Traces of Jewish Life in Sicily, 530 Years after the Expulsion

Jews first settled in Sicily no later than the 1st century CE. By the time they were expelled from the island by the Spanish monarchy—which ruled it at the time—their population had reached about 30,000. Dror Eydar, currently the Israeli ambassador to Italy, recounts what he learned on a recent visit to Sicily, which included a tour of Syracuse, historically the island’s second largest city:

After the expulsion of the Jews, the Syracuse [Jewish] cemetery was abandoned. In the following century, fortifications were constructed in the area of the small port and the sea flooded the tombs. It was only in the 1960s that they were found at the bottom of the port. Time and water had eroded the markings and little remained legible. We saw some of the tombs at the Bellomo Museum. I tried to decipher the ancient Hebrew carved on the stones and recall something of the Jewish names that lived here once and pay them respect.

We walked up the Road of the Jews, which has retained its Italian name, Via della Giudecca (the ghetto had yet to be invented and the Jews crowded together for social reasons) and we reached a hotel where there was a very moving find: . . . Jewish ritual baths (mikvehs) from the 9th century! The ritual baths were discovered by chance when the owner of the hotel, Amalia Daniele, wanted to restore it and discovered a vault that has been sealed off and filled up with dirt. It took more than 150 trucks to remove all the earth until at the bottom of a staircase (we went down dozens of stairs) five ritual baths that received their waters from the spring below were discovered.

A glass cabinet in the heart of the [government archives in the regional capital, Palermo], presents the protocols of the Sicilian Senate from 1492 with the decree to deport the Jews of the island, translated from Spanish to Sicilian. . . . The Jews managed to postpone the decree until January-February 1493, because of the difficulty in expelling them and the severe harm that their departure would cause the economy and society.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Italian Jewry, Jewish cemeteries, Mikveh, Spanish Expulsion

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy