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March 28, 2013 1:29 pm

A 21st Century Exodus: IDF Spokeswoman Was Raised in Egypt, Taught to Hate Jews

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Dina Ovadia. Photo: IDF Blog

Dina Ovadia is 22, and like many Israelis her age is serving in the IDF, in her case in the Spokesperson’s Unit. Yet as little as 7 years ago she wouldn’t have envisioned this for herself. At that time Rolin Abdallah was her name — the name her family gave her as a security measure because she was a Jew living in Egypt.

In fact, according to a profile on the IDF’s official blog, Ovadia didn’t even know she was Jewish until a group of Salafists showed up on her family’s doorstep and told them to leave the country within the month because of an uncle that had fled to Israel and joined the IDF.

They “would encircle the house in their vehicles, shooting into the air. That month even the school didn’t call. I slept with my mother – I was terribly afraid,” she told the IDF blog of the intervening month.

While growing up in Alexandria Dana’s family did its best to shield her from the realities of being Jewish in the country. “I didn’t have a religious background in Christianity or in Islam. I never knew what I truly was. My parents didn’t keep the [Jewish] traditions and I always assumed that we were secular Christians,” she said.

“I studied in a Muslim school. I started to grow up and learn the Koran, and then I already started to ask myself: ‘why am I learning this?’ I reached a stage where I got really into it, studying for tests, memorizing passages. At school they asked me to start wearing a veil to my Koran lessons. I didn’t like the idea – as a girl it seemed ugly to me,” she smiles. The disagreement led to her parents enrolling Dina in a private Christian school, where she was more at ease. “It was really fun and I felt freer,” she says.

As a child Dinah knew little of Judaism or it adherents.  “In school they always taught us to hate Jews and Israelis,” she says. “Let’s take Koran class for example. I would be sitting, taking a test, and would read a verse that said you need to kill Jews. I also remember during the Second Intifada all the TV programs I watched that always said that Israelis are bad. I cried over the story of Mohammed al-Dura. My grandfather did his best to explain to us that they’re not bad, that we have to understand that in war, that’s what happens…In school they taught us that Israel is the enemy. They would say when I grew up that I would understand. During the Intifada I was even at demonstration, waving the Palestinian flag. It never even occurred to me that I was Jewish.”

Dinah, it seems, has learned to live with the past, but more importantly she has embraced the present. “In truth, I don’t say that I’m from Egypt,” she says. “It’s behind me already…I have no desire to live in Egypt, and I don’t think I could forgive those people for what they did. But there’s something I’ve never told anyone before…I want to go back and visit, and to see my house. I want to go and [say]… I am a Jew – and I’m proud and happy. I want to go back to Egypt in uniform, to show them that we’re not murderers, that we’re not actually bad people. I’d like to go back to my school, and to the morning assembly we had at the beginning of every day. I want to explain to them that all we’re doing is defending our country.”

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  • george

    What a great story; and even without knowing, even though raised in an Anti – Jewish environment, this IDF heroine maintained that spark of Judaism that saw her through.

  • HaDaR

    Poor girl: so deluded! … It’s really sad that she might be in such an important position and still think that she can go back “IN UNIFORM, TO SHOW THEM THAT WE’RE NOT MURDERERS”.

  • Lynne T

    Is Ovadia unaware that the Mohammed al-Dura story was a fraud, that if a young boy did die during what was in all likelihood a Palestinian war game and not a confrontation between Palestinians and the IDF, the fatal shots were fired by a Palestinian gunman, as the IDF would have had to have had bullets capable of turning 90 degree corners.

  • Deane Duxfield

    I am sure and saddened that there are probably many more in and of Egypt that like you are Jewish or of other religious heritage but over the centuries of Pressure to a state religion have taken unwillingly on an identity as you may well have had you not been tossed out of Egypt that is at war with ones own roots.

    I hope some day Many such people even Genetically will see that reality.

    I hope the cycle of hate ends.

    I hope but that needs a strategy we are told… the strategy is TRUTH. Keep sharing it and spreading it and exposing lies compassionately
    realizing we have hosted such ignorantly before too…and probably still do in various forms to a greater or hopefully lesser degree.

    In the end when humanity has found Peace and not force….

    “Truth an Peace will be associated Together FOREVER”

    Why do the nations rage and the kings of the earth plot in vain…..

  • art frank

    The foolish girl wants to go back to egypt, in uniform, and say she’s a Jew????. Doesn’t she know the savages there would tear her apart from limb to limb? Doesn’t she know what kind of people she’s dealing with? She should. She lived there. And was lucky to get out of that dump of a country alive.

  • I do agree thathe minority Arabs due to the Western Petro Dollars feel free to to teach hate against Jew Sisters and Brothers. It is in the intrest of the western states , as they have to get the unirupted supply of oil etc from morally corrupt Monarchs.
    We are trying to dis associat the Ajmi[non arab] muslims from the hinious propaganda against Jews our First Religion is Judaism. We the Pushtoons are eiether sons of David, Moses, Joeseph, Solomanetc are we do not know with whome out of the ten lost tribes of Israel we berlongs to. Please contact Dr. Afreedi[]: Tariq Khan.

  • Ben Dover

    Dina Ovadia has a great future in Israel, serving her people. As we would say in Australia to those of the Egyptian kind: “up yours.”

  • Steven

    The fact that they were taught hate is the most aspect here. More must know this is what continues everyday and why coexistence is so difficult. Its not the intransigence of the Jews but the objections of a culture that teaches supremacy and that Jews must be hated and worse. Use this link to educate those who are oblivious to this reality

  • ralph levitt

    Is Dina related to Estrella Ovadia from Monastir in
    Macedonia?———-Estrella was a WW II. partisan hero
    who died in battle in ’44 at age 23.
    I think there is a statue of her in Monastir/Bitola and
    a school named after her.

  • I have no desire to go to Egypt, UNLESS I am accompanied by IDF soldiers in uniform.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    Dinah, you symbolize in truth the modern-day Exodus. Your story is so extraordinary that it will take me some time to digest it, to decode it, to transcribe it into any kind of reality that I can imagine. Wow!

    !דינה, כל הכבוד לך! אמנם, אין לי מילים לבטא כמה וכמה שאני מעריך את האדיסאה שלך

  • richard sherman

    For a Jew: Egypt, Auschwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen…..No Difference.