Is it possible to live happily as a Jew under Muslim rule? Yes it is – in Azerbaijan where 9,000 Jews live in harmony, says Said Mousayev in the Jerusalem Post.
history of Azerbaijan itself and its peoples is multicultural. In
particular, the history of the Jews in Azerbaijan is exemplary. This is
exemplary because Azerbaijan, a country with a Muslim majority 96%, is
against anti-Semitism. In Azerbaijan, religion is separate from the
state. All confessions are equal before the law. The national
educational system is secular. The official language of the Republic of
Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani. According to the most recent census, there
are people of 150 ethnicity living in Azerbaijan, 22 of them having compact settlements in different regions of the state.
There are three Jewish
communities in modern Azerbaijan: Mountains Jews (or Bukharian Jews),
Ashkenazi Jews, and Georgian Jews. The community of Mountains Jews is
the oldest, their ancestors arriving to the territory almost 15
centuries ago, according to some data. This version claims that after
the Mazdakeans were subdued in Iran (late 5th – early 6th century A.D.),
most of the Iranian Jews who had supported them were exiled to the
outskirts of the empire, i.e., today’s Northern Azerbaijan and Southern
The ancestors of the Mountains Jews spoke a South-Western
dialect of the Persian language, which the modern Mountain Jewish
language of Old Persian origin called Juhuri or Judeo-Tat, related to
the Persian spoken by Jews in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and also
containing many Turkic and Semitic elements.
The great synagogue in Baku (Getty images)
As of 2016, approximately
9,000 Jews live in in perfect harmony with Muslims and other religions
in Azerbaijan. Recognized as Juhuros, Mountain Jews self-nominate, would
be descendants of the 12 tribes exiled from the Kingdom of Israel by
the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V in the VIII century BC.
agree on the presence of Jewish communities in the Eastern Caucasus as
early as the 3rd century. Fleeing persecution in Persia, the Mountain
Jews settled in the area and were gradually cut off from their Persian
roots over the centuries. Thus, in the 7th and 8th centuries, their
number increases in the North Caucasus and on the territory of the
present Republic of Azerbaijan because they are fleeing the Arab threat
to the south, contained by the Khazar kingdom, Crimea to the shores of
the Caspian Sea.