Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The last three Jews of Qamishli, Syria

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Sasha Troy meets the last three Jews living in the Syrian town of Qamishli, 800 meters from the Turkish border. (With thanks:Lily)

"As we finish the rest of the grilled fish and order our sweet tea, I am invited to the Pinchases' home for Shabbat - my first Shabbat in Syria with Jews, in fact.

In Jerusalem, Jews are used to the Friday afternoon air siren that announces the arrival of Shabbat. In Qamishli, as in the rest of Syria, the muezzin (Muslim prayer caller) announces the maghreb prayer at sunset. For the Pinchas family, the muezzin's "Allahu Akbar" at sunset indicates the start of Shabbat.

"Musa lives with his parents, David and Simcha, in a rather large apartment. During a brief tour of the house, he shows me the spot on the wall of the living room commemorating Jerusalem, and a metal wall hanging with the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew in the dining room.

Then, as my eyes turn from the words in Hebrew to the adjacent wall, my jaw drops. There hangs a large, framed picture of the dictator with the caption, "General Hafez Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic."

"Isn't that a little strange, to have the Ten Commandments and Hafez Assad on display in the same room?" I ask Musa.

"Why should it be?" he replies. "In the United States, synagogues have the American flag on one side and the Israeli flag on the other. This is the same thing."

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