Mourning the Last Jew of Khujand

While the term Bukhari is generally used to describe members of Central Asia’s long-established Jewish communities and their descendants, many come from other places than the historical Silk Road metropolis of Bukhara in modern-day Uzbekistan. One important center of Bukhari Jewry was once Khujand in Tajikistan, which at its height had a Jewish population of several thousand. On January 15, Khujand’s last Jewish resident, Jura Abaev, died at the age of eighty-three. Farangis Najibullah and Farzon Muhammadi write:

A retired factory worker, Abaev was also the last rabbi of Khujand’s only synagogue until it was closed in 2015 after having been empty since the 1990s. There were an estimated 15,000 Jews in Tajikistan in the late 1980s, but most of them left the Central Asian country after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Among those who left were Abaev’s five adult children and their families, his half-sister, and many friends and relatives.

Born into the Khujand family of a factory-worker father and a mother who was a theater actress, Abaev experienced many hardships as a child, including his parents’ divorce, deep poverty, and hunger during World War II.

Since 1967, Abaev had been the rabbi of Khujand’s synagogue, just a stone’s throw away from his house. His duties included conducting funerals, safekeeping the synagogue’s only copy of the Torah, and taking care of the house of worship. During the Soviet era, the religious practices of all faiths were under strict government control, while the organized practice of faith was almost nonexistent.

The first Jews are said to have settled in Khujand in the Middle Ages after coming to the city as merchants and tradesmen. The community, which shares a language and culture with the Tajiks, began to increase significantly in the 19th century when dozens of Jewish families moved to Khujand from the nearby city of Bukhara. . . . At its height in the 1940s, Tajikistan’s Jewish community was estimated to be around 30,000, with the majority of them living in Dushanbe and Khujand.

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Read more at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

More about: Bukharan Jews, Central Asian Jewry, Muslim-Jewish relations

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela