Israel appoints its first Arab cabinet minister (& Mossad-KGB double agent dies)

January 11, 2007

* More Jews opt to serve in the German military
* Ancient latrine fuels debate at Qumran
* Israeli security system proves a dog’s bark can be worse than its bite

 

CONTENTS

1. Israel appoints its first Arab cabinet minister
2. “Germans have to go to the army. So should we”
3. The climate in England is worse for Jews
4. Ze’ev Avni, a Soviet spy in the Mossad
5. “Doguard”
6. An important toilet by the Dead Sea
7. House prices force Roman Jews out of the Ghetto
8. “More Jews opt to serve in German military” (Deutsche Welle, Jan. 8, 2007)
9. “Jews far more likely to be victims of faith hatred than Muslims” (S. Telegraph, Dec. 17, 2006)
10. “Mossad-KGB double agent Ze’ev Avni dies at age 86” (Ha’aretz, Jan. 7, 2006)
11. “From yap to growl, Israeli device dogs intruders” (Reuters, Jan. 2, 2007)
12. “Ancient latrine fuels debate at Qumran” (AP, Jan. 2, 2007)
13. “Real estate boom uprooting Jews in Roman Ghetto” (AP, Dec. 30, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch contains a variety of human interest stories.

ISRAEL APPOINTS ITS FIRST ARAB CABINET MINISTER

Ghaleb Majadleh yesterday became Israel’s first Arab and Muslim minister, taking the position of Science, Culture and Sport Minister.

The decision to appoint Majadleh was made by Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz who called the move a historic step. (The Labor Party is the second biggest party in the ruling coalition government in Israel and is entitled to a number of cabinet seats. Majadleh replaces leftist Labor Knesset member Ophir-Paz-Pines who resigned from the cabinet recently saying he believed it was now too right-wing.)

Majadleh, a former Histadrut official who lives in Baka al-Gharbiya, described his appointment as “an important precedent-setting step toward integrating the million Arabs in this country.”

Previously, Israel had a Druze minister, Salah Tarif, who served as a minister-without-portfolio in the Likud-led government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon and the deputy foreign minister, Nawaf Masalha, was also Arab.

MK Nadia Hilu, who is an Arab Christian, was asked to replace Majadleh as the head of the Knesset’s interior committee.

“GERMANS HAVE TO GO TO THE ARMY. SO SHOULD WE”

Despite the fact that German Jews are exempt from serving in the German military, an increasing number, estimated at 200, are opting to do so, according to a report this week in Deutsche Welle. After the Holocaust, the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the German defense ministry made a deal that exempted Jews up to the third generation of Holocaust victims, from serving in the military.

However, more and more Jews feel it is a matter of duty. Norbert Kagarlitzkij, interviewed in the first article below, says “It is just part of the deal of being a young German… Germans have to go to the army for a while or do alternative community service. So should we.”

One of the German journalists who subscribes to this email list casts doubt on the “200 Jews in the German military” figure cited by Deutsche Welle, and tells me he believes the figure is considerably lower.

The modern German army, established in 1955, now has 250,000 members in total. Before the Nazis, many Jews served in the German army. More than 200,000 Jews now live in Germany. Most of them are recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

THE CLIMATE IN ENGLAND IS WORSE FOR JEWS

Jews in England and Wales are perhaps not as comfortable as those today in Germany. According to new British police figures, in the UK Jews are four times more likely to be the victims of racially or religious-based verbal and physical assaults than Muslims. (More details in the article from The Sunday Telegraph below.)

The BBC and other prominent British media have wrongly suggested that Muslims are the most likely victims of racial attacks in the UK, when in fact Jewish people and people of African or West Indian origin are far more likely to be the victims of such attacks.

ZE’EV AVNI, A SOVIET SPY IN THE MOSSAD

Ze’ev Avni, a notorious Mossad agent who also served as a long-term Soviet mole, has died at the age of 86. When Avni was exposed in 1956 he was tried in secret and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.

The affair was a closely guarded secret, and leaked to the media only at the beginning of the 1990s. Avni is the only documented case of a Soviet spy to penetrate the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.

Avni was born Wolf Goldstein in 1921, in Riga, Latvia. In 1942, he was recruited to Soviet intelligence by a Czech refugee named Karl Vibrel. In 1948, Avni immigrated to Israel and two years later joined the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. Over the years he sent his Soviet operators important material about the Israeli Foreign Ministry, weapons sales to Israel and secret codes. (For more, see the article below by Yossi Melman, who is Ha’aretz’s expert on intelligence matters, and is also a longtime subscriber to this email list.)

“DOGUARD”

An Israeli firm has designed a security system that interprets a dog’s bark to sense an intruder or an attempted security breach. Bio-Sense Technologies, based in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva, has analyzed 350 barks and found dogs of all breeds and sizes barked the same alarm when they sensed a threat.

Dubbed “Doguard,” the Dog Bio Security system is in place in high-security Eshel Prison as well as Israeli military bases, water installations, farms, ranches, garages and in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. (For more, see the article below by Reuters.)

AN IMPORTANT TOILET BY THE DEAD SEA

Three researchers (an Israeli anthropologist, an American textual scholar and a French paleo-parasitologist) have found a 2,000 year-old toilet used by the ancient residents of Qumran, on the barren banks of the Dead Sea. They suspect that this is proof that people living there two millennia ago were Essenes, an ascetic Jewish sect that left Jerusalem to seek proximity to God in the desert.

It is widely thought that the ancient Essene community was home to the authors of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (For more, see the article below from the Associated Press.)

HOUSE PRICES FORCE ROMAN JEWS OUT OF THE GHETTO

The Jewish ghetto in Rome is witnessing a real estate boom that has led to the exit of many Jews. In the last decade property values have tripled or quadrupled, making the ghetto as expensive as other parts of downtown Rome.

According to the archive of the Rome Jewish community, fewer than 800 Jews still live in the ancient ghetto. After World War II, the area housed 6,000 Jews.

Jews have lived in Rome since the second century B.C. The city’s Jews were first confined to the ghetto, then a flood-prone slum on the banks of the Tiber River, in 1555, under the order of Pope Paul IV. Despite the changing population, the ghetto remains the center of Jewish community life in the Italian capital.

I attach six articles below, including one on the Rome ghetto.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

AN ESTIMATED 200 JEWS SERVE IN THE BUNDESWEHR

More Jews opt to serve in German military
An estimated 200 Jews serve in the Bundeswehr
Deutsche Welle
January 8, 2007

www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2299443,00.html

Even though Jews have been mostly exempted from serving in the German military for historical reasons, an increasing number are opting to do so.

There are no rabbis in the German military and kosher food is never served. But that doesn’t matter to recent young recruits such as Norbert Kagarlitzkij who said he is pretty relaxed about being Jewish – and about serving in the German army.

“It is just part of the deal of being a young German,” he said. “Germans have to go to the army for a while or do alternative community service. So should we.”

More than 60 years after the Holocaust, it still comes as a surprise to many to hear that German Jews serve in the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr. After the war, the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the defense ministry made a deal that exempted Jews up to the third generation of Holocaust victims, from serving in the military. But these days, there are an estimated 200 Jews serving in the 250,000-strong German military. And many say that number is growing.

A matter of duty

Before the Nazis, many Jews had served in the German army – in World War I, for example. The Bundeswehr was founded in 1955. For decades afterward, most Jewish Germans would not have dreamed of serving in the military.

Michael Fόrst was one of the first to do so even though two of his grandparents were killed by the Nazis. He said he felt it was his duty and should be seen as something normal.

“In 1966, in Jewish circles, the Bundeswehr was not viewed as a new army but as the heir and successor of the army that took part in killing the Jews,” he said. “I didn’t have to join the Bundeswehr. I could have requested an exemption which was always granted to people whose families had been persecuted by the Nazi regime.”

The so-called normality

More than 200,000 Jews now live in Germany. Most of them are recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Many of these immigrants, in particular, seem to have fewer qualms about serving in the German army as do the third and fourth generation of German Jews.

“There is a lot of talk about so-called normality,” said Stephan Kramer, secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “That we are talking about this subject is a sign of it. In fact, many young men and women in the Jewish community, especially among immigrant families, seriously consider careers in the armed forces. Obviously, the rules and regulations have to change with the times.”

Putting one’s foot in it

Most Jews that join the German army say they haven’t had a hard time fitting in, either.

“They are curious about what it’s like to be a Jew,” Kagarlizkij said of his non-Jewish counterparts. “Most of the people I have met in the Bundeswehr had never had anything to do with Jews.”

Rabbi Walter Homolka, an army reserve officer who advises the armed forces, said that the Germany military is almost too afraid of offending Jews.

“One source of tension is that the Bundeswehr is too worried about doing something wrong,” Homolka said. “Our task, as Jews, is to point out to the army where it should be careful. But the level of concern needs to be lowered... the constant fear of putting one’s foot in it.”

A democratic army

Students at Berlin’s liberal rabbinical seminary, founded in 1999, have to do a brief internship with a military. Most go to the US Army, but some now choose the Bundeswehr and say they are pleased with their choice.

“It is a democratic army, an army that is very concerned about its image, about what it does, and what it is,” said Konstantin Pal, who spent a month with the German Navy.

He added that few institutions provide such a good opportunity for anyone seeking integration into German society.

“In the Bundeswehr, the most important thing is camaraderie – not whether you go to church every Sunday or to the synagogue on Friday evening,” he said. “What counts is doing your job well.”

Last November, an association of Jewish soldiers was founded. Its aim is to honor the Jews who fell in the World War I fighting for Germany – and to provide a forum for present-day German Jewish soldiers.

“It is something new,” said Kramer of the Central Council of Jews. “We welcome the establishment of such an organization in principle – but of course it should not mean that a Jewish group within the Bundeswehr expects any special privileges.”

 

“MANY PEOPLE HOPED AND BELIEVED ANTI-SEMITISM HAD BURNT ITSELF OUT. THIS IS NOT THE CASE.”

Jews far more likely to be victims of faith hatred than Muslims
By Tom Harper and Ben Leapman
The Sunday Telegraph
December 17, 2006

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/17/nislam117.xml

Jewish people are four times more likely to be attacked because of their religion than Muslims, according to figures compiled by the police.

One in 400 Jews compared to one in 1,700 Muslims are likely to be victims of “faith hate” attacks every year. The figure is based on data collected over three months in police areas accounting for half the Muslim and Jewish populations of England and Wales. The crimes range from assault and verbal abuse to criminal damage at places of worship.

Police forces started recording the religion of faith-hate crime victims only this year. They did so on the instruction of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which wanted a clear picture of alleged community tensions around the country, following reports of Muslims being attacked after September 11 and the July 7 London bombings last year.

However, the first findings, for July to September, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph under freedom of information legislation, show that it is Jews who are much more likely to be targeted because of their religion.

The figures also suggest that many faith-hate crimes remain unsolved, contrary to the picture painted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in a report this month. The CPS said only 43 people were charged with “religiously aggravated” offences last year, and concluded that the large rise expected after the July 7 bombings had not materialised.

Police figures suggest, however, that hundreds of faith-hate crimes are being committed, with very few ever reaching court. Those figures include any crime that is reported to police which the victim believes is motivated by hatred of his or her religion.

The CPS report revealed that not a single person accused of an anti-Semitic crime had been prosecuted on a charge of religiously aggravated offending. It said: “The police statistics include incidents where no defendant has been identified or where there is insufficient evidence for a prosecution.”

A report by MPs in September said British Jews were more vulnerable to attack and abuse now than for a generation. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, who sat on the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism, said it was “perverse” that not all police forces recorded anti-Semitic incidents and said that some forces “verge on the complacent”. The Acpo directive was ignored by most forces, whose systems are not designed to record religion, though they routinely record ethnicity. Acpo said large organisations take time to adjust to new systems.

The Sunday Telegraph has obtained information on faith-hate crimes from the Metropolitan Police, Greater Manchester, South Wales and West Mercia forces. In London and Manchester, where Muslims outnumber Jews by four to one, anti-Semitic offences exceeded anti-Muslim offences (see table). The figures do not record the faith of the offenders.

Rabbi Alex Chapper, 33, was the victim of a “faith-hate” crime in July last year. He was returning from a synagogue in Ilford, Essex, with three Jewish friends after conducting a service. All were wearing skull caps. Seven Asian teenagers followed them down the road shouting “Yehudi”, which means Jew in Arabic. One of them shouted, “We are Pakistani, you are Jewish. We are going to kill you”, before punching Rabbi Chapper in the face and hitting one of his friends over the head with a bottle.

“It was very frightening, we were all very shaken,” said the rabbi. “I thought we were going to get seriously hurt but someone threatened to call the police and they ran off.

“We identified the youths and told the police but they were never prosecuted. They just did not seem interested. I feel very let down.”

A spokesman for the Community Security Trust, which monitors attacks on Jews, said: “Many people hoped and believed anti-Semitism had burnt itself out. This is not the case.”

 

THE ONLY DOCUMENTED SOVIET SPY TO PENETRATE THE MOSSAD

Mossad-KGB double agent Zeev Avni dies at age 86
By Yossi Melman
Ha’aretz
January 7, 2006

Zeev Avni, who was involved in one of Israel’s most secret espionage affairs, died last week at age 86.

Avni, a Mossad agent, was arrested in April 1956 on suspicion of being a KGB agent. It emerged that while he was cultivating former Nazis employed as military advisers by Egypt’s army for the Mossad, he was also serving as a long-term Soviet mole.

When Avni’s double life was eventually exposed, he was tried in secret and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Avni was born Wolf Goldstein in 1921, in Riga, Latvia, to social activist parents who migrated to Germany and later to Switzerland. In 1942, after serving in the Swiss army, he was recruited to Soviet intelligence by a Czech refugee named Karl Vibrel. In 1948, Avni immigrated to Israel and settled on Kibbutz Hazorea.

Two years later Avni joined the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, and in 1952 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Israeli embassy in Brussels. He contacted Vibrel in Moscow and resumed working for Soviet intelligence.

Goldstein changed his name to the Hebrew Zeev Avni, and began sending his Soviet operators important material about the Foreign Ministry, weapons sales to Israel and secret codes.

While in Brussels, Avni served as a courier and recruiter for the Paris branch of the Mossad. His relations with both the Mossad and his Soviet operators continued after he was assigned to Israel’s diplomatic mission in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

In April 1956 he returned to Israel and asked Mossad chief Issar Harel for work. Harel became suspicious, and Avni was arrested and interrogated by the Shin Bet.

After his confession, his interrogators hoped to turn him into a double agent, but he refused and started serving his 14-year sentence.

The affair was a closely guarded secret, and leaked to the media only at the beginning of the 1990s.

Avni’s belief in communism cracked only when he learned that Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev had denounced Stalin’s crimes. At that point he began cooperating with the Mossad. He was released in 1965.

Avni is the only documented Soviet spy who penetrated the Israeli secret intelligence service. After his release, he worked as a clinical psychologist. The military censor permitted him to publish some of his memoirs in 1993.

 

ISRAELI SECURITY SYSTEM PROVES A DOG’S BARK CAN BE WORSE THAN ITS BITE

From yap to growl, Israeli device dogs intruders
By Corinne Heller
Reuters
January 2, 2007

An Israeli firm has designed a security system to ensure jailbreakers or intruders find a guard dog’s bark can indeed be worse than its bite.

Harnessing technology that interprets barking – to see if an animal is responding to a threat instead of just routinely woofing – the company aims to replace or supplement expensive electronic surveillance systems.

“There is currently very little utilization of the watchdog’s early warning capabilities,” says privately owned manufacturer Bio-Sense Technologies, based in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva, on its Web site.

The company – which says dogs have better night vision than humans and a vastly superior sense of smell and hearing – used computers to analyze 350 barks and found dogs of all breeds and sizes barked the same alarm when they sensed a threat.

If the dogs sense an intruder or attempted security breach, dozens of sensors around the facility pick up their “alarm bark” and alert the human operators in the control room.

Dubbed “Doguard,” the Dog Bio Security system is in place in high-security Eshel Prison as well as Israeli military bases, water installations, farms, ranches, garages and in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Eshel Prison installed the system last year to supplement its existing network of electric fences and human guards, prison officer Bazov Moris told Reuters.

Now Rex, a brown American Staffordshire Terrier, Emmy, a white Caanan, and 27 other dogs guarding the prison are tracked by sensors to alert guards to any attempted breakout at the jail, which houses about 3,000 prisoners including Israelis and Palestinians.

There have been no escape attempts since the system was installed, but Moris is convinced it works. He said prisoners at other facilities had been able to escape “because dogs barked but no alert was sent to the guards.”

During a demonstration an alarm wailed as Rex and Emmy raced, growling and snarling, alongside one of the facility’s metal fences, which a man in a brown uniform was trying to scale from the other side.

Officers in a small basement office nearby watched on a surveillance video and spoke into their walkie-talkies as a wall of computer screens flashed in red: “Dog alarm in Sector 12.”

Seconds later, several prison guards, wielding clubs, raced to the scene and tackled the man to the ground.

NOT FOOLPROOF

The dog bark-reader is just one of a batch of innovative security systems to emerge from Israel, which business magazine Forbes said in December had emerged as “the go-to country for anti-terrorism technologies.”

By monitoring not just the dogs’ barks, but also their physiological responses – like heart rates – it joins a trend for computer systems building on animal knowledge that humans also share.

Another Israeli example, from Suspect Detection Systems, offers border checkpoints a computer quiz that alerts guards if travelers show a marked physiological response to particularly tough questions.

However, Doguard is not foolproof. When first set up at Eshel Prison and at a water installation and farm in central Israel, the dogs triggered several false alarms, officials said.

“The dogs need two to three weeks to adapt – they must get to know their territory,” said Daniel Low, chief executive officer of Meniv Rishon, the municipal water system of the Israeli town of Rishon Lezion.

Low said he had installed the system in several places to replace guards.

Galia Alon, an official at Modi’in Ezrahi, a large Israeli security company that supplies private guards and equipment, cautioned against relying on dogs as a first line of defense.

“Dogs are excellent at spotting intruders – they are well trained and have a more sharpened sense of smell than humans,” she said. “But people can identify people by looking at them and talking to them, and they are more inclined to catch them.”

Yossi Brami, manager of a dairy at Kibbutz Gezer, a communal farm, had the system installed two months ago. He said he was told dogs work better in pairs because one signals to the other if an intruder appears, so two were placed to guard his calves.

The dogs used in the alarm system were rescued from shelters, Bio-Sense chief executive officer Eyal Zehavi said, adding some clients asked for them to be trained professionally first.

Eshel Prison’s dogs live in individual kennels. Several times a day, they are let out to patrol buildings, where they are unleashed in a fenced-in compound.

At Kibbutz Gezer, dogs Chief and Lola are kept on a long chain and are released to run around the farm several times a day. The dogs guarding Meniv Rishon are also chained.

Israeli animal rights societies said they knew little about the system but it was preferable for dogs to live indoors and unleashed.

 

RESEARCHERS FIND A 2,000 YEAR-OLD TOILET ON THE BANKS OF THE DEAD SEA

Ancient latrine fuels debate at Qumran
The Associated Press
January 2, 2007

Researchers say their discovery of a 2,000-year-old toilet at one of the world’s most important archaeological sites sheds new light on whether the ancient Essene community was home to the authors of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In a new study, three researchers say they have discovered the outdoor latrine used by the ancient residents of Qumran, on the barren banks of the Dead Sea. They say the find proves the people living here two millennia ago were Essenes, an ascetic Jewish sect that left Jerusalem to seek proximity to God in the desert.

Qumran and its environs have already yielded many treasures: the remains of a settlement with an aqueduct and ritual baths, ancient sandals and pottery, and the Dead Sea Scrolls – perhaps the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century.

The scrolls, which include fragments of the books of the Old Testament and treatises on communal living and apocalyptic war, have shed important light on Judaism and the origins of Christianity.

Thanks to an Israeli anthropologist, an American textual scholar and a French paleo-parasitologist, researchers can now add another find: human excrement.

The discovery is more significant than it may seem. The nature of the settlement at Qumran is the subject of a lively academic debate.

The traditional view, supported by a majority of scholars since the site was first excavated in the 1950s, is that the settlement was inhabited by Essene monks who observed strict rules of ritual purity and celibacy and who wrote many of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The second school says the people living at Qumran were farmers, potters or soldiers, and had nothing to do with the Essenes. The scrolls, according to this view, were written in Jerusalem and stashed in caves at Qumran by Jewish refugees fleeing the Roman conquest of the city in the first century.

The researchers behind the latrine finding, which is being published in the scholarly journal “Revue de Qumran,” say it supports the traditional view linking the residents of Qumran with the Essenes.

A description of Essene practice by the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius in the first century notes that Essene rules required them to distance themselves from inhabited areas to defecate and “dig a trench a foot deep” which was to then be covered with soil.

Joe Zias, a Jerusalem-based anthropologist, and James Tabor, a Dead Sea Scrolls expert from the University of North Carolina, decided to look for the Qumran latrine. If it was far from the settlement ruins and if the excrement was buried, it would offer evidence the people living at the site were Essenes.

Zias and Tabor identified an area behind a rock outcropping, took soil samples and sent them to Stephanie Harter-Lailheugue, a French scientist specializing in ancient parasites. The samples tested positive for pinworms and two other intestinal parasites found only in human feces. Samples from locations nearer the settlement tested negative.

The excrement traces were found underground – meaning the feces had been buried, as required by Essene law – a nine-minute walk uphill from the settlement.

“A lot of people were concerned with what went into the body, but the Essenes were perhaps the only group in antiquity concerned with what came out,” Zias said. “No one else would have gone to the trouble of walking this far.”

Still, there is no way to date the fecal parasites, which could have been left by Bedouin who are known to have inhabited the area. To counter this, the paper quotes a Bedouin scholar as saying the nomadic tribespeople do not bury their feces.

Another problem is that archaeologists have already identified a toilet at Qumran – inside the settlement. But Zias believes it was for emergencies: In some cases, divine commandments notwithstanding, nine minutes outside the camp was too far to go.

Norman Golb, a history professor at the University of Chicago and a critic of the link between Qumran and the Essenes, called the new paper “an outrageous claim.”

“There’s no plausible connection between what they found and the conclusion that the Essenes lived at Qumran,” Golb said. “Anyone living at the site would have done the same.”

Golb maintains that Qumran’s residents had nothing to do with the Essenes or the Dead Sea Scrolls. Those who claim a connection do so because “they’re committed in their writings to it,” Golb said.

Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Stephen Pfann, of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, said questions about the parasites’ age have to be cleared up, but the find is potentially significant.

Qumran, he says, could have been inhabited at different times by different groups: first by Jews of the Hasmonean dynasty in the second century, then by a monastic group of Essenes who left after an earthquake and were replaced by a lay group of Essene date farmers, then again by Essene ascetics, before being finally taken over by Jewish rebels fighting the Roman legions and abandoned when Judea fell.

“Qumran isn’t one thing, it’s many things,” Pfann said. “This makes it more exciting, but also more complicated to understand.”

 

REAL ESTATE BOOM IN ROME’S JEWISH QUARTER

Real estate boom uprooting Jews in Roman Ghetto
By Ariel David
The Associated Press
December 30, 2006

Rosa Moscato left the impoverished but familiar existence of Rome’s Jewish quarter only twice in her life.

As a child, she fled to the countryside with her family to escape Nazi persecution, then returned after the war to marry and raise a family in the cramped neighborhood that housed her close-knit community.

But there was little Moscato could do when the run-down area experienced a contemporary renaissance, leading to a real estate boom that attracted wealthy buyers and uprooted longtime residents from the neighborhood where popes once forced Rome’s Jews to live.

Residents and Jewish community officials said evictions and speculative deals are driving out the area’s few remaining Jews, often severing their ties to one of the oldest communities in Europe.

Of more than 13,000 Jews in the Italian capital, fewer than 800 still live in the Ghetto, according to the Jewish community’s archive. After World War II, the area housed 6,000 of the city’s 11,000-strong community.

Moscato, 72, can hardly recognize the cobblestone-paved alleys she grew up in and the 16th-century building where she, her husband and four children shared a two-room flat until 1998, when the family was evicted by owners eager to cash in on the area’s rising property values.

Property values have tripled or quadrupled in a decade, making the Ghetto as pricey as other parts of downtown Rome. Apartments in the neighborhood sell for a minimum of $660 a square foot, according to Carlo Ventura, a real estate consultant at Rome’s chamber of commerce.

Elegant renovation projects and tight security around Jewish community buildings have attracted politicians and TV personalities to the centrally located area.

“It’s no longer our neighborhood. It’s the neighborhood of the police and actors,” said Sergio Di Veroli, Moscato’s 77-year-old husband.

Jews have lived in Rome since the second century B.C. The city’s Jews were first confined to the Ghetto, then a flood-prone slum on the banks of the Tiber River, in 1555, under Pope Paul IV.

Pressured to convert and allowed to hold jobs only as money lenders or rag sellers, the cohesive community continued to live mostly in and around the old Ghetto even after Italy wrested control of Rome from the papacy in 1870, ending the three centuries of segregation.

After renewed persecution during World War II, when Nazi occupiers sent more than 2,000 of Rome’s Jews to their deaths in extermination camps, the Ghetto experienced an exodus as the more prosperous families went looking for better housing, leaving behind mostly low-income residents.

Now, officials say, the property boom is driving out those vulnerable inhabitants – mostly elderly or unemployed people who are often paid by owners to leave.

Despite the changing population, the neighborhood remains the center of the community’s life – holding Rome’s main synagogue, a Jewish school, kosher restaurants and shops selling Jewish religious objects.

“Here my father and my brother lived, and these things must not be forgotten,” said Roberto Calo, 75, who lost most of his family in the Holocaust and who has offers from real estate agencies for his apartment. “From time to time, I receive telephone calls, and they make me incredible offers. But I wouldn’t leave here for any reason.”


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.