Israel and Greek debt – Israel can aid Greece by helping preserve ancient Jewish history

Greece’s debt problem is so severe that, as of last year, they’re selling off historical state assets, including various beloved buildings.

April 20, 2015 21:32
3 minute read.

A man holding a Greek flag walks on central Syntagma square in Athens.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Greece’s debt problem is so severe that, as of last year, they’re selling off historical state assets, including various beloved buildings. The sales were planned originally to raise 50 billion euros by 2015; the plan was scaled back to €11b. by 2016. The money will be important to staunching Greek debt, which is about €350b. (and climbing rapidly). Israel might consider lending them a hand, by offering to buy something.

In the Aegean Sea, there are a pair of small Greek Islands just west of Mikonos named Delos and Rineia. Including some tiny satellite-islets, they have a total area of just 18 square kilometers, and a residential population of zero. What they do have is a number of ancient Greek buildings, including three pagan temples, an amphitheater – and what is believed to be the world’s oldest surviving synagogue.

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Dating from between 150 and 125 BCE, the Delos synagogue is surprisingly obscure, having been overshadowed, on the island, by temples of Apollo and Hera, and in the Jewish world by excavations in Israel. Nonetheless, as a synagogue which predates the destruction of the Second Temple by 200 years, it is invaluable. Israel should make Greece an offer.

And not just for the synagogue, but for all 18 of the two islands. Greece is already flirting with the idea of selling islands, and of course given its Hellenistic period, the Greek buildings would also be of great interest to Israel. So, I dare say, would owning territory in Europe.

Israel should try to buy them not from the Greek government as private buyers, but as one nation buying territory from another, in the style of the Louisiana purchase, or the British purchase of the Isle of Man in 1765.

Needless to say, it would be very expensive to pull off – however, given Greece’s circumstances, there isn’t any offer they could refuse to consider. Israel might need some outside sponsors to raise the necessary billions, but it wouldn’t be hard to find a few Jews of vision who would understand the gravity of Israeli sovereignty being extended to a couple of Greek islands.

Furthermore, Israel has to start seeing itself as the worldwide guarantor of Jewish history. The Palestinians built latrines using Jewish gravestones; they still dump trash on Joseph’s Tomb, and have tried several times to burn it down.

The Jordanians blew up the Hurva Synagogue, Egypt tried to destroy the mosaic in the Gaza Synagogue. Governments all over Europe have, at one time or another, eradicated Jewish buildings; Russia is holding its stockpile of Jewish books hostage. Now Syrian forces have destroyed the ancient Damascus Synagogue, and unless the IDF is prepared to intervene, Islamic State will destroy Dura-Europos.

Remember: there’s a reason the oldest surviving synagogue is on a tiny, uninhabited island.

The Delos synagogue isn’t in any imminent danger. But if Greece collapses – well, who knows. Greek anti-Semitism is virile; according to an ADL poll, 69 percent of Greeks are professed anti-Semites. And in the long run, nothing Jewish in Europe will escape the inevitable spray-painted swastikas.

But Israel can head that off. Next year in the Greek Islands.

The author is a columnist for National Review Online. He has written about geopolitics for publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard; he writes frequently for The Jerusalem Post.

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