Posted by Joshua on Saturday, August 1st, 2009
Obama has extended Bush era sanctions on two Syrian officers. The sanctions were originally imposed on the two Syrians on August 1, 2007. They were applied on four people — two Syrians and two Lebanese, whose assets in the US were to be frozen. The US Treasury also forbade Americans from doing business with them. These sanctions are largely symbolic in nature because none of the four are known to have assets in the US; none are businessmen or have dealings with Americans. All the same, they had a chilling effect. The four sanctioned people are:
- Assaad Halim Hardan, born in Rashayya al-Fakhar, Lebanon. Profession: Member of Parliament, Lebanon and Chief of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party.
- Wi’am Wahhab
DOB: 1964, born in Al-Jahiliya, Shouf Mountains, Lebanon. Former member of the Lebanese Parliament.
- Hafiz Makhluf
Position: General Intelligence Directorate senior official
Military Rank: Colonel, DOB: Circa 1975. Makhluf is a maternal cousin to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. He is also the brother of Rami Makhluf, Syria’s leading businessman.
- Muhammad Nasif Khayr-Bayk, Damascus, Syria
Position: Deputy Vice President for Security Affairs
Military Rank: Major General, DOB: April 5, 1937. As of early 2007, Khayrbik was one of several key advisers to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.
They are accused of “acting on Syria’s behalf to undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon” The reason behind extending the sanctions on Damascus was originally explained by the White House to be because of the continued Syrian attempts to destabilize Lebanon and “constitute a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”. See Haaretz: Obama extends sanctions on Syria despite diplomatic thaw. The sanctions include the freezing of assets of those individuals suspected of undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty on Syria’s behalf…. Here is the original bill:
November 5, 2007, HP-666
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated four individuals affiliated with the Syrian regime’s efforts to reassert Syrian control over the Lebanese political system.
“Syria has used all means at its disposal – from bribery to intimidation to violence – to undermine the legitimate political process in Lebanon,” said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “Today’s action exposes four individuals involved in such activities and serves as a warning to others who would do likewise.”….
Today’s designations freeze any assets the designees may have located in the United States, and prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with these individuals…..
Of much greater importance will be whether Obama renews the presidential sanctions issued against Rami Makhlouf which were imposed Feb 2008 by President Bush. He was proscribed for “public corruption.” This was a surprising and novel accusation, having nothing to do with US interests or foreign policy. It demonstrated the extent to which the Bush administration would go in its struggle with the Assad regime. The reason Makhlouf was chosen for sanctions is because he is believed to be the person closest to President Assad in the inner-circle of the regime. He also symbolizes the nepotism and economic self-dealing at the heart of the government.
The Bush administration believed that placing pressure on Syria’s inner circle of leadership would force Assad to do a “Qadhafi,” bringing Syria into compliance with American demands to abandon its conflict with Israel along with its demand for the return of the Golan Heights, sophisticated weaponry, and a determining role in regional politics. The argument that motivated most Bush policy makers in their application of targeted sanctions was their assessment that Syrian leaders have no morality and act for purely personal reasons. They are uniquely interested in amassing power and money for themselves, according to the Bush analysis. In their supreme selfishness and immorality, it was believed, they would respond to sanctions directed against their money and lifestyle. What is more, the Iraq experience had discredited the imposition of broader economic sanctions. A number of UN agencies estimated that the Clinton administration managed to kill several hundred thousand Iraqis in its effort to apply sanctions on Iraq.
The Obama policy makers will argue that so long as Syria continues to support Hizbullah it is justified in continuing sanctions against Syrian officers and Lebanese politicians who participate in this alliance. If sanctions against Rami Makhlouf are renewed in February, it will be understood by Syrian authorities as a direct attack against the regime and not against its foreign policies. Unlike Bush, Obama has not sought to antagonize the Syrian government or President Assad.
“Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) lifted his hold today on the confirmation of Jeffrey Feltman to be assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, a Levin staffer tells Foreign Policy.
Feltman, a well-liked career foreign service officer and former ambassador to Lebanon who assumed the role of acting head of the NEA bureau after the retirement of David Welch last December, has had some other unreported good news of late. …”
This is one of the more important decisions to be taken in Syria’s reform process: district attorneys to be appointed in each county. This innovation could open the way to fight corruption starting on the local level. Syria is attempting to have what we have in the US, a district attorney in each county.
وزير العدل يندب قضاة لشغل موقع “محام عام” في عدد من المحافظات
اصدر وزير العدل يوم الاربعاء قرار بندب قضاة الى “محامي عام” في كل من دمشق وحلب وطرطوس وحماة وادلب ، كما نص القرار على انهاء وندب قضاة في عدد من المدن السورية
It’s so depressing reading domestic Syrian news lately, there is nothing positive to read;, it’s only crimes, pollution, destroying the environment, corruption, failing development, unsuccessful projects, suspicious government decisions and rules, shutting down media channels, jailing any Syrian who dares to speak his mind, blocking web sites..etc… What are we Syrians proud of the most at the moment and why?
Athens conference update (Thanks Alex)
Second track peace discussions held in Athens and led by Murhaf Juwaijati
ل في اليونان
طباعة أرسل لصديق
شفاف الشرق الأوسط
29/ 07/ 2009
وصل البارحة لدمشق الدكتور مرهف جويجاتي بعد ادارته لدورة مباحثات “ديبلوماسية الخط الثاني” بين سوريا و اسرائيل والتي جرت في اليونان بتاريخ 22 الشهر كما نشرنا في خبر سابقت بتاريخ 15 تموز/يوليو حيث حضرها من الجانب الاسرائيلي رؤساء احزاب ورئيس منتدى الحوار الاسرائيلي – السوري وعدد من الاكاديميين ( افرام سنيه -الئيل الون -مايك جافي -شلومو بروم ).
وجرت المباحثات برعاية امريكية رفيعة حيث ادارها سام لويس مدير ادارة التخطيط السابق في الخارجيةالامريكية وروبرت مالي مدير مجموعة الازمات الدولية. وخرج الحضور بورقة توصيات جلبها معه الدكتور جويجاتي الى دمشق للقاءالمعنيين بملف المفاوضات لمناقشتهم بما تم التوصل اليه. ومما رشح ان هناك اجراءات واقتراحات للحكومات الثلاث اسرائيل – سوريا -الولايات المتحدة تقضي باتخاذ اجراءات بناء ثقة بين جميع الاطراف ليتم الانتقال بعدها لقرارات ذات شأن اعلى وكذلك طريقة الانسحاب الاسرائيلي من الجولان ومراحله و طريقة كسر الجمود للانطلاق بالمفاوضات المباشرة .
وقد عاد لدمشق مع الدكتور جويجاتي عضوا الوفد السوري (الدكتور غسان الرفاعي وزير الاقتصاد السابق والدكتور الياس سمعو الأستاذ في جامعة حلب ).
Murhaf Juwaijati meets President Assad to push forward the Peace agenda… (read the following article on all4syria (in Arabic)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frozen a project for the construction of some 900 apartments in East Jerusalem, Channel 10 television reported late Wednesday.
The report of Netanyahu’s order to freeze the project came a day after he held talks in Jerusalem with U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell.
The Pulse: VIA FLC
“… Maya Bengal in Ma’ariv, however, reports that no agreement was reached regarding the settlement issue and that Netanyahu and Mitchell left the meeting with contradictory beliefs. While Netanyahu left believing that the US is more understanding of Israel’s situation and will dramatically reduce pressure on Israel for a settlement freeze, American officials state that the US will not back down on the issue.
At the end of the meeting, Netanyahu appeared pleased. “There is progress in the attempt to find a middle road,” said a source close to Netanyahu. Senior sources in Jerusalem said that the Americans were dropping the pressure from Israel, as of now, mainly with regard to the major bone of contention between Washington and Jerusalem: The demand to freeze construction in the settlements as a preliminary step to launching regional peace negotiations. “There has been progress in the American understanding that this is a freeze that can only exist after normalization measures have been obtained from the Arab states and as part of talks on a final status arrangement,” said a senior source yesterday. American officials involved in the talks said, however, that the US had not backed down. “The demand to freeze the construction in the settlements still stands,” said a US official.
Nathan Guttman in Ha’aretz reports:
So far, the Arabs have been resistant. Still, in the wake of Obama’s White House meeting with the Jewish delegation, Israeli, American and Arab leaders have, to varying degrees, shifted their rhetoric in ways that reflect acceptance of a new principle of reciprocity.
“The Americans now understand that if they get anything from us on the settlement issue, it will only be in the broader context of some kind of Arab return,” said an Israeli diplomat, echoing other similar comments from Israeli officials recently…”
DAMASCUS, Syria, July 29 (UPI) — Syrian forces will honor their 64th anniversary with an artillery display and a commemoration for national martyrs during weekend celebrations.
The Syrian Armed Forces mark their anniversary of the founding of the Syrian Arab army on Saturday with adornments honoring President Bashar Assad and banners commemorating Syrian pride, the official Syrian Arab News agency reports
Military commanders will mark the occasion with a visit to the tombs of national martyrs at a national memorial.
Syrian troops will also fire a 21-gun-salute in all of the 14 provinces during the morning hours with a fireworks display scheduled for Saturday evening.
Assad is the commander in chief of the Syrian armed forces, which number around 400,000 troops for mobilization. Syrian independence was formally recognized in 1946.
The Sixth Fateh Congress and Arab politics: Fateh Needs More Than Superficial Unity
by Lamis Andoni, 31 July 09
Fateh, the movement that has led the Palestinian struggle for decades, is at a dangerous crossroads. At stake is not only its unity but more significantly its mere survival.
It faces tough choices. In order to keep itself relevant on a regional and international level it would need to project itself as a “moderate” force committed to a non-existing peace process, thus risking the further demise of popular legitimacy. To salvage its legitimacy and unity it would need to disengage from the Palestinian Authority’s compliance to American and Israeli terms that aim at turning the movement into a malleable political tool and an enforcer of Israeli security.
But more so than ever in its history, Fateh is facing a real rival that has popular legitimacy and backing by key regional powers. Iran and Syria are seeking to further boost their negotiating credentials by supporting the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, and are ready to accelerate the demise of both Fateh and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Qatar openly aids and promotes Hamas as the alternative movement, again to enhance its role as a regional power broker to be reckoned with.
Egypt, Jordan and other so called “moderate” countries, the supposed backers of Fateh, are junior partners of Washington in its plans to turn the movement into a huge security apparatus and ensure the Palestinian people’s submission. More significantly, they could easily switch sides if the US and Israel decide that Hamas is ready to accept the terms of engagement in the “peace process” or that it could be a more effective enforcer of Israeli security.
But the fundamental struggle for Fateh at this historic juncture is to restore its identity, unity and the core of its soul. Its merger into the Palestinian Authority after the signing of the Oslo accords distorted its identity and function. The one-time backbone of the Palestine Liberation Organization and embodiment of Palestinian national rights, Fateh has been reduced to a ruling party largely, but not solely, dependent on proving itself as a “peace partner” in a process that has so far consolidated Israeli occupation and expansionism.
Under the leadership of the late Yasser Arafat Fateh did not lose its soul: it walked a tightrope, balancing between its contradictory roles as the main pillar of a Palestinian Authority bound by agreements to contain resistance to the occupation and the role of a defiant movement that had not abandoned its main goal of leading Palestinians into freedom. Arafat himself personified that soul of Fateh and in broader terms the spirit of the Palestinian struggle. He became the master of compromise, earning the wrath of many disillusioned Palestinians. But when it came to the ultimate test he refused to sign away Palestinian rights, defying American and Israeli pressures at Camp David in the summer of 2000.
Arafat ultimately paid the price for his defiance, but his act revived Fateh and the Palestinian spirit of resistance, leading to the eruption of the second intifada less than two months after the failed Camp David talks.
But on the eve of the Fateh Congress, to be convened for the first time since 1989 next Tuesday in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem , the movement is struggling not only for its soul but for its mere survival. Years of exile, especially after the PLO lost its sanctuary in Lebanon in 1982, a failed “peace process”, the loss of Arafat, the ruthless Israeli clampdown on Fateh after the second intifada, combined with unprecedented divisions and a brewing power struggle, have eaten up the fabric of the movement’s unity.
The absence of Arafat as a unifying leader could prove fatal. It is not clear if Marwan Barghouti, a leader of the first and second intifadas, could inspire and lead the movement into recovery from his Israeli jail cell. Arafat himself had contributed to the slow but steady weakening of Fateh. His authoritarian style, failure to encourage new generations to assume leadership and even his decision to endorse the militarization of the second intifada dealt constant blows to the body of the movement.
But it was mainly the path pursed by the Palestinian leadership after his death that led the movement to lose its compass. President Mahmoud Abbas, the architect of the Oslo agreement, is a staunch believer that accommodation of the “peace process” and especially of the American terms will lead to the end of the occupation.
Abbas the president may be restricted by obligations to the agreements and conditions to secure the flow of international and Arab funding to the Palestinian territories. But Abbas as leader of Fateh failed to nurture the movement and instead marginalized and curbed dissent within Fateh, further weakening its spirit. ……
Lamis Andoni is a journalist and commentator on Middle East affairs.
Jones and his team reported that a bill by Senator Joe Lieberman to curb sales of refined oil products to Iran is almost complete, and 67 senators have already signed it.The Americans are proposing financial sanctions such as banning insurance on trade deals with Tehran, which would make it difficult for Iran to trade with other countries. They also want to impose sanctions on any company that trades with Iran and use this to pressure other countries, mainly in Asia, to resist making deals with Iran.In the next stage, the Americans will consider even harsher sanctions, such as banning Iranian ships from docking in Western ports and, as a next step, banning Iranian airplanes from landing in Western airports. ……Jones and his team presented the ideas that the administration is forging, together with France, Britain and Germany, on imposing additional sanctions on Iran via the UN Security Council if the dialogue fails. The Americans are also discussing this issue with Russia, which at this stage objects to further sanctions.China, which has numerous interests in Iran, also objects to further sanctions. Jones told the Israelis that Obama will therefore go to China soon to try to enlist Beijing to join the coalition.”
Now-frequent dust storms are just one sign of the man-made damage that has taken the country from Middle East breadbasket to dust bowl, they say.
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said in response to US calls for diplomatic overtures toward Israel that the Jewish state’s settlement expansion is jeopardizing efforts to revive peace talks….
Iraqi Raid Poses Problem for U.S.
BAGHDAD, July 29 — Violent clashes continued for a second day Wednesday between Iraqi troops and members of an Iranian opposition group whose camp the Iraqis stormed Tuesday, presenting the first major dilemma for the U.S. government since Iraq proclaimed its sovereignty a month ago.
At least eight Iranians have been killed and 400 wounded since Tuesday, when hundreds of Iraqi police and soldiers in riot gear plowed into Camp Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad, using Humvees donated by the U.S. military, according to group leaders and Abdul Nasir al-Mahdawi, the governor of Diyala province.
Camp residents described the day’s events as a massacre and the aftermath as a tense stalemate.
Behzad Saffari, a leader of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, said that Iraqi troops were preventing gravely injured people from being taken to hospitals outside the group’s camp and that residents feared soldiers would storm their living quarters. …
The raid and its aftermath represent a conundrum for U.S. officials. Some say they feel obligated to the MEK because its members have provided information about Iran’s nuclear program and because American officials vowed to protect them after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But condemning this week’s events could be seen as an affront to Maliki’s government just as U.S. officials are talking up Iraq’s sovereignty, proclaimed June 30 when American troops withdrew from cities.
The stated goal of the Ashraf operation was to set up an Iraqi police station inside the camp, a move Iraq has described as the first step toward evicting the more than 3,000 residents. …
(By Ernesto Londono, The Washington Post)
Syria rejects French wheat ship, Sarkozy intervenes
07.30.09 By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS, July 30 (Reuters) – Syrian authorities have rejected a French wheat shipment they said had failed to pass quality controls, drawing the intervention of President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France has led a European rapprochement with Damascus that has helped ease the economic and political isolation of Syria, which remains under U.S. sanctions.
A letter from Sarkozy to President Bashar al-Assad, a copy of which was seen by Reuters on Thursday, said the shipment conformed to international standards.
It urged the Syrian leader to find “a quick and positive solution to the dispute, which could affect the promising future” of French-Syrian commercial ties.
A Syrian commodities official confirmed that the Panama flagged vessel DD Vogue, carrying 21,544 tonnes of French soft wheat was prevented from unloading at Tartous port after failing Agriculture Ministry tests.
“It was a purely technical decision by the ministry,” the official told Reuters.
The shipment was the last of a 150,000 tonne purchase signed in April between the state’s grains division and Granit Negoce, the marketing division of French cooperative Epis-Centre.
Jean-Philippe Everling, director of Granit Negoce in Paris confirmed the cargo had been rejected but declined to comment further.
French port data showed the vessel had left France on June 4. Syrian trading sources said it arrived four days later and has been at anchor off Tartous since then.
The deal was priced at 180 euros a tonne, a market source said.
The supplier said that the cargo was well within quality specifications, after Syrian inspectors tested it twice — at the loading port of Nantes and upon arrival at Tartous — the market source said.
MAJOR COMPANIES WARY
An international trader said the dispute would further discourage major global suppliers, already wary of dealing with a labyrinth of state bureaucracies on wheat imports, from participating in Syria’s wheat tenders.
“A solution will not be easy, but it will likely involve measures to save face for the government and a cost to the French company,” the trader said.
Syria has sought to rebuild its strategic reserves of wheat after mismanagement of the water supply and droughts lowered domestic production, which was expected at 3.2 million tonnes this year, versus a planned 4.7 million tonnes.
It began issuing tenders to import wheat in July 2008 for the first time in 15 years, after production plummeted and it was no longer self sufficient in the crop.
The government contracted to import around 1.2 million tonnes of mostly East European wheat since July 2008, but only 300,000-400,000 tonnes have been received.
The official said most of the imports were due to be delivered between July and September this year and any delay was operational, but he acknowledged that unspecified volumes will be cancelled.
Wheat is a sensitive issue in Syria where an agricultural policy based on subsidies also relies on commercial imports and a 500,000 tonne wheat grant from the United Arab Emirates.
Une quinzième université privée inaugurée en Syrie
28 juillet 2009
Une quinzième université privée inaugurée en Syrie
La quinzième université privée de Syrie, l’Arab Private University for Science and Technology (APUST) a ouvert ses portes le 16 juillet dernier. Elle est basée à Hamas, dans le centre de la Syrie où est implantée une grande part de l’industrie pétrolière et gazière du pays.
L’APUST possède actuellement deux facultés, celle de l’ingénierie pétrolière et celle de l’ingénierie chimique qui accueilleront quelque 200 étudiants. L’université projette d’inaugurer bientôt des facultés de gestion, d’ingénierie informatique, de télécommunications et de sciences médicales.
Le campus de l’APUST s’étend sur plus de 400 000 mètres carrés. Son aménagement et sa construction ont coûté près de 800 millions de livres syriennes. Il devrait être élargi pour atteindre une surface totale de 2 millions de mètres carrés qui accueillera un millier d’étudiants.
Les principaux actionnaires de cet établissement académique sont les hommes d’affaire irakiens Abbas Fadel Khanjar qui détient 37,5 % de ses actions et Ahmad Khalil Chaker qui possède 15 % de ses titres. L’Union arabe des industries pétrochimiques qui est affiliée à la Ligue arabe possède de son côté 2 % des actions. Parmi les autres actionnaires, on recense également quatre hommes d’affaire irakiens et 42 investisseurs locaux issus des familles Sahloul, al- Barazi, Aswad, al-Rifaï, Jandali et Natfalji.
L’ancien ministre syrien de la Défense, Mustafa Tlass a été nommé président à titre honoraire de l’université.
Soulignons en outre que d’après le ministre de l’Enseignement supérieur, Giyath Barakat, quatorze universités privées offrent actuellement leurs cours à quelque 22 000 étudiants syriens, aux côtés des cinq universités publiques du pays.
Les universités privées ont été autorisées en Syrie en août 2001. L’un des objectifs de cette décision a été d’installer des institutions académiques dans les régions isolées où les établissements publics ne sont pas présents. Les universités privées n’ont donc pas été autorisées à s’installer dans les centres urbains comportant des établissements publics.
Il n’empêche que cinq universités privées se sont établies près de Damas et trois autres dans les environs d’Alep. L’est du pays a également attiré ces universités, une ayant ouvert ses portes à Qamishli, une autre à Raqqa et une troisième à Deir Ezzor. Cette dernière ville accueille également une université publique inaugurée après l’autorisation de la création d’établissements académiques privés.
Kassin Family Tree, By Leonard Fein, The Forward
July 30, 2009
I could be off by a dozen or so, but I count 70 rabbis in the family, going back to the year 1540. That makes the Kassin rabbinic dynasty one of the oldest on record.
The Syrian Jewish community, now in the news for exceedingly distasteful reasons, is fabled for its insularity, hence not much is known about it outside its own precincts. But the arrest on charges of alleged money laundering of Rabbi Saul Kassin, the leading rabbi of the Syrian community, in the great New Jersey sting, the one that netted 44 arrests — mayors rabbis, others — suddenly has changed that. It has demolished the virtual wall that long has shielded it from the view of its neighbors, this despite the fact that Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community is the largest concentration of Syrian Jews in the world, numbering some 75,000. I have neither appetite nor competence to examine the crimes in question. But it does seem to me worth spelling out some of what made the Kassin family noteworthy long before the current tawdry exposés.
The story actually begins in pre-expulsion Spain, but from that period we have only fragmentary details. Hard genealogical records begin in 1540 with Señor Shlomo Kassin, who in that year left Spain for Aleppo, in Syria. (Yes, it is curious: How did he survive as a Jew in post-expulsion Spain?) In Aleppo, he soon became head of the Jewish community. His grandson, Yomtov Kassin, was the first rabbi in the family, and the chief rabbi of the beit din (rabbinic court) of Aleppo. And from then until now, in Syria, Mexico, Egypt, Panama, Argentina, Palestine, Iraq and America, the family produced generations of rabbis, some men of great wealth, some paupers, many noted for their scholarship.
Enter Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin, born in Jerusalem in 1900 and a child prodigy. He was a learned student of Kabbalah, studying for some years with Rabbis Shalom Dweck and Shaul Hayim Dweck. (The last name may ring a bell: Solomon Dwek was the FBI’s informant and principal of its extensive criminal sting.) In 1933, Jacob Kassin accepted an invitation from the Magen David Congregation in Brooklyn to serve as chief rabbi and chief of the beit din. (For all these details, I rely on the published research of genealogist Sarina Roffe, an acknowledged expert on Aleppan Jewry and herself a member of Brooklyn’s Syrian community.) These posts he held for 60 years, until his death in 1994. During his tenure, it was clear that he was not only the leader of the Brooklyn community but the leader of Syrian Jewry worldwide. After his death, his son Saul — one of his three sons who became rabbis — succeeded him. And Saul, himself now 87 years old, is an alleged miscreant in the money laundering aspect of the criminal investigation.
Digression: Remember Rene Cassin? Not likely; few people do, although he was the Nobel laureate for peace in 1968. Wounded during the First World War, an active proponent of disarmament at the League of Nations between the wars (he was the French delegate to the league from 1924 to 1938), he became Charles de Gaulle’s minister of justice in exile in 1940. And — here’s the main reason for his Nobel — he was the principal author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously in December of 1948. When Eleanor Roosevelt was chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Cassin served as its vice chair; from 1955 to 1957, he was the commission’s chair. The sorry state of human rights these days notwithstanding, the achievement of this French Jew deserves to be remembered; it set a benchmark for all.
And, though the specifics of the relationship are clouded, there is reason to believe that he, too, was a Kassin.
I was in Damascus in 1978, as Graham Greene-ish a city as I’ve ever visited. I stopped at an antique store I’d been told was the place to make contact with the Jewish community; the owner proposed that I return an hour later. It was as if jungle drums signaled my arrival; by the time I returned and was ushered to the second floor, the elders of the community had assembled. I dropped the appropriate names, and instantly became the beneficiary of genuine hospitality — including, most memorably, a prolonged visit to the underground academy where Talmud was being taught (in Arabic) to young boys. There I did an impromptu workshop for the teachers, working through the rabbi and his awkward Hebrew…..