Monday, January 21, 2008

Syrian Jews turn out to greet author Marek Halter

In what is otherwise a puff-piece on behalf of the Syrian regime, the famous French Jewish author Marek Halter writes in Haaretz about meeeting Syrian Jews:

"The Syrians value their secular society. Even the Syrian Grand Mufti, Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, prides himself on his secularity. According to him, such a position implies respect for other religions. He invited me, a Polish Jew and French writer, to speak to the congregation during Friday prayers in one of the most famous mosques in the Muslim world, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. The reason for my invitation, according to him, was that I am what he calls a khakham, which, both in Arabic and Hebrew means an "erudite."

"A few hundred Jews still live in Syria. Almost eighty live in Damascus and own 20 synagogues in the city, but due to a lack of attendance, only one actually functions. There is one restriction, however: all relations with Israel are forbidden. Syria and Israel may as well be at war.

"I visited the community center with Michel Duclos, the French ambassador to Syria. When we got out of the car, the entire Jewish population of Damascus was there waiting to greet us, and applause broke out. Both Albert Cameo, the president of the Jewish community and I were deeply moved. It is rare for anyone to come and visit them."

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