Washington, November 6, AZERTAC
Time magazine has published an article headlined “Azerbaijan Is an Oasis of Tolerance in the Middle East” by David Wolpe, the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
In the article, Wolpe shares his impressions about his trip to Azerbaijan: “This past Saturday morning, I shared a rare experience with 50 members of my congregation: We walked straight into a synagogue.”
“That may sound unremarkable, but anyone who has traveled the world knows that many synagogues are not so easily accessed. In many places, synagogues aren’t open 24 hours a day for anyone to enter. In my own synagogue in Los Angeles, there are guards and people to check trunks of arriving cars.
And yet on Saturday in a Muslim country, Jews walked freely into the synagogue, and no one bothered to ask questions or check bags.”
“Azerbaijan is a remarkable exception. At a meeting the week before in Jerusalem, an Israeli diplomat said to our group: “I would hesitate to walk down the street in Sweden with a kippah, but not in Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan no one will give you a hard time.” I can attest to the accuracy of that statement. For nearly a week I wandered the streets with a kippah and was met with nothing but courtesy and kindness,” he says.
“This is an extraordinary accomplishment and too little known in the world. Azerbaijan is a country with a long and proud history of acceptance of other religious traditions. Although more than 90% of the population is Muslim, both Sunni and majority Shiite live here together, Jews feel accepted and appreciated, and the same seems true for other religious minorities.”
“We had traveled to Azerbaijan to bring a Torah to the mountain Jews of Baku. Among the about 30,000 Jews who live in the country, the mountain Jews have a very long history, tracing their origin back thousands of years. After the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE, Jews are said to have settled in the area of southern Azerbaijan, now the northwestern part of Iran.”
“In a world where intolerance is a potent and growing threat, Azerbaijani has something vital to teach. It is time for the world to take notice of a small, accepting country that wants a legacy not of enmity, but of embrace,” says Wolpe.