The Race to Save Iraq’s Historic Synagogues

Following the depredations of Islamic State, there have been some attempts—by local Gentiles, Jewish organizations, and even the U.S. government—to preserve the physical heritage of Iraqi Jewry. Salam Faraj writes:

Baghdad’s Meir Tweig Synagogue, built in 1942, seems to have been frozen in time. Behind its padlocked doors, the benches are covered in white cloth to shield them from the sun. The walls of the sky-blue two-story columned interior are crumbling. The steps leading to a wooden cabinet holding the sacred Torah scrolls are coming apart. Flanked by marble plaques engraved with seven-branched candelabras and psalms, the cabinet shelters the scrolls written in hand calligraphy on gazelle leather.

A report published in 2020 listed Jewish heritage sites in Iraq and Syria, some dating back to the first millennium BCE. The study identified 118 synagogues, 48 schools, nine sanctuaries and three cemeteries among the Iraqi Jewish heritage sites. Most are now gone.

In Mosul, Iraq’s second city and a melting pot of diverse ethnic and religious communities, colorful paintings signal the ruins of the Sasson synagogue at a bend in an alley. The synagogue’s collapsed ceiling vault exposes arches and stone columns. But all around is rubble, scrap metal, and dumped garbage.

In January, the United States consulate in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish region, which did not experience the same level of internecine violence, announced $500,000 in funding to restore the small Ezekiel synagogue near Akre. . . . U.S. funds also helped restore the tomb of Nahum, one of Judaism’s minor prophets, along with financial support from Kurdistan and private donors.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Iraqi Jewry, Synagogues

 

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin