Baku. 1 August. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an interview with the Head of the Community of Azerbaijan's Mountain Jews, Milikh Yevdayev:
- Mr. Yevdayev, we would like you to give us information about the Jews living in Azerbaijan…
- I would like to note that the first temple built by Prophet Suleiman in Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C. by the troops of Navuhodonos II. Afterwards, some part of the Jews spread across the world. The sons of Israel were taken to Babylon.
Prophet Moses was given the mission by God to take the Jewish people out of Egypt. After 400 years of slavery, more than 600,000 Jews left Egypt. However, not all of them reached Jerusalem; some of them settled in various places.
The Jews, who spread to the world from eastern countries, are Sephardi Jews. Those living in Azerbaijan belong to Sephardi Jews.
In comparison with European Jews, they look more like eastern people. In general, Jews are mainly called Sephardi and Ashkenazi in the world. European Jews are called Ashkenazi. We came to the Azerbaijani territories more than 20 centuries ago. Historical sources also prove it.
Along with mountainous Jews, European and Georgian Jews also live in Azerbaijan. European Jews have lived in Azerbaijan for about 200 years. Their arrival coincides with the beginning of the oil extraction process in Azerbaijan in the 18th century.
I would like to stress that there is no big difference between Sephardi and Askenazi. “Torah” and our national and spiritual values are the same. We just have different mentality due to living in various places. We have the Caucasian mentality.
Mountainous Jews have lived in Guba for approximately 300 years. Before settling in Guba, they had lived at the feet of the Shahdag mountain. We are called mountainous Jews probably because we used to live at the feet of Shahdag.
Guba is the place with the highest concentration of the Jews in the world. Once, over 12,000 people lived in that settlement. Now, the population of that settlement is nearly 4,000 people.
- What were the relations between the Jews and the local population?
- First of all, I would like to highlight that “Torah” was sent to Prophet Moses by God in the month of Ramadan. Moreover, the “Quran” was sent to Prophet Mohammad in the month of Ramadan as well.
It is impossible to separate us from the Azerbaijani people, with whom we have become brotherly throughout long years. From now us, regardless of where we live, our motherland is Azerbaijan. The number of the Jews in Azerbaijan is approximately 30,000. The Jews take a nationality from a mother. If a mother is a Jew, a child is also considered a Jew.
The Jews live in all regions of Azerbaijan. They live mainly in Guba, Shirvan and Oghuz. We learn two languages from birth. In regions, the Jews receive education mainly in Azerbaijani. They learn the conversational language at school. There are two Jewish schools in Baku with the education in Russian. At those schools, lessons are taught based on the programs approved in Azerbaijan. The Jews spread across the world more than 2,000 years ago, but they have not forgotten their national and spiritual values and language.
All the favorable conditions have been created for us in Azerbaijan to maintain our values. Our synagogue was constructed at the decree of His Excellency President Ilham Aliyev and has started operating since May, 2011. The fact that a synagogue has been built with the financial support of the President in a Muslim country has no equals in the world. Every year, the government allocates financial aid to all religious communities.
- How many Jewish religious communities are there in Azerbaijan and can you name them?
- There are 8 Jewish religious communities in Azerbaijan. These are Baku Religious Community of Mountainous Jews, Baku Religious Community of European Jews, Baku Religious Community of Georgian Jews, the Religious Community of Sumgayit Jews, Guba Region Red Settlement Religious Community of Mountainous Jews, the Religious Community of Azerbaijani Jews, the Religious Community of Ganja Jews, the Religious Community of Oghuz Jews.
- What is your attitude towards uniting the Jewish religious communities in Azerbaijan?
- In any case, it would be better to unite the religious communities. Probably, this process will be implemented when the time comes. There are over 20,000 members of the Jewish religious communities in Azerbaijan.
- What holidays do the Jewish people have?
- We have New Year holiday Rosh Hashanah, Yom-Kippur, Pesach, Sukkot, Shavuot and others. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated in September and last 2 days. Yom-Kippur begins 10 days after Rosh Hashanah. Pesach lasts for 8 days. Shavuot starts seven weeks after this holiday.
Our sacred Torah says that God created the world for six days and rested on the seventh day. Saturday is a holy day for Jews as it coincides with the same day. In Jewry, Sabbath is a feast of feasts. That is why Saturday (Sabbath) is celebrated as a holiday. Jews fast for 20 days at several times during a year. We fast for 24 hours.
- How many admonitions are there in the sacred Torah of the Jews, and can all of them be obeyed?
- Judaism is not a nationality but a lifestyle. When God revealed the sacred Torah, there were ten admonitions, and later the number of admonitions increased. At present there are 613 of them. It is important to follow them all in everyday life. 365 of them are banning and 248 permitting.
- It is said that Jews pay special attention to the education of their children. How do you personally follow this procedure in your life?
- True, the Jews attach great importance to education. I was born in Guba and graduated from secondary school in Azerbaijani. I have studied at the Technical University in Azerbaijani, and at the Belarusian Institute of National Economy in Russian. I have worked at the Ministry of Light Industry for many years. When I retired, I was advised to chair the community and I have accepted it. I am in this office for about 6 years.
- Please, give some information on your traditions. In what forms way of worship, regulation of family relationships being carried out?
- We are trying to get married once in our life. Kippah, main clothing of Jewish men, shows our nationality. We pray in synagogue. Chazan leads prayers by reading Torah.
Jewish parents are recommended to circumcise the baby in eight days. Family heads give each other a great deal of value. If parents respect each other, the child will go in the same way as grows up.
- In what countries do Jews currently live most?
- Number of Jews in the world is about 16 million. Number of mountain Jews is about 200,000. Sometimes the Jews are registered as other people. But since Judaism passed down through the mother, Jew is someone whose mother is Jewish. Generally, Jews live in almost all countries of the world. It is difficult to find a Jewish family without relatives in a foreign country. We do not choose to live in a foreign land. This is our fate.
1,000-seat synagogue built in Edirne, Turkey in 1907, was repaired by the state. I participated in the opening ceremony after renovation. I have seen how thousands of Jews freely come to the synagogue. I'd like also mention a historical fact. Once the Jews left Spain, Turkish Sultan received them.
- Do Jews live in Armenia?
- Armenians say that there are up to 100 Jews ...
- Is there condition for Jews to live comfortably in Azerbaijan?
- We have been living in Azerbaijan for many centuries. We have martyrs, national heroes from the Jewish people. There are all conditions in Azerbaijan for preserving our language and religion. We are fully able to use all the rights set out in the Constitution of Azerbaijan as a citizen of the country. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev says he is a president of every citizen. We are witnessing full realization of this in practice. We also support our President in all spheres with our activity, and appreciate his domestic and foreign policy. In some Muslim countries, people are living in hail of bullets. But today we are peacefully living in Azerbaijan. Our honorable President ensures peace conditions. The national leader has said: "Jews can live in complete peace in Azerbaijan".
Even if Jews go to other countries, they do not cut ties with Azerbaijan, nor deny that they are Azerbaijanis. We are proud of Azerbaijan.