The Last Village of the Mountain Jews

Dec. 27 2018

Located not far from the capital city of Baku in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, the town of Qirmizi has somewhere between two and three thousand residents—all of whom are Jews. Once there were more such towns in Transcaucasia, populated by the Mountain Jews, who have distinct traditions and their own language, known as Judeo-Tat or Juhuru, that is closely related to Persian but draws heavily on Hebrew. Yoav Keren describes his recent visit there:

Three bridges separate Qirmizi [from the nearby Gentile town] Quba. One of them, which is closed to vehicles, is known as “the love bridge.” . . . This is where single Jewish men and women come to meet a match. “Girls walk the bridge with their mothers,” [our tour guide] explains, “while the guys look on from the banks. If a guy sees a girl he likes, his parents will approach her parents and ask for her hand.” . . . Around the corner from the bridge is the city’s wedding venue—a pillared hall that houses weddings, bar mitzvahs, and circumcisions. There’s a huge photo of the Western Wall inside. . . .

Azerbaijan is a Shiite Muslim country, and Azeris also make up 25 percent of the population of nearby Iran. But the people [of Azerbaijan] love Israel, and not only because it buys their oil and sells them weapons (including the Iron Dome missile-defense systems, which are lined up along the Azeri border with Armenia). The local Jews are respected and treated with tolerance. In central Baku, Jews wearing kippot walk around undisturbed—not something you would see in Paris or other European cities nowadays.

During Soviet times, there were eleven synagogues in Qirmizi, but they weren’t in use—Communism was the only religion. . . . Today there are only two synagogues left in in the town, but they are both active.

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Read more at Ynet

More about: Azerbaijan, Jewish marriage, Jewish World, Mountain Jews, Soviet Jewry

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians