Eurasian Dimension of Israel

Right after his visit to Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received a delegation of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem; leaders of the Eurasian Jewish Congress were also in the delegation.

It is unlikely that the Israeli prime minister invited Eurasian Jewish leaders to Jerusalem only to get acquainted with the “exotic” Jewish communities from Australia, India and Japan, which are members of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, together with organizations from the CIS. Eurasian Jewish Congress President Alexander Mashkevich is the leader of the Jewish community representing the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan and his deputies represent Russia and Ukraine. The Eurasian Jewish Congress is the largest and most essential part of the World Jewish Community.

The Mideast conflict has continued since the very day the state of Israel was founded. Its creation became a death penalty to the Arab world’s Jewish community. Over 600,000 of the 900,000 Jews living there in 1945 had to move to Israel.

The move wasn’t always voluntary; Jewish refugees sometimes had to cross the border secretly. In 1950, the Iraqi government deprived Jews citizenship and prohibited them from leaving the country, which was quite in the Adolph Hitler manner. Property belonging to the Jewish population was confiscated in Egypt; a similar policy aimed at expulsion of Jews from public life was carried out in Syria, Libya and Yemen. Even several Jewish massacres were noted, Arab Jews suffered as much as the Palestinian refugees.

Jews from Central Europe moved to Israel for the same reasons. The Vladislav Gomulka regime in Poland in 1956 carried out a mass campaign aimed at forcing remains of one of the world's largest Jewish communities from the country. Many of the Western European Jews moved to Israel simply because they couldn’t live any longer among the people who had silently watched them suffering during fascist occupation. Present-day realities have disproved the hopes of Europeans, Arabs and Jews for a better life in mono-ethnic national states.

The Mideast conflict seems to be never-ending. When local Jews have been expelled noone could be found in the Arab world who was able to understand Israelis and reach peace with them. With the still unsettled problems of Jewish communities, Europe once again faced another problem connected with the Arabs and Israel’s position in Western Europe can’t be explained by anyone: as compared with the Arab diaspora, the number of Jews is insignificant there.

This complex geopolitical equation has an unusual Eurasian solution. Europe doesn’t end at the Brest Fortress walls and the majority of Asian Muslims are non-Arabs.

Counties of the former Soviet Union are the only territory from the cultural point of view where Europeans and Muslims have been living together with Jewish communities for any length of time. Despite the mass emigration to Israel, Jewish diasporas of the CIS are the largest communities in Europe and in the East. The Jewish population living in the post-Soviet territories feel rather comfortable among other people. This can be said about the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. The republic was declared by the World Jewish Congress to be an example of peaceful coexistence between Jews and the Muslim majority of the republic. Eurasian Jewish Congress President Alexander Mashkevich is making a large effort toward the construction of synagogues in the cities and towns of Kazakhstan. Governmental officials and Muslim clergy come to the ceremonial openings of these synagogues. Recently, the Chief Rabbi of Israel Eliyahu Bakshi Doron paid an official visit to Kazakhstan.

All these facts are a unique phenomenon for a state in the Islamic world, which usually sympathizes with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel. Many Israelis who have roots in the East and Jewish communities on the whole hope the positive experience of Kazakhstan will be successfully applied in the Middle East. At least the World Jewish Congress hopes that it will be. The World Jewish Congress declared that activity of the Eurasian Jewish Congress is its priority program aimed at establishing Jewish-Islamic dialogue and cooperation.

The Eurasian mentality of Jewish people from the former Soviet Union is also apparent in Europe. Israel considers establishment of a dialogue with the people from Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, etc., as a natural way for establishing contacts with the people of Western Europe. Indeed, many Jews came to Israel from these republics to revive the Jewish state. The nightmare of the Holocaust severely beat, but didn’t crush Jews in Eastern Europe. The way they peacefully live together with other people is an example of how to reach mutual understanding with all Europeans. Nowadays, Israelis are grateful to the Eurasian Jewish Congress that it prevented closing of the Israeli Embassy in Belarus, where one of the national emblems is the inscription in Hebrew: “Proletarians of All Countries Unite!”

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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