Israeli delegation booted from ceremony in Russia’s Derbent
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Israeli delegation booted from ceremony in Russia’s Derbent

Israeli dignitaries were invited to celebrate 2,000th anniversary of Dagestani city, but their participation was canceled at last minute

A view of Derbent, in Dagestan, Russia. (CC BY-SA 2.0 Bolshakov/Wikipedia)
A view of Derbent, in Dagestan, Russia. (CC BY-SA 2.0 Bolshakov/Wikipedia)

An Israeli delegation headed by Hadera Mayor Tzvika Gendelman was kicked out of a hotel in Derbent, Russia because the president of the Muslim-majority Russian federal republic reportedly didn’t want Jews or Israelis near him.

The delegation was invited to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Derbent, Hadera’s sister city. Ninety percent of Derbent’s Jews, some 15,000 people, immigrated to Israel and live in Hadera.

The delegation included six Israelis, among them Hadera Deputy Mayor Roman Gisher, former Or Akiva mayor Simha Yossifov and head of the Caucasian community in Hadera Nathan Leviev.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, during the first few days of the visit members of the delegation were warmly received, but on Monday, when the main event marking 2,000 years to Derbent’s establishment was set to take place, Gendelman was told that entry permits for all members of the delegation but him were canceled and that he should attend the ceremony on his own.

At the same time, members of the delegation found that their belongings were taken out of their rooms in a local hotel and they were not allowed to return to the rooms.

The event was attended by Dagestan President Ramazan Abdulatipov.

Gendelman told his hosts he had no plans of attending and the Jewish deputy mayor of Derbent Savi Hanukaev, the man in charge of hosting the Israelis, also boycotted the ceremony in protest.

“The incident began when the president of the republic was expected in town,”Gendelman told the paper. “Up until that point we received a warm welcome but in one moment the treatment of the Israeli delegation changed completely. I clarified to local authorities that I have no intention of attending the ceremony without my colleagues in the delegation and that I regard the cancelation of the [delegation members’] invitation severely, but there was nothing they could do about it. As a result I decided to boycott the event and leave town.”

Gendelman traveled to Moscow where he lodged an official complaint with the Israeli Embassy over the incident.

Members of the delegation criticized the embassy, which was busy preparing for the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin, for not trying to prevent the incident with Abdultipov.

Ramazan Abdulatipov, the acting president of the Russian province of Dagestan (photo credit: AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
Ramazan Abdulatipov, the acting president of the Russian province of Dagestan (photo credit: AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

But Yedioth Ahronoth quoted diplomatic officials saying the cancellation was not a result of anti-Semitism or anti-Israeli sentiment but rather from personal conflicts between persons in Derbent and members of the delegation.

The report didn’t quote anyone in the delegation specifically mentioning that Abdulatipov was the reason fort the delegation being kicked out of the hotel.

The Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the incident but said it was pleased with cooperation between Israeli cities and other cities around the world.

Last year, Abdulatipov issued a warm greeting to his country’s Jews ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

“I cordially congratulate Jews on the bright holiday of Passover,” the statement read. “For many centuries, Judaism has been and remains one of the traditional religions of Dagestan.

“The Jewish community of Dagestan makes significant contribution to the strengthening of the interethnic and inter-confessional dialogue in the country and to the consolidation of centuries-old friendship of its peoples, promoting the principles of morality and humanity in our society.

“Please accept my sincere wishes of good health, happiness, love and kindness. Let spring paschal days fill your hearts with warmth and joy and peace and prosperity always live at your homes, ” the statement said.

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