The Pope, the Abraham Accords, and the Hope for a More Tolerant Middle East

March 10 2021

On Monday, Pope Francis completed his four-day visit to Iraq, the first ever such papal visit. There he met with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the religious leader of the country’s Shiites, in the holy city of Najaf; visited Mosul, a city formerly occupied by Islamic State and home to a large Christian population; and also made a stop in Ur, the birthplace, according to the book of Genesis, of Abraham. Fiamma Nirenstein comments:

Although he repeated Abraham’s name during his visit, the pope didn’t mention the fact that Jews have also been persecuted by Muslims in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the peaceful tectonic upheaval that brought the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco to accept Israel and the Jewish people as indigenous to the region is still a train in motion. And it is producing results close to [Francis’s] description of Abraham as one who “knew how to hope against all hope,” and who laid the groundwork for “the human family.”

It’s a pity that the Iraqi government ignored the country’s Jews in this context, against Vatican hopes, by not inviting a Jewish delegation to the event. It was a dismissal of Jewish history and expulsion from Muslim countries, along with their synagogues and traditions, by the hundreds of thousands.

During his interreligious prayer for peace in Ur, the Pope thanked the Lord for having given Abraham to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, together with other believers. . . . Now, with the solidification of the Abraham Accords, the three religions have the opportunity to march together against the fierce opponents of peace, ranging from Islamic State to al-Qaeda, from Hamas to Hizballah, and to all the states that support them, first and foremost Iran.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Abraham Accords, Iraqi Jewry, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle East Christianity, Pope Francis, Tolerance

 

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism