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


To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy