Dec 24, 2009

peaceful co-existence modeled after Syria

This past weeks Mishpacha magazine (Hebrew edition) had a fascinating article on the remaining Jews still living in Syria. Truly fascinating about how they live, their relations with the government, how they keep yiddishkeit, life in the Jewish ghetto, how people get them Judaic necessities such as kosher meat, lulav and esrog, etc.

The main source of the article was the head of the community, a man who had been appointed by the government. A fellow named Albert Kamao.

One thing he said I found startling. He was asked his opinion on the peace process between Syria and Israel, and whether Israel should give the Golan Heights to the Syrians.

Albert Kamao's response was, "the only benefit of war is attaining land, nothing more. You cannot bring all the fallen soldiers back to life, from both sides of the war. We must search out all ways possible to come to a peace agreement. It is possible to live in Eretz Yisrael [peacefully] with the Arabs precisely the way we live with them here in Syria." (my bold, for emphasis)

I found that one statement startling. Here is a fascinating article, mostly na interview with Kamao, in which a once-thriving community is depicted as nearly non-existent. they are down to about 80-100 people in the community - in all of Syria, as this is the last remaining jewish community in the country. they live in a ghetto, are mostly not allowed to get educated and have professions unless an exception is made and they are given specific permission, they hardly have access to Jewish necessities and any access they do have is due to the efforts of people from outside their community. Basically their jewish existence in Syria has been a failure over the past 70 years.

Sure, they are no longer persecuted by the government, for the most part, but one could hardly call their existence a successful experience of co-existence. So for him to use that reality as an example of how everyone should be able to co-exist - I think I will take a pass. I prefer Jewish life in Israel continue to thrive, rather than dwindle.


  1. Rafi,

    I think what he is saying is probably reminiscent of what any somewhat oppressed people say when they are talking to the outside world. What choice does he have? Can he say, "Yeah our co-existence stinks, you guys have it much better out there, oh, and while we're at it, I think the Isrealis should keep all of the Golan".

    I think he would be lucky to get away with just losing his position after a statement like that.

  2. he was appointed to the position by the government, and the article made it clear that everything he says and does is government approved and dictated. His opinion is meaningless, in general, as he is simply a mouthpiece for the government.

    but he did try to portray an image of a beautiful peaceful life. And probably they do not have too many problems on a daily basis. the locals probably ignore them mostly nowadays.

    It was just strange that after the whole description of how the hardly have a Jewish existence, though they are all traditional, suddenly he uses that as the model. As if he is ignoring everything he said until then.

    Truth is, the one doesnt have to have anythign to do with the other. Maybe in his mind it does not. There is the jewish life, and that is failing in Syria, and there is their peaceful existence with their Arab neighbors, and that is ok.
    but when looked at together, the jewish life might be failing for the same reason they exist peacefully. There is no reason to oppress them, as they will all soon die out or fade away.

  3. It's always interesting who they ask these types of questions. With all due credit for his maintaining the near-extinct community there, how does that make him an expert on Israeli foreign relations?

    Remember that old commercial for Vicks cough syrup, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV.." as though that makes him qualified to recommend medications? What makes Bono from U2, Barbra Streisand or any other actor or singer any more qualified than you and me to make political statements? But the papers quote these people as authorities. Why don't they quote the opinion made by my washing machine repairman?

    Always remember to consider the source from where information is coming from.

  4. sounds like a bad case of stockhom syndrome. Why don't they just leave, these 100 pple?

  5. Why don't you consider that he is in fact giving the message that peaceful co-existence is not possible, he is simply trying to get under the radar of the Syrian government.

  6. interesting suggestions. thanks. I had not thought of that possibility


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