The Jews of Nairobi and the Religious Roots of Kenya-Israel Relations

Sept. 12 2022

In 1905, the Seventh Zionist Congress fiercely debated—and eventually rejected—an offer by the British government to create a Jewish homeland in its East Africa colony. Although this offer is remembered by posterity as the Uganda plan, the territory in question was in fact located in what is now Kenya. Jews had by that time already come to Nairobi, today the Kenyan capital, to do business, and in 1912 they established the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation. In recent years, Kenyan converts to Judaism have helped to revive the community, which now numbers about 600. Robert Carle writes:

For most Kenyans, Pentecostal and evangelical Christianity leads to a more direct engagement with Jews and Judaism. Israel’s new ambassador to Kenya, Michael Lotem, sees religious ties as central to the success of Israeli-Kenyan relations. “Religiously, Kenyans are attached to Israel,” he said. “Israel is the holy land, and they feel close to Israelis.” One of Ambassador Lotem’s goals is to increase religious exchanges between Israel and Kenya.

Kenyans’ religious engagement with Judaism often leads to political support for the state of Israel. President Daniel arap Moi established diplomatic relations with the state in 1988, and every Kenyan president since has maintained friendly bilateral relationships with Israel. Kenya’s current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, visited Israel in February 2016, and in July 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Kenya to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Operation Entebbe. In 1976, the Israeli Defense Forces, with the support of the Kenyan government, rescued 102 hostages who were being held captive in Entebbe, Uganda. Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan Netanyahu, died in the Entebbe raid.

Moi’s tribe, the Kalenjin, have dietary rules and rites of passage that mirror some of the laws in the Hebrew Bible. The Kalenjin, for example, don’t mix meat and milk. At times, Moi speculated that the Kalenjin might be one of the lost tribes of Israel.

Read more at Religion Unplugged

More about: African Jewry, Benjamin Netanyahu, Conversion, History of Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Jewish-Christian relations


Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada