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Harbin: a Russian-Jewish Outpost in Manchuria

March 30 2016

Reviewing Michael Meyer’s recent book on the history of Manchuria, Susan Blumberg-Kason notes the attention paid to the city of Harbin and its once-thriving Jewish community:

Harbin is probably the best known city in Manchuria and was once home to 30,000 Jews who either moved to China from Russia for economic reasons or [came to escape persecution]. Most were stateless, no longer citizens of Russia but also not of China. According to Meyer, in the heyday of Jewish Harbin, the city boasted two synagogues and twenty Jewish periodicals, including something called the Siberia-Palestine Weekly.

It was this community where the grandfather of the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert lived. Olmert’s grandfather is buried in the Jewish cemetery there. A century later, the Chinese government has restored one of the two former synagogues in Harbin and has turned it into a Jewish-history research center. Meyer writes that the last Jew left Harbin as late as 1985, a solid decade after the end of the Cultural Revolution. Just a few years ago the Chinese government announced that it would restore the other synagogue, which had been used as a hostel.

Read more at Asian Jewish Life

More about: China, Ehud Olmert, Harbin, History & Ideas, Russia, Russian Jewry

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy