Photography by David Amoils
Raphael (Raphy) Mourad was born in Cairo in 1942. His family had an excellent life there and had friends from all religious and cultural backgrounds, including Armenians, Muslims and Christians. He was the youngest sibling of two brothers and one sister. His best friend was a neighbourhood Muslim boy, and they played in each other’s houses daily. They spoke Arabic and French.
The family lived openly as Jews, celebrating all Jewish holidays, and Raphy went to a Jewish school. His father was a high official in the Egyptian government. They felt purely Egyptian and had no problems until one day, at his best friend’s house, his friend said to him, “You are a Zionist!” Raphy was not even sure what that meant, except that the tone of voice suggested it wasn’t good. He ran home crying to his father. His father returned to the house with him, where the friend’s father made his son apologize. As far as the future of Jews in Egypt was concerned, Raphy’s mother saw the writing on the wall in 1956.
Because his father refused to leave, his mother and father separated, and she took the children to Israel. Their neighbours cried when they left. Sadly, Raphy never saw his father again. The years in Israel, he feels, were the best years of his life, even though he felt abandoned by his father, and his mother struggled financially.
Raphy had to work picking vegetables to help support the family. He could only go to school part time at night. He earned a high school diploma in diamond cutting and then went on to obtain two degrees, a BSc and MSc. Following that, he worked in Israel in Ramona at the atomic energy plant. Raphy wanted to get a PhD but felt he should go outside of Israel. He married a Sabra in Israel named Sarah, and they had two children: Galya and Ophyr. He was accepted at the University of Toronto for a PhD program, after attending an Atomic Energy Conference here. Sarah got a wonderful job teaching at Bialik School, and she and the children wanted to stay in Canada. Raphy went on to work for the Atomic Energy Commission in Canada and is now retired from that field. He now works in the gaming industry, developing games for casinos.
Galya worked in real estate with her father. Ophyr graduated from Chemical Engineering and Medicine and became the Head of Internal Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Raphy and Sarah had a third child in Canada, Michelle. She has Rett Syndrome and lives in Participation House.
Raphy feels he is a mixture of three cultures, but Israeli and Egyptian first. He and Sarah have five grandchildren and are glad they came to Canada.