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China Turns on the Jews of Kaifeng

Sept. 26 2016

The Chinese government has been cracking down on unauthorized religious activity, closing a number of Buddhist monasteries and churches. It has now directed its efforts against the Jewish community of the city of Kaifeng, which dates back to the Middle Ages and—after fading away almost completely in the 19th century—has recently experienced a revival. Chris Buckley writes:

A few hundred residents had staged a lively, sometimes contentious rebirth of Kaifeng’s Jewish heritage in recent decades, with classes, [prayer] services, and proposals to rebuild the lost synagogue as a museum. Some residents even migrated to Israel. For years, the city government tolerated their activities, seeing the Jewish link as a magnet for tourism and investment.

But since last year, the authorities have come down hard on the revival, in an example of how even the smallest spiritual groups can fall under the pall of the Communist party’s suspicion. The government has shut down organizations that helped foster Jewish rediscovery, prohibited residents from gathering to worship for Passover and other holidays, and removed signs and relics of the city’s Jewish past from public places. . . .

Nobody outside the government seems to know for sure why this tiny band of believers came to be viewed as a threat. But officials appear to have become alarmed about their growing prominence sometime last year as Xi Jinpeng’s government demanded that religious groups and foreign organizations bow to tighter controls. Judaism is not one of China’s five state-licensed religions. . . .

[T]he current clampdown has gone much farther than previous ones, residents said. . . . Even signs of the Jewish historical presence have been erased. An inscribed stone marking the site of the old synagogue was removed from the front of a hospital that occupies the grounds, and workers buried the ancient well [thought to have been the last remaining part of the synagogue]. Two hospital employees said city officials had ordered the changes.

“All this says that there are no Jews here,” one Jewish man said as he nervously looked around during an interview in a teahouse.

Read more at New York Times

More about: China, Freedom of Religion, Jewish World, Judaism, Kaifeng

 

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