Some two weeks ago, Syrian Assad pledged to visiting Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, that he will rebuild Jewish Synagogues in Syria. The story got some major headlines. Hoenlein was visiting Syria on a humanitarian mission as he always does in his capacity as one of the Jewish leaders in New York.
However, no one bothered to ask the obvious question: Who will pray in these Synagogues? I would like to see any Jew dare travel to Syria, wear his Kippa, and enter a Synagogue to pray openly amongst a people Assad has trained well to hate the Jews.
It is too early for back pats and hugs. Here is why.
In 2008, a Synagogue was discovered, by accident, North of Aleppo by some Syrian engineers planning a construction site. The Syrian government, according to eyewitnesses, dug-up the site just enough to see if anything of value could be found (No knowledge whether they found anything or not). Once done, Assad buried it completely with bulldozers. According to the same engineers, the construction site was accelerated to erase any traces of any discovery of any kind.
If Assad tells you he will rebuild, renovate, or refurbish Synagogues amongst a people he trained to hate the Jewish heritage, take that with a grain of salt. In reality, he’s only maybe telling you that he will not erase these Synagogues from history the way he did to the one discovered North of Aleppo.
If conventional wisdom projects Assad as a partner for peace, Syrians who know him too well from his days as a student in London know that his anti-Semitic sentiments were neither fake nor pretentious.