis together and we're always speaking in Arabic. Very nice man. I mean he would be interesting for you to interview. Uh, he would be very, very interesting because he knows a lot more than me about Egypt. He was, he came to Israel when he was, I think 14 or 15. [03:22:30] And he would know a lot more about Egypt and...you know, his parents and his mother is still alive so...she would be somebody who you should interview.
[03:22:40] Interviewer: That would be very interesting.
[03:22:41] Victor: Yes. Yes.
[03:22:43] Interviewer: So if you, thinking ahead, somebody, at some point in time will be watching this video. What message would you want to leave for them?
[03:22:57] Victor: Do you have an hour? [laughs] Um...what message would I want to leave with them? That we are all equal...and we can all do everything we want to do if we try hard enough. And you should give everybody as much credit as you want them to give you.
[03:23:20] Interviewer: Thank you. Thank you very much.