In Damascus, a Sole Synagogue Survives

March 2 2016

Once home to a thriving and ancient Jewish community, Syria now has but a handful of Jews, who have fared poorly during the ongoing civil war. Nonetheless, the Elfrange synagogue in Damascus refuses to close its doors. (Video, six minutes.)

Elfrange is the only one of Damascus’ seventeen synagogues that has not been shut down and robbed. It serves a membership of sixteen men, ages sixty to ninety.

Since the 1990s only a few dozen Jews have remained in Syria, according to Avraham Hamra, who in 1993 left Damascus, where he served as chief rabbi, and now lives in Holon, near Tel Aviv. As many as 4,000 Jews were still living in Damascus, Aleppo, and al-Qamishli until then-President Hafez al-Assad, on the eve of Passover 1992, permitted Syria’s Jews to emigrate, as long as they didn’t go to Israel.

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Read more at Jewish Press

More about: Jewish World, Mizrahi Jewry, Synagogues, Syrian civil war, Syrian Jewry

 

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism