September 22, 2018

Azerbaijan and Israel: Trusted Partners for a Better World

The tension and fighting about the Temple Mount and the Jewish right to ascend it is one very serious issue for our times and our people. This issue is very political but also very personal. During this Sukkot holiday more than other times, we think of the Torah teachings, of the Jewish nation’s traveling to the Holy Temple, and today our communities across the globe make stand these temporary shelters, in honor of our eventual journey to that same place. In these shelters, we celebrate with delicious food, song, and our beloved rituals.

From my own Sukkah in Baku, warmed by the generations of family and our proud Azerbaijani-Jewish community, I make a l’chaim in honor and celebration of the friendship between Azerbaijan and Israel – the two nations that are dear to my heart. Especially during this holiday, my heart overflows with gratitude because generations of my family have lived here in Azerbaijan, away from Israel, but still very close, and completely safe and protected.

Today the State of Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan are working together more than ever, bringing hope to our divided world. They work together as friends to fight terrorism and extremism, and to manage the pressure of our neighbors. The two countries enjoy a well-developed relationship in such areas as energy, agriculture, telecommunications, cyber technology, defense, construction, irrigation, medicine, and tourism; benefiting the people of both nations. Israel receives around 50% of its oil from Azerbaijan, and a major oil company of Azerbaijan is helping Israel in finding oil offshore.

Celebrate we must. Our Sukkot holiday requires celebration of what has happened in the past that also matters today, and we must further celebrate what is good in our world now. With overflow and very deep pride I celebrate the words spoken by an Azerbaijani Muslim cleric. His words to visiting Israeli officials last week was the most profound words to make now during Sukkot. He said: “There is nothing in Islamic law to prevent Jews from ascending the Temple Mount and the one who claims otherwise is considered a heretic in Islam who transforms the sanctity of the place for political purposes.” He said this in public, and he said this with confidence. He spoke his heart, and was not ruled by a fear or a hatred, only by truth.

The Azerbaijani cleric has changed the world with this statement. More of the world is now learning of this special Azerbaijani-Jewish friendship, well described here, a partnership that is unique for many reasons, but especially because it is very far away from the usual prejudices that so much of our world operates with now, and it makes a lie of the story that Jews and Muslims cannot cooperate and cannot be friends. As with Azerbaijan and Israel, they cooperate beyond what most can imagine possible.