rabbi pinto eli yishai 311.
(photo credit: Ilan Cirota)
With highly improbable timing, even as it guns down its own people while
attempting to retain power, the Syrian government has invited an Israeli rabbi
to visit the country where many of his forefathers are buried, and to pray at
their Damascus gravesites.
Over the course of Mimouna celebrations at
Moshav Gimzo, between Lod and Modi’in, last week, Jack Avital, the visiting head
of the Brooklyn-based Sephardic National Alliance, told Rabbi Yeoshiau Pinto
that the Syrian ambassador to the US, Imad Moustapha, had asked him to invite
the rabbi to Syria.
One of Pinto’s forefathers, after whom he was named,
was the rabbi of the Jewish community of Damascus in the first half of the 17th
Avital, one of the leaders of the Syrian-Jewish community of
North America, has maintained good relations with President Bashar Assad and
with Syrian officials in the US, and even headed small delegations of American
Jews to Syriafor official visits in 2004 and 2006. A year ago, Avital told Pinto of his
visits to Syria and suggested the rabbi visit there as well.
Avital to explore the possibility. An opportunity to do so arose at the wedding
of Avidat’s daughter four months ago, attended by both Moustapha and the Syrian
ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, following which Avital spoke with the two
They extended an official invitation to Pinto and ensured that
he would have all the necessary security arrangements in place. Preliminary
preparations began, including bringing glattkosher food from Turkey for the
rabbi’s tentative visit to Syria.
Last week, Pinto asked Avital about the
condition of the very small Jewish community in Syria. Avital replied that not
only was it doing well, but it backs Assad, and believes that he is the best
possible leader for them. Avital, who shares that sentiment, also told Pinto
that the earlier invitation to visit Syria was still on.
Pinto’s Mimouna celebration that night at Moshav Gimzo were also the high
concentration of cabinet ministers, other politicians, senior officers,
businessmen and media people, which by now has become the norm in events related
to the rabbi, who has drawn around him a powerful court of influential people
seeking his proximity and advice in Israel and the US, between which he divides
The Syrian Embassy in Washington did not respond to The
’s queries on the planned visit. A spokesman for Pinto said that
the rabbi would take the trip – along with Avital – once the situation in Syria