How a Romanian Rabbi Made a Deal with the Devil to Get Jews to Israel

Nicolae Ceaușescu’s rule of Romania from 1965 to 1989 stood out for its brutality even among eastern-bloc dictatorships. Yet, unlike his Warsaw Pact colleagues, Ceaușescu did not try to extinguish Jewish life and never severed relations with Israel. In fact, Jewish institutions survived under his rule, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was allowed to provide assistance to Romanian Jews, and a sizable number managed to leave for Israel—in large part thanks to the effort of Romania’s chief rabbi. Liam Hoare writes:

Around 40,000 Jews lived in Romania in 1978, and at that time the community owned 120 operating synagogues, 61 of which had daily morning and evening services. There were Talmud Torah classes and community choirs, kosher restaurants, Jewish cemeteries, magazines in Hebrew and Yiddish, a [communal] seder on Passover, festivities for Hanukkah, Purim, and Sukkot, and a Jewish museum in Bucharest. . . .

Romania was the only eastern-bloc state to maintain relations with Israel after the Six-Day War. . . . Romanian Jews were also allowed to make aliyah, although . . . Ceaușescu turned Jewish emigration into a profit-making venture. . . . It is thought that Israel paid the regime $112,498,800 between 1968 and 1989 for 40,577 Jews, at a price of $2,500-$3,300 a head, at a rate of around 1,500 Jews per annum.

All of this—the survival of Jewish life, the contribution of the JDC, and the continuation of aliyah—was made possible, in no small part, due to the work of Rabbi Moses Rosen. It was Rosen who acted as a conduit between Romania and the United States to help secure the return of the JDC, in turn developing a system of social assistance within the community, and between Romania and Israel to set up the cash-for-olim system that thinned the ranks of Romanian Jewry so dramatically.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy

More about: Aliyah, Communism, East European Jewry, History & Ideas, Romania

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security