The Last Village of the Mountain Jews

Dec. 27 2018

Located not far from the capital city of Baku in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, the town of Qirmizi has somewhere between two and three thousand residents—all of whom are Jews. Once there were more such towns in Transcaucasia, populated by the Mountain Jews, who have distinct traditions and their own language, known as Judeo-Tat or Juhuru, that is closely related to Persian but draws heavily on Hebrew. Yoav Keren describes his recent visit there:

Three bridges separate Qirmizi [from the nearby Gentile town] Quba. One of them, which is closed to vehicles, is known as “the love bridge.” . . . This is where single Jewish men and women come to meet a match. “Girls walk the bridge with their mothers,” [our tour guide] explains, “while the guys look on from the banks. If a guy sees a girl he likes, his parents will approach her parents and ask for her hand.” . . . Around the corner from the bridge is the city’s wedding venue—a pillared hall that houses weddings, bar mitzvahs, and circumcisions. There’s a huge photo of the Western Wall inside. . . .

Azerbaijan is a Shiite Muslim country, and Azeris also make up 25 percent of the population of nearby Iran. But the people [of Azerbaijan] love Israel, and not only because it buys their oil and sells them weapons (including the Iron Dome missile-defense systems, which are lined up along the Azeri border with Armenia). The local Jews are respected and treated with tolerance. In central Baku, Jews wearing kippot walk around undisturbed—not something you would see in Paris or other European cities nowadays.

During Soviet times, there were eleven synagogues in Qirmizi, but they weren’t in use—Communism was the only religion. . . . Today there are only two synagogues left in in the town, but they are both active.

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Read more at Ynet

More about: Azerbaijan, Jewish marriage, Jewish World, Mountain Jews, Soviet Jewry

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy