Jewish Life Carries on in Eastern Ukraine

Feb. 24 2017

Reporting from the city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, not far from advancing Russian forces, Dovid Margolin describes the state of the local Jewish community, which lives with the constant sound of artillery fire in the background:

Just as the city continues to function, so, too, have Jewish communal activities continued, even strengthened. Mariupol’s Jewish preschool and day school haven’t skipped a day. . . . In the last few weeks, Mariupol has seen two circumcisions: one of a newborn boy [performed by the local rabbi]; and the other of a fifty-five-year-old man who over the last decade has become an active synagogue member after a life without participation in the Jewish community. The latter bris was performed by Rabbi Yaacov Gaissinovitch, formerly of separatist-occupied Donetsk, who today lives in Kiev and serves as the country’s leading mohel. . . .

Having been made cynical by the ongoing war of attrition, [Mariupol’s Jews] do not believe the background noise of heavy artillery will go away soon, much as they hope [it will]. . . . While the boom of rockets can be heard throughout the day, the main show . . . begins like clockwork at 4:45 pm.

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Read more at Chabad.org

More about: Jewish World, Ukraine, Ukrainian Jews, War in Ukraine

 

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy