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The Last Jews of the Amazon

Aug. 23 2016

Located in northeastern Peru, Iquitos is the largest city in the world not accessible by road. It is also home to a small but active Jewish community, which, after experiencing a brief renaissance, has now dwindled to about 20 percent of what it was ten years ago, mostly due to emigration to Israel. Ryan Schuessler writes:

The city’s first Jews came to Peru from Morocco, part of [an influx] of immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia who followed the 19th-century rubber boom in the hopes of making a fortune in the rainforest.

At the time, Iquitos’s economy was booming: the world’s voracious demand for rubber quickly transformed a remote village into an industrial boomtown filled with mansions adorned with hand-painted ceramic tiles from Portugal. Riverboats and barges were loaded in the city’s ports, and sent down the Amazon to the Atlantic and on to Europe.

The Jewish community saw another boost in the early 1900s, when growing anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe drove Ashkenazi Jews to the New World. . . . But by the 1920s, plantations in Malaysia and Sri Lanka had undercut Amazon rubber producers, and the boom went bust.

Many immigrants left Iquitos, and by the mid-20th century the capital city Lima became the center of Peruvian Jewish life. Smaller communities across the country moved to the capital, where there were synagogues, rabbis, and Jewish schools. Iquitos was the only community outside of Lima that managed to hold on.

Read more at Guardian

More about: Aliyah, Immigration, Jewish World, Moroccan Jewry, South America

 

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC