Preserving Syria’s Jobar Synagogue through Photographs

Damaged by mortar fire in 2013, and subsequently looted, the ancient synagogue in the Damascus suburb of Jobar may not have much of a future. Photographs exist, however, from 2009 and 2010 and—thanks to the Diarna project—these photographs are being preserved online along with pictures of many other synagogues, destroyed or in danger, throughout the Middle East. Rose Kaplan writes (slideshow included):

According to [local tradition], the synagogue is said to mark the location where Elijah anointed his disciple Elisha, although historical data suggest that multiple structures have existed there since antiquity. The Romanian Jewish traveler and historian Israël Joseph Benjamin visited the site in the mid-19th century and wrote that the original structure had been destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus; [he also noted the existence of] a second synagogue, supposedly rebuilt in the 1st century by Rabbi Eleazar ben Arakh and destroyed in the 16th century. . . .

Damascus Jews continued praying at the synagogue through the 1950s, making the long trek to Jobar for Shabbat prayers or for the Jewish holidays, or as a sort of pilgrimage. Many Jews had left Syria after the Holocaust, and again after the establishment of the state of Israel, and regular usage of the synagogue dwindled. However, it remained under the control of the Syrian Jewish community—Jews from Damascus installed caretakers in the synagogue to maintain the space, look after its Torah scrolls, show it to visitors, etc.

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Read more at Tablet

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

 

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