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How Ḥasidic Jews Have Kept Calabrian Citron Farmers in Business

Aug. 10 2017

Since their movement’s founding in the late 18th century, Chabad-Lubavitch Ḥasidim have insisted that citrons—used ritually during the fall holiday of Sukkot—from the Italian region of Calabria are superior to all others. The first Lubavitcher rebbe even claimed that this area, located in the toe of Italy’s boot, was divinely ordained by God in Moses’ day for the production of these fruit, known in Hebrew at etrogim. But an unusual four-day frost in January severely damaged this year’s crop, and threatens the end of this tradition, as Dovid Margolin writes:

Partially damaged trees have been trimmed down to their stumps, while other trees have been destroyed completely and must be replaced. It takes about three years for a newly-planted citron root branch to grow into a tree and yield its first etrogim. Merchants and kosher supervisors say that consequently, this year a far smaller number of Calabria citrons will be available for Sukkot, . . . and even those harvested will be of a poorer quality.

Among the hardest-hit are local farmers, including families who have been growing the . . . fruits for generations. “Many of the farmers live solely on the citron. There are whole families who work on [its] production,” says Luigi Salsini, editor of the Italian-language CalNews and a longtime observer of the citron industry, which plays an important historic and economic role in Calabria. “Citrons harvested for Sukkot are the primary [source of] income for many families.” . . .

Until World War II, the vast amounts of Calabria etrogim were shipped throughout Europe via merchants in [the port city of] Genoa. . . . The market became far more lucrative for the farmers [after World War II] when Jewish merchants began paying per Etrog [rather than per kilogram]. Over the years, small farms have mostly disappeared, making way for larger industrial operations of a few hundred trees [each].

Read more at Chabad.org

More about: Chabad, Hasidism, Italy, Religion & Holidays, Sukkot

Getting It Right in Afghanistan

Aug. 23 2017

While praising the president’s announcement Monday night that the U.S. will be sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio express their “doubt [that] this will be enough to win the war.” They also warn against the dangers of a complete or partial American withdrawal and offer some strategic recommendations:

Al-Qaeda is still a significant problem in South Asia—a potentially big one. President Obama frequently claimed that al-Qaeda was “decimated” and a “shadow of its former self” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That wasn’t true. The Obama administration’s counterterrorism campaign dealt significant blows to al-Qaeda’s leadership, disrupting the organization’s chain of command and interrupting its communications. But al-Qaeda took measures to outlast America’s drones and other tactics. The group survived the death of Osama bin Laden and, in many ways, grew. . . .

Al-Qaeda continues to fight under the Taliban’s banner as well. Its newest branch, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, is deeply embedded in the Taliban-led insurgency. . . . There’s no question that Islamic State remains a serious problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it still doesn’t threaten the Afghan government to the same degree that the Taliban/al-Qaeda axis does. . . .

Iran remains a problem, too. The Iranian government has supported the Taliban’s insurgency since 2001. Although this assistance is not as pronounced as Pakistan’s, it is meaningful. The U.S. government has also repeatedly noted that Iran hosts al-Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline,” which moves fighters, funds, and communications to and from South Asia. Any successful strategy for turning the Afghan war around will have to deal with the Iranian government’s nefarious role. The Russians are [also] on the opposite side of the Afghan war.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Iran, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy