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March 4: The Purim of Cairo

March 4, 2016

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On this date in 1524, twelve prominent members of the Egyptian Jewish community in Cairo who had been seized by the Ottoman viceroy of Cairo, Ahmed Shaitan Pasha, were released after he was assassinated by Mohamed Bey, his own vizier, at the bathhouse. The assassinated viceroy had been in rebellion against the Sultan Suleiman of Constantinople over coinage and other issues, and had seized the Jews (and ransacked their quarter) to fund his rebellion through ransom money. The day of their liberation was proclaimed “Purim Mitzrayim” or “The Purim of Cairo.” Numerous such “special Purims” are observed by Jews in communities around the world that survived campaigns aimed at their liquidation. To read a megile about the Purim of Cairo, click here.

“After these things, Ahmed Shaitan desired of the Jews a hundred and fifty thousand great gold pieces, and he also said, ‘If you bring them not quickly, I shall kill you with the sword.’ And when the Jews heard this evil thing, they mourned and could not answer him, for they were terrified before him. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel saw that the hand of the Holy One had touched them, that they threw earth upon their heads and blew the shofar, and they convoked an assembly, and every one returned from his evil way, and they cried unto the Holy One with a loud voice and with weeping. And while they were weeping and making supplication before the Almighty, some men from among them went up, and fell down to the ground before Ahmed Shaitan, but he listened not to them. And Ahmed Shaitan imposed a tax upon the land, and upon the people of Egypt, and upon the merchants, and he said unto them: ‘Bring unto me silver and gold without number!’ ” —Megile of the Purim of Cairo