Syria - Government Invites Rabbi Pinto to Visit Damascus
Syria - 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 Modiâ€™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 Pintoâ€™s forefathers, after whom he was named, was the rabbi of the Jewish community of Damascus in the first half of the 17th century.
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.
Pinto asked Avital to explore the possibility. An opportunity to do so arose at the wedding of Avidatâ€™s daughter four months ago, attended by both Moustapha and the Syrian ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaâ€™afari, following which Avital spoke with the two diplomats.
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 rabbiâ€™s tentative visit to Syria.
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