Tracing the Steps of Ethiopian Jewry on Their Way to Israel

Feb. 21 2018

Having traveled to the Ethiopian village of Ambover—once home to a significant Jewish community—accompanied by Jews who left the country for Israel as children or teenagers, Miriam Seiden describes what she learned and saw:

Our [group’s] introduction to Ethiopia was the Red Terror Martyrs’ Museum in Addis Ababa, a memorial to the victims tortured, imprisoned, and killed for their political beliefs under the Marxist Derg regime, which overthrew Haile Selassie and ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. Here we began to learn about the struggle of the Ethiopian people and the cruelty they endured. . . .

In the Ambover synagogue, which remains intact thanks to private donors, we were spellbound by the emotional story that Belaynesh Zevadia, [who left the village for Israel when she was thirteen], shared of her brother Yosef’s three-year imprisonment for teaching Hebrew. Her father, the village kes (the Ethiopian Jewish equivalent of a rabbi), lived in the synagogue most of that time, sleeping on the floor and praying that his son would be released.

[We also attempted] to walk in the footsteps of those who escaped through the Semien Mountains to Sudan [in 1984, from which they were airlifted to safety by Israel]. Children and elders had marched alongside their families, trying to avoid loose stones on the trails. Some died over the course of their long journey, a proper burial all but impossible, and babies were born in this rugged but stunning mountain range.

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More about: Ethiopia, Ethiopian Jews, History & Ideas, Israeli history, Sudan

 

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela