Excerpt from The Nectar of Passion by Nazila Isgandarova

2013-01-29 17:28:00


Adir’s parents were both Jews from Georgia and spoke Qivruli, or Judeo-Georgian, which included a number of Hebrew words. They had later moved to Russia for a better life. They did not know Hebrew well and had a few customs, which were different from the Jews in Israel. Adir grew up as a secular Jewish boy, but deep down he always felt he was Jewish. However, his family was not practicing Judaism, since in the former Soviet Union Jews usually hid their true identity to avoid persecution.
   Since his childhood Adir had heard many stories of how the Jewish culture was annihilated in Georgia and Russia. Many Jews took refuge in Israel, especially after the 1970s. Love and yearning for Israel had always been strong among Georgian and Russian Jews. Some Jews, especially old ones wanted to die and be buried in the Holy Land. But only a few rich men could afford to go to the Holy land and live there. Those who remained in Georgia and Russia were usually poor people. But no Jew in Tiflis or Moscow begged for bread. They worked hard to be prosperous, they studied well - especially medicine - and got good jobs. Some were also successful in commerce and earned high salaries. Those who were rich supported those who were less well off with charity and employment.
   Although Adir never saw his family celebrating the Jewish holidays, except Yom Kippur, he learned an important Jewish greeting: “May we meet again in the Holy City of Jerusalem."
   His family was less interested in emigration and decided to remain in Georgia but when the armed conflict started between Abkhazia and Ossetia and Georgia, they moved to Moscow. Elioz, Adir’s father, strongly believed that Russia was behind the conflict and war in the Caucasus, which Russia treated as its own backyard; they did not want the Americans to control it. Russia took revenge on Azerbaijan and occupied Nagorno Garabagh, then gave it to Armenia for its centuries-old loyalty to Russia. Georgia was also continuously threatened by Moscow.
   Elioz and his family didn’t stay in Russia long. The economic crisis after the fall of the soviet empire forced them to find a way out of Russia. Anti-Semitism in Russia alarmed him; being a Jew in Russia wasn’t so easy.
   Elioz had told Adir about the soviet bias against Jews. Elioz and many others were scared to go to the synagogue. If he was caught going there he would risk losing his job and his brother would be expelled from university. He was tired of being called ‘Yid’, a derogatory name for a Jew.
   Adir remembered an incident in school in Moscow. Once he came home crying because someone told him that Jews were bloodsuckers who fed on the misfortunes of other people, and that they drank the blood of non-Jews, especially children.
   It was widely reported that the economic crisis in Russia and misfortune of 1990s occurred because the Jews destroyed Soviet industry and agriculture. Even worse, this anti-Jewish sentiment was sponsored by the state and the communist party. Once Communist Party General Albert Makashov shouted with anger and promised the Russians "I will round up all the Yids and send them to the next world!" And Zyuganov, who was Russian politician, First Secretary of the Communist Party, sent a letter claim that Zionism was among the "most aggressive imperialist circles striving for world domination. In this respect it is related to fascism… Communists... rightly ask how it can be that key positions in a number of economic sectors were seized by representatives of one ethnic group. They see how control over most of the electronic media -- which are waging a destructive campaign against our fatherland and its morality, language, culture and beliefs -- is concentrated in the hands of those same individuals." For these people, the only salvation was "Bash Yids; Save Russia…"
   When Adir remembered all these things, he felt a deep sorrow. He knew that his grandparents risked their lives fighting for Russia in World War II, yet their children were seen as the enemy.
   He also knew that many soviet nations, including many Muslims, felt the same way. They had sacrificed their lives to save the great homeland Russia from the Germans. Many people didn’t even know that some of the Muslim soldiers in the Soviet army were shot dead from behind by the order of Stalin. That was the easiest way to get rid of them.
   Now many Muslims and Jews wondered, how could one live under the continuous persecution of their religion? The majority of natives in Russia were Muslims: Tatars, Chechens, Bashkirs, Balkirs, Lezgiz, and many others. And Jews had lived in Russia since long when even the name of Russia did not exist.    
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