Singapore Gets a Jewish Museum

Dec. 22 2021

The island nation of Singapore is already home to southeast Asia’s oldest synagogue. Now it also has a Jewish museum, dedicated to the history of local Jewry. Clement Yong writes:

Located on the first floor of the synagogue’s neighbor, the Jacob Ballas Center, [the museum] covers the community’s history from the first Jews’ arrival in Singapore soon after it became a British colony in the early 1800s up to March of this year, when a twenty-year-old man was detained for planning a knife attack at the Maghain Aboth Synagogue.

The narrative it tells pauses at several key Jewish figures in Singapore’s history. A panel is dedicated to David Marshall, who was chief minister of pre-independence Singapore from 1955 to 1956, and a room to Jacob Ballas, . . . chairman of the Malaysia and Singapore Stock Exchange from 1964 to 1967. Other notable names include the former Supreme Court judge Joseph Grimberg, pioneering surgeon Yahya Cohen, and Sir Manasseh Meyer, a prominent businessman.

There are write-ups about Jewish rites and festivals in the museum so those interested can be given a crash course in Jewish culture. . . . One interesting tradition cited is the pouring of water on the back of a person’s car as he departs for the airport for good luck. After a boy is circumcised, the mother and child must also be on the same floor of the house for 40 days, and the child taken out to cross seven bridges.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who months before had stood in front of the synagogue in solidarity with the Jewish community after a planned attack on those leaving the synagogue was foiled, was guest of honor at the [museum’s] launch. “If you look at the roads [with names like] Frankel Estate, Meyer Road, . . . Jews have made a tremendous contribution,” . . .  he told reporters. . . . He also paid tribute to the seven Israeli advisers who came to train Singapore’s first soldiers.

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Read more at Straits Times

More about: Jewish museums, Southeast Asia

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine