…we learned a great deal about how and why Azerbaijan invests in and supports its Jewish community and Jewish heritage. The republic is home to one of the largest all-Jewish towns outside Israel, the centuries-old Red Village of Azerbaijan, whose Mountain Jews meet and pray in several stately synagogues. Azerbaijan’s capital city of Baku features a state-of-the-art Jewish day school with more than 300 students. Baku’s Chabad rabbi, born and raised in Israel, recently decided to become a citizen of Azerbaijan, a nation he is proud to call his new home. Baku has a beautiful new synagogue for the Mountain Jews, built in 2011 and paid for by the Azerbaijan government.
“Azerbaijan serves as a critical link for outreach to the Muslim world for our partners like the United States and Israel,” said Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, addressing American Jewish Committee’s 2013 Global Forum in Washington, D.C. His nation’s close, friendly relations with Israel are “reinforced by the strong bonds between our peoples.”
Indeed, the foreign minister said, the bilateral relationship goes “well beyond” diplomatic ties. Azerbaijan is Israel’s biggest trading partner in the South Caucasus, and some 40 percent of Israel’s oil imports come from Azerbaijan.
We do well to celebrate the bonds that link Azerbaijan and the Jewish people. Our social media is inundated with alarming news about anti-Semitic violence in Germany, France and Belgium, and Islamic terrorism in Gaza, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Azerbaijan is a rare blessing and a ray of light in our deeply troubled world. It is unfortunate that most Jews have never heard of Azerbaijan and the positive example it could be for other Muslim nations. A nation that has protected its Jews for two millennia and is an ally of Israel and the United States deserves our friendship and support.
Rabbi Mark Diamond, “Israel’s Most Valuable Muslim Ally”, Jewish Journal (19-25 September 2014), 12-13.