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.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

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

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy