Baku, January 18, AZERTAC
Algemeiner newspaper has published an article by Rabbi Barouk headlined "Azerbaijan: A Muslim nation against anti-Semitism". “As 2015 came to a close, I found myself in Baku, Azerbaijan, because I wanted to better understand and appreciate the country's friendship with Israel and the United States,” says Barouk in his article. "Thinking about food for Shabbat, I ventured out for a walk and found an indoor farm-to-table grocery store on one of the quaint and quiet residential streets in a notably religious-Muslim neighborhood of the city — in a metropolis and a country boasting a 95% Muslim majority population. Like any other day, I was dressed in clothing that obviously identified me as a Jew.
I suppose it might take first-hand experience to appreciate the intense contrast; how in that specific district of Baku, concern for my security never came to mind. The anxiety I felt in Jerusalem only the week prior, a practical fear over what is happening on the streets of Israel nearly every day, was totally and noticeably absent. Many strangers smiled, and a few even said Shalom to me.”
“Baku is the capital of a rare, promising nation, known as the global champion of healthy cultural and religious diversity, for which it is celebrated by its citizens of many faiths. Some in the media suggest that Azerbaijan is only so tolerant because it is secular. However this is a shallow interpretation of something very deep and actually very old. in The success of multi faith tolerance Azerbaijan is not due to an absence of religion. Religious life in Azerbaijan is vibrant and visible, with proud congregations and enviable buildings for every religion and faith. Ironically, it's easy to understand how this majority Muslim, moderately traditional, family-oriented society connects so well with Jewish and Christian neighbors. The permeating values of faith, respect, and kindness surpass any boundaries between the various faiths, and promote inclusivity and mutual appreciation,” the article says.
“Like any diverse Jewish community in the United States, the 30,000 Jews of Azerbaijan are uniquely cloistered and represented; Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Hasidic, with the addition of the Azerbaijani-based Mountain Jews — a 2,000 year-old community. All share the normal angsts: hopes to expand, reach more people, and keep the youth engaged with their Judaism into adulthood. The Jews of Azerbaijan appreciate that they live in this country, protected and respected, unlike most nations today, with very active, anti-Jewish voices and movements.”
“The Republic of Azerbaijan may be rich in allies, oil, and history, but its greatest natural resource is the national value of acceptance and respect; tangible principles capable of immunizing entire nations against intolerance and hatred.”
“If many more communities and leaders were to study and visit Azerbaijan, and see what I have seen, it's impressive to imagine how fast the belief and inspirational force for interreligious unity would take hold, popularizing a peace that can be examined, championed, and defended.
As many in Azerbaijan would say to this dream: Insha'Allah–God willing."