Reading the Megillah in the Ruins of a Ukrainian Synagogue

March 18 2022

The city of Lviv in northwestern Ukraine—formerly known as Lwów, Lemberg, or, to Jews, Lemberik—was once the regional capital of eastern Galicia and a major center of Jewish life. Built in 1582 by an Italian Christian architect, its elegant Golden Rose (Turei Zahav) synagogue was desecrated and partially destroyed by the Nazis, and then repurposed as a warehouse by the Soviets. But it was used once again Wednesday evening, on the holiday of Purim, to read the scroll of Esther. Carrie Keller-Lynn writes:

Meylakh Sheykhet, the lay leader of the Turei Zehav community, opened a heavy wooden door and beckoned me inside. He was rushing, because although the book of Esther—or megillah—should be read at sundown, his community moved its reading to the late afternoon, “because everyone wants to get home before curfew” at 10 p.m., he said.

The few congregants’ current sanctuary is the former entryway of the synagogue, to which they affixed a wall to create a sealed space. It’s now stuffed with prayer books and Judaica, as well as mattresses and boxes of clothing donated for Ukrainian refugees, about a dozen of whom sleep in the prayer space every evening.

On Wednesday evening, his community boasted five members, who were guarded by two security staff. “We’re here all the time,” one said. Turei Zahav has taken its hits as much from assimilation and immigration to Israel as it has from COVID-19 and, now, the war. Before the pandemic, Turei Zehav boasted “four minyans a day,” said Sheykhet, referring to a Jewish prayer quorum of ten people. Now, it can’t fill one.

After the megillah reading ended, Turei Zahav reconfigured its sanctuary into a refugee shelter for the night, ending the story about redemption from the brink of annihilation, while praying for Ukraine’s own.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Purim, Synagogues, Ukrainian Jews, 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