Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dagestan's 'Mountain Jews' Flee Chaos: After 12 Centuries, Violence Rips Caucasus Community Apart

Getting to Friday services in Makhachkala, the capital city of the Russian Republic of Dagestan, was complicated. Three giant bombs had earlier gone off down the road, and authorities had sealed off streets near the synagogue. En route soldiers seized our taxi on suspicion that we were aiding Islamic terrorists. They detained us until Sabbath prayers had long ended.

The following evening we finally made it to the imposing brick building. Shimi Dibyayev, the aged chairman of the community, squired us with a limp through the refurbished facility, whose windows on all three floors were smashed in December 2007. Rebels calling themselves the Shari’ah Jamaat had warned of an assault months prior, yet no one knows for sure who did it.

Dibyayev is ready to take on attackers. “I always carry a pistol and have seven more weapons at home,” he said. “When someone upsets a Jewish person, he goes with two guns.” I did a double-take, because Dibyayev has trouble seeing and hearing, but he assured me: “Of course I’m used to guns. I’m 85 years old, what do you think?” -- Judith Matloff, Forward

To read more and see the accompanying video, click here.

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