Purim among Ukrainian Refugees in Vienna

March 31 2022

In response to the refugee crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine, Yeshiva University’s president, Ari Berman, travelled to Vienna to assist, along with a group of 28 Yeshiva students. He writes of the experience:

Two weeks ago, my two oldest sons and I walked past the balcony of the Hofberg Palace in Vienna. It was on that balcony on March 15, 1938, that Adolf Hitler announced the Austrian Anschluss [annexation] to Nazi Germany. I showed my sons the grainy black and white video of his speech as we stood there, chilled with disbelief. Moments later, we met with Wolfgang Sobotka, the president of the Austrian National Council, whose grandfather was a Nazi. Sobotka has forged his own path as a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism and as a champion of the Viennese Jewish community. Today, Sobotka and his country are sheltering 1,000-2,000 new Ukrainian refugees a day, including hundreds of Jews.

Virtually every Jew I know is a refugee or a descendant of refugees. And so, when we saw Ukrainians forced to pack their bags and flee their country, we knew it was time to pack our own bags and go where we were needed.

The Viennese Jewish community of 8,000 has already taken in 500 Jewish refugees from Ukraine and is expecting an additional 1,000 in the weeks ahead.

Our visit took place during the week of the Jewish holiday of Purim, a celebration of how Queen Esther saved her people from an attempt to rid the ancient Persian empire of its Jews. Purim is typically celebrated in costume, so when we traveled to Vienna, our students brought close to 500 Purim costumes and duffle bags full of toys and decorations. Mostly, they brought spirit; they danced and sang so that refugees, many of whom had only been in Vienna for a few days, could still experience the holiday in its fullness.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Austrian Jewry, Purim, Refugees, Vienna, War in Ukraine

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