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

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


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University