Karim Kassem bravely discussed his Jewish heritage in a country the population of which is notoriously hostile toward Jews and Israel.  

An Egyptian film star surprised his fans last week when he disclosed the fact he is Jewish on live television.

Karim Kassem, 30, revealed during an interview that his late mother came from one of a handful of Jewish families that remained in Egypt, Alaraby reported. Has father is a Muslim.

“I feel as if I am lucky that I come from a mixed background. My whole life I have observed all religious celebrations: Christmas, Ramadan and Jewish New Year,” Kassem bravely stated in front of a live TV audience.

He said that his unique combination of faiths has granted him the gift of “accepting others” and “embracing diversity.”

He shared that He chanced upon his unique identity. “When I was I kid I didn’t even realize. One day, I came home from school and told my sister: ‘the Jews have done this and that, they have big noses and are stingy’,” Kassem said. “She then told me: ‘Karim! You don’t know? Your mum is Jewish!’ It was such a shock for me.”

More than 80,000 Jews lived in Egypt before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, which marked the start of an exodus as most Egyptian Jews were either expelled or pressured to leave. Only a few remain.

Kassem told The New Arab that as a schoolboy he was ashamed of his roots – but that finally disclosing his lifelong secret has “lifted a burden off his shoulders”.

He said the reception of his true identity has so far been very positive.

“A lot of people have reached out to me and sent me really beautiful messages, telling me that I should be proud and happy. This experience has given me renewed hope in this generation,” Kassem said.

“The positive reactions have given me so much positive energy. As a child, I felt like the son of a black sheep but now I can say I am proud of who I am.”

Kassem’s Jewish grandfather Shehata Haroun refused to immigrate to Israel, condemning Zionism as a racist movement and even opposing the Camp David accords that lead to peace between Israel and Egypt in 1979.

His paternal grandmother was a French-Christian, who moved to Egypt after marrying Kassem’s Muslim grandfather.

Many people have taken to social media to express solidarity with the 30-year-old actor’s brave move.

“His mother is Egyptian and her religion is a matter between her and God,” said one commentator, “Being Jewish does not automatically make you a Zionist. There are many Jews opposed to Israel,” said another.

By: United with Israel Staff