Peace between Morocco and Israel Has Aided in the Preservation of Ancient Documents

In 2020—in the wake of the Abraham Accords—Jerusalem and Rabat agreed to normalize diplomatic relations. Besides the various economic and strategic benefits, the move has also helped efforts to study the remains of Jewish life in two oasis villages in southern Morocco. Melanie Lidman explains:

Deep in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco’s Sahara Desert, an abandoned mudbrick synagogue was in the process of slowly crumbling, its roof caving and columns teetering, when, in 2020, it was rediscovered by a group of Israeli and Moroccan researchers. Antiquities thieves had already ransacked the former house of prayer, searching for anything of value and scattering sacred Jewish texts that had been buried in the genizah, a repository for old or unusable holy texts.

To salvage and study what remained, the group of researchers started the process of obtaining permits to start an archaeological dig at the synagogue. The Israeli researchers—as usual—played down affiliations with their home universities. But in December of 2020, Israel and Morocco normalized relations as part of the Abraham Accords. This was a boon for Israeli researchers who, having worked in Morocco in an unofficial capacity for years, could now formalize their academic relationships and pursue joint research projects—such as excavating and preserving the synagogue.

The genizahs [found in this synagogue and in that of another nearby village] have led to a number of interesting discoveries, including that both villages were likely workshops for writing all sorts of magical, kabbalistic charms to protect women in childbirth, children, or elderly people. Other documents included letters from rabbis to various communities dating from the 17th and 18th centuries until the 1950s, and legal land documents between Jews and their Muslim neighbors.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Abraham Accords, Archaeology, Moroccan Jewry, Morocco, Synagogues


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security