Russia Is Helping to Restore Syria’s Synagogues Demolished by the US/Israel-Backed FSA
Russia Is Helping to Restore Syria’s Synagogues Demolished by the US/Israel-Backed FSA by Zvi Bar’el for Check Point Asia
Putin reveals Russia is helping out the Syrian Jews
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin parted with an important secret. At a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban in Budapest, he said that Russia maintains a close relationship with Syria’s Jewish community, and is even helping to restore its synagogues.
Putin did not go into detail regarding the identity of the community members receiving assistance, how much money the Russian government is contributing, or what synagogues they are actually restoring. He also did not mention whether the Israeli government is involved.
But if Russia is indeed offering assistance, it is probably doing so in coordination with its close Syrian government ally. And it would not be the first time Russia has facilitated some kind of cooperation between the Syrian government and Israel in the last few years. In April 2019, it returned the remains of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel, who had been declared missing after the battle of Sultan Yacoub in Syria in 1982. In 2016, Russia also returned a tank that took part in that battle and had been seized by Syrian forces.
The number of Jews remaining in Syria is unknown since the last wave of emigration in 1994, launched after Syrian President Hafez Assad’s decision to allow Jews to leave his country following the Madrid peace conference. According to Syrian law, population censuses do not report on ethnic segmentation, and it is not permitted to report on the condition of various ethnic groups, in an attempt to prevent civil tensions.
Some of the Jews of Damascus, that numbered around 1,200 in 2013, moved to the city of Baniyas in the Tartous district [Tartous is on the Alawite/Christian coast and is a bedrock of government support.] after the Great Synagogue in the Jobar quarter was destroyed that year, apparently by the Free Syrian Army. Some also moved to the city of Qamishli in northern Syria [Qamishli is controlled by the Kurdish YPG — meaning no Jews relocated to rebel areas, which is understandable seeing they are Sunni sectarians, and whom the Jews were fleeing in the first place.], where a market established by the Ezra and Nahum families in the 1920s still exists – although most its stalls were sold to Kurds after Jews emigrated.