The two met at the conclusion of a special panel held by the Conference as part of the Munich Security Conference program, which discussed the potential of the intercultural role in the successful implementation of the Abraham Accords. Rabbi Goldschmidt to President Aliyev: “Your leadership with respect to the Jewish community and Israel is an example to the countries of the world, and we intend to make a return visit to your country.”
“The ancient Jewish community residing in the Quba district of Azerbaijan is a source of inspiration for all. The Azeri government has consistently supported the community and we foster and empower the community just like other communities in the country, taking all the right steps to improve their quality of life.” These are the words spoken by President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan to the chief rabbi and president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.
The president emphasized that “this approach is like a strategic partnership and the various spheres of successful friendship between Azerbaijan and Israel has been our way of life for thousands of years. We are amazed when we look at the long history of the Jewish community in Azerbaijan and consider it a paramount duty to take care of their freedom to practice their faith in a supportive environment of brotherhood and mutual understanding.” President Aliyev also raised the fact that through all the years, the Azeri government has ensured the proper functioning of synagogues in the country. He expressed his confidence that the opening of the Azeri embassy in Israel would promote and advance these relations.
President Aliyev met with Rabbi Goldschmidt at the conclusion of a special panel initiated by the conference as part of the Munich Security Conference program, which discussed the future potential of the Israel-Arab rapprochement and the intercultural role in the successful implementation of the Abraham Accords.
Rabbi Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference, told President Aliyev that he has pleasant recollections of his visit to Azerbaijan in 1997, and of his meeting with him. “Our meeting left me with a profound impression for a long time thereafter. Likewise the powerful visit to the Quba district and the 13 synagogues, and we intend to return for a visit with rabbis from Europe.” Rabbi Goldschmidt thanked President Aliyev for the extensive development of relations between Azerbaijan and Israel and emphasized the unique contribution of former Azeri Jews residing in other countries.
Rabbi Goldschmidt also thanked the president for the his warm attitude that “spreads to all government institutions of the country,” resulting in a strong foundation, favourable conditions, and full attention for the Jews of Azerbaijan. Rabbi Goldschmidt praised the conditions created for the Azeri Jews and said that Azerbaijan sets an example for other nations.
“A short while ago I participated in a special panel initiated by the Conference of European Rabbis as part of the discussions at the Security Conference here in Munich. All the speakers, among them Israel’s Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant, and ministers and senior officials from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and other countries, all agreed that the great changes occurring in the Middle East, unbelievable changes, which are not only external or between different countries or faiths, but internal changes of those same countries, have transformed the Middle East.” Rabbi Goldschmidt continued by saying that “the Abraham Accords are such an important process, yet unfortunately no one in the European Union or Germany knows about them. We need to create awareness and find ways to support the Accords in the European Union and Germany.”
The discussions at the Munich Security Conference took place within the framework of the Institute for Freedom of Faith & Security in Europe (IFFSE), which was established as part of a joint initiative of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) and the leaderships of additional countries. The purpose of the IFFSE is to bring together leading thinkers and policy makers in Europe to discuss ideas to combat religious extremism and terror and to strengthen social coherence, security, and tolerance in Europe. In addition, they engage in facilitating moderate religious practice and preserving religious freedom, recruiting religious leaders to fulfill an active role in improving the security of their communities, and preventing the abuse of religion, as well as partnering with governments, civil society, and the private sector to combat hate crimes, extremism, radicalization, and terror.
The president’s entourage said that the mutual appreciation between Azerbaijan and the Jews is not only based on the common history of friendship between the two nations, which has lasted for hundreds of years, but on an unprecedented partnership between Baku and Jerusalem.
“This partnership has overcome several tests which European leaders can learn from. Azerbaijan has supplied approximately 40% of Israel’s gas and oil consumption for 30 years already, despite pressure exerted on them by Muslim states. This goes to show that Europe can trust the word and standing of President Aliyev and learn from him. Let us not forget that he also stands together with Israel against Iran, who is a threat to both countries, and that the bloodthirsty regime calls him ‘Rabbi Ilham Alef’ - Agent of Israel.”
The entourage also stated that the friendship between the rabbis of Europe and President Aliyev and his government was reflected about a month ago at the assembly for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which took place at the European Commission in Strasbourg. As recalled, the chairman of the German rabbinate, vice president of the Conference of European Rabbis, and chief rabbi of Frankfurt, Rabbi Avichai Apel, told attendees that on the previous Hannukah festival, the Azeri embassy hosted the Conference of French Rabbis. This is the country, positioned on the border with Iran, that has warmly received the Jews and embraced them for hundreds of years, and maintained brotherly relations between its Azeri and Jewish citizens; a nation where anti-Semitism is non-existent among its citizens.
In the context of Azerbaijan setting an example to other countries, Rabbi Apel recalled regretfully that this particular Muslim country that had opened its heart to the Jews and an embassy in Israel, does not receive proper backing from countries in the EU. On the contrary, most astoundingly, the French Senate has called to impose an embargo on the purchase of gas and oil from this significant country, a country that takes a security-and morally conscious position, as it guards the borders of Europe. Why?” asked the rabbi.
This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel