Syrian Jews from US visit Damascus, refuse regime invite
Twelve Jews from Brooklyn, New York City, reportedly visited the Syrian capital for dental treatment as it was cheaper in Syria than in the US, according to Israel’s Kan 11 TV.
They allegedly received a request to meet with senior government officials in Damascus but refused, to avoid politicising their visit, according to the report.
Arab affairs editor at Kan 11, Roy Kays, touched on the Syrian regime’s approval of their visit to the country, saying that it has encouraged more Jews of Syrian origin to return.
Kays said promises had been made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to restore a synagogue in the Jobar neighbourhood in east Damascus who vowed to protect Jews visiting their country of origin, in order to "improve his image to the world."
The twelve visitors are said to have met the three remaining Jews in Syria.
Israel’s Makor Rishon newspaper had reported that Syrian intelligence sent an invite on behalf of the regime three years ago to Jews in the US to visit.
It said they decided to turn down the invitation "due to personal considerations."
The Hebrew publication added that around one month ago, another delegation of Jews from the US visited Aleppo and inspected a synagogue that the Syrian opposition had restored after it was damaged in fighting.
It said that visit was mediated by the Russians, who maintain a strong military presence in Syria.
Like other countries in the Middle East, Syria had a sizeable Jewish number in the past, with communities primarily focused in Aleppo and Damascus.
Many left Syria for North and Latin America, as well as Israel after its creation in 1948. They are unable to return as Syria and Israel are technically at war.
Tens of thousands live in Brooklyn with smaller numbers elsewhere.