The World Jewish Center in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, was vandalized on Tuesday night in an act thought to be directly related to Israel’s growing relations with neighboring adversary Azerbaijan.
The Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan, historically inhabited by ethnic Armenian Christians, has been at the center of a longstanding conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The improved relations between Israel and Azerbaijan prompted supporters of the Armenian separatist government in Nagorno-Karabakh to target the Jewish center in Yerevan.
The attackers issued a statement saying: “The Jews are the enemies of the Armenian nation, complicit in Turkish crimes and the regime of [Azerbaijan President Ilhan] Aliyev. The Jewish state provides weapons to Aliyev’s criminal regime, and Jews from America and Europe actively support him. Turkey, Aliyev’s regime, and the Jews are the sworn enemies of the Armenian state and people.”
They added: “If Jewish rabbis in the United States and Europe continue to support Aliyev’s regime, we will continue to burn their synagogues in other countries. Every rabbi will be a target for us. No Israeli Jew will feel safe in these countries.”
Armenia's Jewish community
The center in Yerevan was damaged, but not by fire, according to reports.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), responded that “the vandalism of the World Jewish Center in Armenia is distressing. The Jewish community in Armenia is not a party to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
He urged Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan to condemn the act and called for increased security measures for the Jewish community. Goldschmidt expressed his solidarity with the Jewish community in Armenia and hoped they could peacefully observe the holiday of Sukkot.
According to World Jewish Congress estimates, Armenia is home to about 500-1,000 Jews, mostly of Ashkenazi origin, and some Mizrahi and Georgian Jews, localized in Yerevan.
An ethnically diverse country, Armenia has had a deep historical connection to Judaism. Today, the small Armenian Jewish community is able to practice freely but there have been several manifestations of antisemitism.
Russia exchanged views with the United States and the European Union on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh ahead of the lightning military operation by Azerbaijan last month, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.
Politico earlier reported that top officials from the US and the EU met their Russian counterparts in Turkey for emergency talks about Karabakh days before Azerbaijan launched its operation in the breakaway region.
“The US and EU approached us and asked us to hold a meeting,” Zakharova told reporters. She said the sides exchanged views about the situation in Karabakh.
“There was nothing secret about this meeting; it was an ordinary exchange of views. We shall see how the West will present all this now,” she said.