Is a Lebanese Jewish Revival Possible?

Lebanon once had a sizable and flourishing Jewish community. Unlike other Arab states, it did not immediately expel its Jewish population after 1948. But growing hostility toward Jews and Israel and sectarian conflict among Sunni, Shiites, and Christians led to a worsening situation. A community that in the 1950s counted over 12,000 members now has fewer than 200 families. Nonetheless, Lebanese Jews abroad, with the help of some wealthy Lebanese non-Jews, have restored Maghen Abraham, Beirut’s last remaining synagogue, which has been unused and in disrepair for the past 30 years. Its reopening is likely to be a mostly symbolic gesture.

It’s unrealistic to expect the opening of the synagogue to inspire a revival of the Jewish community to its former strength: “If at some point Israel and Lebanon establish relations, it is possible. But not until then,” [said one descendent of Lebanese Jewish émigrés]. Although there are four other synagogues scattered across Lebanon—in Bhamdoun, Deir al Qamar, Sidon, and Tripoli—all are derelict or have been closed for decades. There is little prospect that any will open anytime soon. Moreover, those in Lebanon’s existing Jewish community have become accustomed to keeping a low profile, often concealing their names and religion in order to avoid ostracism or hostility.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Lebanon, Mizrahi Jewry

The Diplomatic Goals of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Visit to the U.S.

Yesterday, the Israeli prime minister arrived in the U.S., and he plans to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, but it remains uncertain whether he will meet with President Biden. Nonetheless, Amit Yagur urges Benjamin Netanyahu to use the trip for ordinary as well as public diplomacy—“assuming,” Yagur writes, “there is someone to talk to in the politically turbulent U.S.” He argues that the first priority should be discussing how to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. But there are other issues to tackle as well:

From the American perspective, as long as Hamas is not the official ruler in the Gaza Strip, any solution agreed upon is good. For Israel, however, it is quite clear that if Hamas remains a legitimate power factor, even if it does not head the leadership in Gaza, sooner or later, Gaza will reach the Hizballah model in Lebanon. To clarify, this means that Hamas is the actual ruler of the Strip, and sooner or later, we will see a [return] of its military capabilities as well as its actual control over the population. . . .

The UN aid organization UNRWA . . . served as a platform for Hamas terrorist elements to establish, disguise, and use UN infrastructure for terrorism. This is beside the fact that UNRWA essentially perpetuates the conflict rather than helps resolve it. How do we remove the UN and UNRWA from the “day after” equation? Can the American aid organization USAID step into UNRWA’s shoes, and what assistance can the U.S. provide to Israel in re-freezing donor-country contributions to UNRWA?

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship