NEW YORK (VINnews) — An unusual visit by 12 American Jews to their former homeland in Syria has led to questions about the Syrian government’s intentions regarding its former citizens.
The 12 visited a local restaurant in Damascus and met the few remaining Jews living in the Syrian capital. There was even a request that the group meet senior members of Assad’s administration in Damascus but the meeting did not eventually take place. However local residents welcomed the Jews and they said that “all of them understood from our speech that we were Syrian Jews. All of them remembered Jews. We went through the entire marketplace. The locals recognized us and said: Welcome, this is your country, why don’t you come back? See what happened to our country, please come back.”
One of the participants who chose to remain anonymous said that the goal of the visit was to undergo dental treatments which are substantially cheaper in Syria than in the US. However members of the Israeli Syrian Jewish community told Israel’s Kann news that the participants more likely wanted to make a visit to the place of their former roots. In the last few months a significant number of Jews from the former Jewish community are visiting Syria. Local government officials have encouraged such visits and have promised to protect the Jewish tourists while they are staying in Syria.
The Assad regime is apparently trying to attract visits from former Syrian Jews except from those living in Israel. There are even hints about a possible renovation of the synagogue in Damascus which was damaged during the recent civil war.