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Jews in Ganja “now feel exactly like Israeli civilians in Sderot and Ashkelon when they are bombed by terrorists from Gaza”

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Ambassador George Deek laid flowers in honor of the memory of civilian victims of the attacks in Ganja (photo Israeli Embassy)

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In a recently held prayer session, Rabbi Ravin Shmuel proclaimed: “May G-d grant healing and health to all of the people of Azerbaijan.  May G-d bring peace to Azerbaijan and the State of Israel.  May G-d bring us peace with all our hearts.  May G-d listen to us and grant our wish.” Unfortunately, currently, peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia seems more distant than ever, after Barda has been attacked last week, killing 26 people and wounding 70. There are also reports that Armenia utilized cluster bombs against Barda, Azerbaijan.  

Around the same period of time, documentation has emerged of Armenia forcing children to join its armed forces and there are reports that they are resurrecting ASALA, which was an Armenian terrorist organization that wantonly targeted Turkish civilians and was known for its ties to Palestinian terror groups. According to the Azerbaijani government, a copy-cat group of ASALA has been fighting alongside Armenia and trying to imitate their terrorist tactics. 

These reports come after in recent days, Armenia has violated the cease-fire agreement, when Armenian forces fired along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border and the areas controlled by Azerbaijan along the front line. 

Hikmet Hajiyev, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani president, said Armenia was trying to “preserve the status quo based on occupation”, adding: “The Azerbaijani side is exercising restraint.” Indeed, Armenia’s recent actions make peace appear more and more like an unrealistic dream. As the great Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once said, “Peace is a duet, not a solo.  It cannot be made by one side alone.”    

The recent cease-fire violations came after earlier Armenia shelled the city of Ganja, which in recent days has suffered immensely and became Azerbaijan’s Sderot.  

Following these attacks, Azerbaijani Jewish activist Esther Halevi declared the following about life in Ganja: “An entire neighborhood has been wiped out by Armenian scud missiles.  There is a lot of grief and anger. These are civilians and Ganja is not part of the conflict zone. It is a large city with highways, cafes, bars, and restaurants. One man lost his entire family—wife and two children. Bodies had to be dug from under the rubble by the rescue crews.”

Halevi described the sense of unity – and fear – among the Azeri people. 

“The community is very resilient. Everyone is helping each other, Azerbaijanis from all over the world, both Jewish and Muslim.  People are trying to stay strong. However, everyone fears another attack, as Armenia bombs sleeping families in the middle of the night. It is senseless and heart-breaking. There are pregnant women who are worried for the health of their pregnancies, given the stress that they experience. The Jewish community is also living in a lot of fear, given that the Armenian government is targeting civilians at random.”

Seymur, a resident of Ganja, added: “This situation started on the 27th of September, but from October 4 till now, there have been a number of cities far from the front line that were attacked repeatedly. Our sleep has been interrupted.  Our work has been interrupted. There were many attacks to numerous places, and they have targeted also one of my friend’s home’s from the university. We had to help him clean up the debris that remained from his home.”

He explained the price is borne by all: “When the bombs fall, we are all under attack. We have heard the bombs that kill civilians including children. Residential areas and the bazaar were attacked in Ganja. Sadly, Ganja was not the only one. Other cities have suffered as well.  There are dozens of cities far from the frontlines that are getting attacked by missiles.”

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Historically, Azerbaijan is known to be a tolerant country.   Presently, 30,000 Jews live in Azerbaijan. According to an official statement put out by the Jewish community of Azerbaijan, “Azerbaijan is a country with rich historical, cultural and multicultural values.   Anyone who obeys the law, regardless of nationality or race, can live in peace and security in this country. We, the Jews of Azerbaijan, have been living here in peace and security for over 2,000 years.  We can state with full confidence that Azerbaijan is peaceful. Azerbaijan has synagogues, Jewish schools, and kindergartens. In our country, representatives of different peoples live in an atmosphere of friendship and solidarity. The state of Azerbaijan is hospitable to all its citizens, including various minority groups.”

However, despite how much Azerbaijan cherishes its Jewish community, Halevi noted that the entire Jewish community of Azerbaijan is suffering right now due to Armenia’s attacks.

“The world’s last all-Jewish town outside of Israel is in Azerbaijan.  There is an ancient community of Mountain Jews who live there, and the Azerbaijani government has done so much to protect them. There are many historic synagogues that they could lose if Armenia targets their communities. There are also many Jewish schools and a Museum of Mountain Jewish History, the only place all the heritage of the Mountain Jews is collected into one place. Bombing that area would be a cultural genocide for that community.”

Rabbi Zamir Isayev directs a Jewish school in Baku. In a recent video clip he explained how the Jewish community of Azerbaijan has suffered due to the recent conflict with Armenia.

Harkening back to 1994, he reminded that since then, “Armenia occupied 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory.  A lot of people died. About a million Azerbaijanis were expelled from their homes and became refugees. All the international organizations including the United Nations have all recognized that Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. But since September 27, Armenia has launched acts of aggression against Azerbaijan once again” he said, citing that “among the cities to be attacked is Ganja.”

Medical supplies from Israel were delivered to hospitals around Azerbaijan in October. The humanitarian aid continues. (Photo Israeli Embassy)

Rabbi Isayev is the representative of Vaad L’hatzolas Nidchei Yisroel – an American Jewish humanitarian organization in Azerbaijan. Now they have a pressing concern.

 “In Ganja, there is a Jewish community. There are about 1,000 Jews living there today. They now feel exactly like Israeli civilians feel in Sderot and Ashkelon when they are bombed by terrorists from Gaza. The Jews of Baku also fear for their lives because not too long ago, Armenia made a missile attack remarkably close to the Baku region.”

”In response to the shelling of Azerbaijani cities, Azerbaijan was forced to launch an offensive to finally secure its citizens and to liberate its lands from the occupation…  Azerbaijan does not aim to kill civilians or to capture foreign territories. It fights to liberate its own territory. ” Rabbi Isayev proclaimed. 

“We as the Jews of Azerbaijan call upon our brothers and sisters to support our community in Azerbaijan, your brothers and sisters who live here in peace and harmony with the Azerbaijani people.  Please use all of your influence to stand on the side of justice and support Azerbaijan.” 

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”   

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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