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As the Syrian Civil War Comes to a Close, the Refugee Crisis Is Apt to Get Worse, Not Better

Sept. 13 2017

Now that Islamic State is being driven from its stronghold in Deir Ezzor, and Bashar al-Assad and his allies seem poised to defeat the opposition forces, there is hope that the civil war may be nearing its end. But, writes Morderchai Kedar, this does not mean that those displaced by the violence will start returning to their homes:

About half the citizens of Syria—approximately ten million people—have become refugees. Approximately half of them are inside Syria and half elsewhere. Those abroad are in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, other Arab countries, Europe, North and South America, Australia, and even Israel.

Generally speaking, all Syrian refugees who have reached countries outside the Arab world will stay there for good, because life in those countries is orderly and safe. The refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, however—altogether about 3.5 million Syrians—are waiting for the war to end so they can return home.

Yet the reality in Syria is changing completely, and it is difficult to foresee a massive return of Syrian refugees from those countries. There are two main reasons for this. First, during the six years of the savage and blood-drenched war, large parts of the Syrian cities have been reduced to rubble by aerial bombing, barrel bombing from helicopters, artillery and tank shells, and explosive devices and mines. . . . Refugees will not agree to exchange their tent in Jordan for a ruin with no infrastructure in devastated Syria.

But there is another reason the refugees will not return: the Sunni refugees’ fear of the country’s new landlords, the Shiites. For a considerable time, Iran has been transferring Shiite citizens from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan to Syria. Its clear intention is to change decisively the country’s demographic composition so it will have a Shiite majority instead of the Sunni majority it had until the civil war erupted in 2011. This is undoubtedly the case because the Alawite rulers of Syria know the Sunni majority regard them as heretics and idol worshippers who have no right to live in, let alone rule, the country. . . .

The new demographic situation in Syria will convince the Sunni refugees that they no longer have anything to return to. They will therefore do all they can to move . . . to any country in the world that will agree to accept them, preferably in Europe or North America. This may well lead to a process opposite to that expected to result from the Syrian “peace”: instead of a return of refugees, there will likely be a mass flight of more refugees and Sunni citizens.

The consequence, writes Kedar, is likely to be greater instability in Europe.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Iran, Jordan, Politics & Current Affairs, Refugees, Syrian civil war

The Movement to Return Jewish Worship to the Temple Mount Has Gone Mainstream

Sept. 25 2017

During the eruption of violence against Israelis in Jerusalem this summer, and the subsequent struggle over metal detectors, the Islamic authorities briefly boycotted the Temple Mount. As a result, Jewish visitors, normally prohibited from praying there, immediately began to do so. Meir Soloveichik puts the episode in context and describes its meaning:

The Temple Mount is fast becoming a pilgrimage site for religious Jews. In the past, most abstained from visiting out of concern that they might enter a sacred area in a state of ritual impurity, but many now believe that, with a knowledge of the layout, history, and religious laws pertaining to the location, it is permissible to visit certain parts of the Temple Mount plaza. They thus visit the site under religious guidance—immersing first in a ritual bath, or mikveh—and tread only in specific areas. What was once a trickle of pilgrims has become a stream, and this year they numbered in the many thousands. . . .

[Indeed, a] sea change has taken place in the past fifteen years: . . . the segment of Jews visiting the Temple Mount is becoming more and more mainstream, supported by rabbis noted for their liberalism in social or religious affairs. . . .

Visiting Jews were, for a brief and brilliant moment [this summer], able to utter several words of prayer without interference. The Israeli media published photos of a diverse group of Jews standing on the Temple Mount reciting the kaddish, so close to where their ancestors, on Yom Kippur, had once stood listening to the high priest pronounce the Name of God. Soon after this kaddish, the [status quo ante] returned; Jews again were no longer free to pray at the site toward which all Jewish prayer has been directed for thousands of years. But images of that one unimpeded kaddish remain; to study them is to look back on the miraculous and heartbreaking past half-century in Jerusalem, to celebrate what has been achieved, and to mourn what might have been.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Palestinian terror, Religion & Holidays, Temple Mount