The Rise and Fall of Welsh Jewry

Aug. 25 2016

The first Jews in Wales most likely arrived in the 12th century, although they never settled in large enough numbers to have an official community. But by 1768 there were enough Jews in Swansea—brought there by the nearby copper mines—to justify having their own cemetery, to which they added two synagogues by the mid-19th century. And this was only the beginning, writes Matthew Williams:

The Jewish communities of Cardiff, Newport, Neath, Tredegar, Pontypridd, and Merthyr Tydfil all followed a roughly similar process of development in the 19th century with the rise of Welsh industry. The Merthyr Synagogue in particular is unique among all synagogues for having its gable adorned with [the red dragon that is the symbol of Wales]. . . .

The mass immigration of East European Jews [beginning in the late 19th century] dwarfed all prior and future Jewish immigration into Britain and caused the demographic explosion of British Jews; Wales was no exception, with the Jewish community numbering over 5,000 with nineteen congregations by 1918.

Once again new congregations were built around industry (such as shipbuilding in Bangor) and Jewish people in Wales prospered culturally, with dozens of various Jewish literary societies, charity organizations, Hebrew classes, and social centers springing up in both the north and south of Wales.

In 1911, the Jews of the city of Tredegar experienced what Winston Churchill, then the home secretary, called a “pogrom.” While the Jewish community in Wales would shrink during the subsequent decades, its numbers grew significantly once again at the end of the 1930s with the influx of refugees from Hitler’s Europe. Despite subsequently undergoing another period of numerical decline, Jewish life in Wales goes on.

Read more at Wales Online

More about: British Jewry, Jewish history, Jewish World, Kindertransport, Pogroms, United Kingdom


Putting Aside the Pious Lies about the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Jan. 23 2018

In light of recent developments, including Mahmoud Abbas’s unusually frank speech to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s leadership, Moshe Arens advocates jettisoning some frequently mouthed but clearly false assumptions about Israel’s situation, beginning with the idea that the U.S. should act as a neutral party in negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah. (Free registration may be required.)

The United States cannot be, and has never been, neutral in mediating the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is the leader of the world’s democratic community of nations and cannot assume a neutral position between democratic Israel and the Palestinians, whether represented by an autocratic leadership that glorifies acts of terror or by Islamic fundamentalists who carry out acts of terror. . . .

In recent years the tectonic shifts in the Arab world, the lower price of oil, and the decreased importance attached to the Palestinian issue in much of the region, have essentially removed the main incentive the United States had in past years to stay involved in the conflict. . . .

Despite the conventional wisdom that the core issues—such as Jerusalem or the fate of Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines—are the major stumbling blocks to an agreement, the issue for which there seems to be no solution in sight at the moment is making sure that any Israeli military withdrawal will not result in rockets being launched against Israel’s population centers from areas that are turned over to the Palestinians. . . .

Does that mean that Israel is left with a choice between a state with a Palestinian majority or an apartheid state, as claimed by Israel’s left? This imaginary dilemma is based on a deterministic theory of history, which disregards all other possible alternatives in the years to come, and on questionable demographic predictions. What the left is really saying is this: better rockets on Tel Aviv than a continuation of Israeli military control over Judea and Samaria. There is little support in Israel for that view.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, US-Israel relations