Russia Is Helping to Restore Syria’s Synagogues Demolished by the US/Israel-Backed FSA

Putin reveals Russia is helping out the Syrian Jews

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin parted with an important secret. At a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban in Budapest, he said that Russia maintains a close relationship with Syria’s Jewish community, and is even helping to restore its synagogues.

Putin did not go into detail regarding the identity of the community members receiving assistance, how much money the Russian government is contributing, or what synagogues they are actually restoring. He also did not mention whether the Israeli government is involved.

But if Russia is indeed offering assistance, it is probably doing so in coordination with its close Syrian government ally. And it would not be the first time Russia has facilitated some kind of cooperation between the Syrian government and Israel in the last few years. In April 2019, it returned the remains of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel, who had been declared missing after the battle of Sultan Yacoub in Syria in 1982. In 2016, Russia also returned a tank that took part in that battle and had been seized by Syrian forces.

The number of Jews remaining in Syria is unknown since the last wave of emigration in 1994, launched after Syrian President Hafez Assad’s decision to allow Jews to leave his country following the Madrid peace conference. According to Syrian law, population censuses do not report on ethnic segmentation, and it is not permitted to report on the condition of various ethnic groups, in an attempt to prevent civil tensions.

Some of the Jews of Damascus, that numbered around 1,200 in 2013, moved to the city of Baniyas in the Tartous district [Tartous is on the Alawite/Christian coast and is a bedrock of government support.] after the Great Synagogue in the Jobar quarter was destroyed that year, apparently by the Free Syrian Army. Some also moved to the city of Qamishli in northern Syria [Qamishli is controlled by the Kurdish YPG — meaning no Jews relocated to rebel areas, which is understandable seeing they are Sunni sectarians, and whom the Jews were fleeing in the first place.], where a market established by the Ezra and Nahum families in the 1920s still exists – although most its stalls were sold to Kurds after Jews emigrated.

Various media reports mention a few dozen synagogues, most of which have been destroyed, confiscated by the authorities or fallen into the hands of rebel militias. Jews reportedly owned a great deal of property in Syria, including shops and villas, with an overall value estimated in the millions of dollars. Those were sold or confiscated by the authorities.

Samuel Zion, who manages the Facebook page of the Jews of Syria, told the website Al-Mudun in June 2014 that official Israeli representatives have been in contact with the Jewish community in Syria. They reportedly tried to obtain ancient Torah scrolls, but community leaders had rejected the overtures. According to Zion, the community supports President Bashar al-Assad and opposes Israel’s policies.

Syrian Jews celebrate Passover at the al-Firenj Synagogue in downtown Damascus, Syria, August 2008
Youssef Jajati, a Jewish community leader in Syria, points out the Torah holy book preserved in a silver container in Joubar’s Synagogue

Making sure the U.S. stays home

Putin’s open support for Syrian synagogues is inseparable from the religious patronage Russia extends to non-Muslim communities in the region. “The situation of the Christians in the Middle East is tragic. They suffer from oppression, rape and plunder,” Putin said at the Budapest press conference, adding that Russia was seeking ways to protect Christians from harassment and to that end it had invited the heads of Christian communities to a meeting with him on the sidelines of the state visit.

This is not pure altruism on the part of the Russian leader, who, throughout the years of Russia’s military involvement in Syria, had not been especially moved by the killings of civilians of any religions. But the protection of Christian civilians, who constitute some 16 percent of the population, is important political leverage that could be instrumental as parties negotiate a diplomatic solution to the end of the war. Christians are generally considered favorable to the regime, and most of them did not enlist in rebel militias. According to a draft of the constitution, they are expected to be given suitable political representation when the new regime is established.

Moscow is also closely watching evangelical Christian protest in the United States against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria. Evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham have warned Trump the move could spell the extinction of the Christian community, given the aggressive character of the Turkish invasion. American clergy who have recently met with Syrian Christians from Turkish-occupied areas report harassment by Turkish forces, and more widely by the militias assisting them. Some even compared the abuse by the invading forces to the massacre of the Armenians in 1915.

Evangelical leaders warned Trump that failure to protect the Christians in Syria might lead to him losing the “mandate of heaven,” as Robertson put it. Russia could fear that this kind of pressure would push Trump to reverse his decision and increase the number of American troops in Syria. In order to head this possibility, Putin decided to place the Christians at the top of his public agenda and help Trump overcome harsh criticism at home.

Putin’s religious diplomacy recalls the policies adopted by the great powers in previous centuries, when they extended their patronage over non-Muslim communities in the Ottoman Empire. This led to these communities achieving major political and diplomatic status while simultaneously allowing these powers to intervene in events in the Ottoman Empire by claiming that they were protecting their protégés. The irony is that Trump, the darling of American evangelicals, now has to rely on Russia as the leader of Mideast Christians, as only it can now stop the wild behavior of the Turkish forces and their allies in Syria.

Source: Haaretz

  1. […] Is Helping to Restore Syria’s Synagogues Demolished by the US/Israel-Backed FSA by Zvi Bar’el for Check Point […]

  2. […] Is Helping to Restore Syria’s Synagogues Demolished by the US/Israel-Backed FSA by Zvi Bar’el for Check Point […]

  3. Mikhail Garchenko says

    … I’m waiting for comments from a jerk here, who usually treats Putin as a “Jewish Agent” … 😀 😀 😀

    1. Ilya says

      Low hanging fruit for such huffleabub, this bit of news! 🙂 I just gotta say planet Earth is truly destined for the dumps in 2024. If Russia turns away from its moral path after Putin – and it’s still in the thrawls of extreme elite wealth, the Middle Kingdom won’t take their place – they build really great walls historically, and then we got that lovely vacuum for the West to jump back into. Hypersonics or no, if the leaders of Russia are corruptable, it’s all lost.

      I think Putin just gotta bite the bullet and stay President for life, or at least some sort of political dowager, keeping the young-uns in check!

  4. JustPassingThrough says


  5. SKA99 says

    Thank you Russia♡

    This is crucial to bring Syria back up – religious tolerance strengthens and unites a country.

  6. ArcAngel says

    While this “Haaretz” I gave it a read.
    My rhetorical question would be “why not”.
    Russia seems to be helping EVERYBODY in Syria. So why not help Syrian jews… at the very least, on the surface. Although I believe this is not topical.
    As for the Devil’s Evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham, I wish they would just die and rid the planet of their Anti-Human AND Anti-Christian psychopathic warmongering…
    These psychos just LOVE their WAR and death. As long as they or the spawns do not have to fight in it.
    Feeding ‘Christians to the Lions’, sorry wrong era, feeding Christians into the worldwide meatgrinder (war) is their business.
    Nothing has changed in 2000 years.

  7. CHUCKMAN says

    Assad’s government has always stood for religious tolerance in a very diversely populated country.

    Syria’s many Christians always supported him.

    It is one of his best qualities.

  8. thomas malthaus says

    If a Jewish nation and its proxy didn’t initiate these wars, we wouldn’t be discussing mini-pogroms of Christians. . .Shia Muslims. . . Sunni Muslims. . .Palestinians. . . Kurds, and perhaps a few Jews.

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