Preparing for Passover in Venezuela

April 19 2019

Despite economic crisis, a tyrannical regime allied closely with Iran, and growing unrest, some 6,000 Jews remain in Caracas, some holding out hope that President Nicolas Maduro will be toppled. Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, having spent a few weeks in the country, reports on the Jewish community there:

Kidnappings are one of the few profitable businesses here in Venezuela. . . . Members of the Jewish community, who are generally assumed to be wealthy, are popular targets. Some of the remaining Jews here are, in fact, better off financially than the general population, but, wealthy or not, they are a vulnerable minority living in a tumultuous failed state. . . .

Life [for Venezuelan Jews] is lived behind barriers, and Hebraica, [Caracas’s Jewish community] center, does not even allow my bodyguard—every journalist here must have one—and driver inside. I am shocked by how vast it is, a city inside a city, with schools, a bank, tennis courts, and restaurants. The Jewish community truly lives here: I see men in kippot having coffee and a game of backgammon as kindergarteners play wildly on the monkey bars. . . .

Although the diplomatic relationship between the state of Israel and the government of Venezuela is in shambles, identification with Israel is a large part of Jewish identity here. There are Israeli flags everywhere in Hebraica. Most of the children go on at least one communally subsidized trip to Israel while they’re at school, and many speak Hebrew as a result of the schools’ ambitious curriculum. There’s a mix of the religious and secular in the education here at Hebraica, as well as in the community. . . .

Venezuela’s Independence Day coincides with the first Passover seder this year. As all Venezuelans wonder what this Independence Day will bring, some of them will also be thinking about whether there will be enough matzah and kosher wine, and under what circumstances they will celebrate the festival of freedom.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Latin America, Passover, Venezuela

 

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