Some 150 etrogim (citrons) and five kits of the Four Species were transferred to the Jews of Iran
ahead of Sukkot
in a secret operation involving smugglers and local collaborators, allowing the Jewish communities to celebrate the holiday in traditional form in spite of the hostile Muslim environment.
The person behind this complicated and dangerous operation is Rabbi A.H., who serves as a community rabbi in a European country.
In a conversation with Ynet, the rabbi said the smuggling of the Four Species kits to Syria involved a rather long stay near the Turkish border, and that the items were transferred to the community via an area where rebels have been clashing with the Syrian regime's army.
He implied that the operation required quite a lot of bribery.
"The logistics is very complicated and costly," the rabbi said. "Nothing is funded by official elements, and all the money comes from donations of Jews concerned about these secluded communities.
"These operations are so heroic and complex that they are just like Mossad activities. If the details were revealed, people would faint."
Turkey-Syria border, Aleppo area (Photo: Rabbi A. H.)
The rabbi explained that the needs of the Jewish communities in Syria and Iran were supplied in the past by communities in neighboring countries – kosher slaughter, matzot for Passover,
the Four Species for Sukkot, etc. But that support stopped coming for a number of reasons, and the Iranian and Syrian Jews contacted him and asked for his help.
Throughout the year, he said, he trains butchers to help Jews in the aforementioned countries, as well as in Tunisia and other places.
On the way to Syria (Photo: Rabbi A. H.)
The need for a secret operation, he explained, resulted from past events. Last year, following the Iranian regime's statements that it objects to Zionism but not to Judaism, he tried to transfer etrgoim to the country's Jewish community. But by the time the citrons arrived at the community after passing through customs, they were all cut and filled with holes – and could not be used for the blessing.
Eventually, three days before the holiday, the rabbi traveled to a third country and smuggled the etrgoim by exchanging suitcases at the airport.
The secret operation in Iran and Syria was revealed by Knesset Member Ayoob Kara (Likud),
deputy minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee, who is in touch with the rabbi. During a meeting with activists in the Druze town of Daliyat al-Carmel, Kara said that the Jewish residents had asked for the aid.
Kara estimated that the Arab Spring protests would soon reach Iran. "Therefore, we must bolster the opposition and the silent majority in that country, which thrives for freedom, and thereby perhaps we'll be able to prevent the next war," he said during the meeting.
Deputy Minister Kara has discussed his relations in Syria in the past, and has even claimed to have been in contact with members of the opposition in the country.