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Cultural center Aziz promotes Azerbaijani-Israeli relations

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Preparing shekerbura and paxlava in celebration of Novruz. (Screencap: @IsraelinAZ)

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Last week, the Economic Peace Center together with Aziz, an Azerbaijani cultural center, the Women’s Only Israeli Dance Group of Rali Abman, and the Caucuses Dance Group of Ziva Amarov held a women’s only Novruz celebration at Beth Israel Congregation, a conservative shul in Netanya, Israel. 

At the celebration, both the Azerbaijani and Israeli flags were proudly displayed, as was a traditional Novruz table, complete with semini and Azerbaijani pastries. 

Fresh fruit, nuts, dried fruits, rice, stuffed grape leaves, Azerbaijani and Israeli wine, beer, and other Middle Eastern foods and sweets, which were served to the ladies. Magazines on Azerbaijan were also distributed to the group. There was also a display of Azerbaijani folk dancing complete with traditional Azerbaijani dress and Israeli folk dancing as well.

At the event, I gave a talk, where I explained the basis of Novruz to the Israeli audience, explaining that it is the Azerbaijani New Year, celebrated at the end of the winter and the beginning of spring.  The holiday originated in Urmiya in Iranian Azerbaijan and dates back to 505 BCE. 

Residents of Azerbaijan prepare for Novruz (“New Day”) a month before the holiday. They plant trees, clean their homes, paint eggs and prepare special clothes. Every Tuesday before Novruz they celebrate a different element: water, fire, earth and wind, and light bonfires. 

On the last Tuesday before Novruz, they jumped over the bonfires seven times.  In the end, the children take the ashes far away from the home in order to rid themselves of bad luck.  It is also traditional to jump over water in order to wash away the sins of the past year.  On the day before Novruz, people visit the graves of their relatives and then they eat a traditional meal.  After that, there is a traditional meal. On the day of Novruz, people visit their families, give gifts to children, children play with painted eggs and there are also many performances, singing and dancing

I also detailed for the audience the many similarities between Novruz and Jewish holiday traditions.  

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Ziva Amorov introduced herself to the gathering. She is from the Northern Caucasus and made Aliyah to Israel when she was three years old. 

“The traditions we kept alive at home, with the music and the dancing –  the culture will always be with us. To my sorrow, the language is not.  We always speak Russian or Hebrew at home. But whenever we can, we keep the culture and the traditions. I think that it is very important.”

Amarov is an instructor of Caucasus dancing and taught the assembled two of them. 

Later on, Yana Salman, the head of Aziz, explained, “My organization includes members of the Azerbaijani Diaspora in Israel that works to promote Azerbaijani-Israeli relations. The word Aziz has a meaning in Azeri and it means dear. Our organization was founded in 2007. This means in April, we will have our 15th anniversary.  All of these years, we have done publications on Azerbaijan in Israel because in truth in Israel, they don’t know much about Azerbaijan. We have done a lot of work so that Israelis will learn about the culture of Azerbaijan, the history of Azerbaijan and the geopolitics of Azerbaijan, what happened in the past and what is going on now. We also show the beauty of Azerbaijan, so that people will want to travel there from Israel”

An important component of that work is the five sister city agreements between Azerbaijan and Israel. Among them, Afula is a sister city of Mingachevir;  Kiryat Bialik is paired with Ismayila; and Tirat Carmel is a sister city of Shanakhi.

Some of the ladies walked up to me afterwards, stressing that they did not know that many Novruz traditions were similar to Jewish traditions. This represents the typical Israeli reaction to anything connected to Azerbaijan. They are not hostile, but many are clueless.  However, Salman is working hard to change that.  

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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