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Viva Mexico

There was a rare piece of exciting news from the Diaspora this week – the election of Claudia Scheinbaum as the next president of Mexico, not only the first woman, but also the first Jew, to become president of that country. But is this a cause for celebration? Well, maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Under the current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, relations with Israel are not very good – and that’s putting it nicely. And President-Elect Scheinbaum belongs to the same party as President Lopez Obrador. Remember Bruno Kreisky, Chancellor of Austria, in the mid 70s? Typical of a Jew who had received a Zionist education as a kid, he decided to fully nullify all Jewish historical connections to Israel, and recognize Yasir Arafat as the leader of “occupied Palestine” thereby supporting his murder of Jews.

Will President-elect Scheinbaum do something similar, as did the current president who had submitted a Declaration of Intervention to the ICJ, which was not a very friendly gesture to Israel, or will she forge a new path? Lopez Obrador’s Declaration had led to bloody anti-Semitic riots in front of the Israeli embassy in Mexico City, thus causing a little unease in the Jewish community. Will Ms. Scheinbaum continue with the same hostile, and anti-Semitic, policies? That remains to be seen, but there are rumors that she does plan on doing just that.

But rumors aside, let’s assume for the moment, she definitely does. Do you know what would be so bizarre about that? In one of the many ironies in Jewish history, she, a Jewish person, could very well be hostile, while in El Salvador, on the other side of Guatemala to the south of Mexico, President Nayib Bukele, who is of Palestinian Christian ancestry, has always maintained friendly relations with Israel. How ironic – a hostile Jew and a friendly Palestinian. I do want to emphasize though, that all this is just speculation, and I don’t like predicting the policies a future head of state. So forget I said anything.

On a different note, one sort of wonders if Ms. Scheinbaum is even aware of the historic connection between the Jews of Mexico and those of the ancestral Jewish homeland, if she even acknowledges Israel as the ancestral Jewish homeland at all.

The first Jews to arrive in Mexico were conversos from Spain – Jews who were forced into Christianity in order to escape the Spanish Inquisition. They came with the conquistadors, settled down, and felt safe enough to practice their Judaism, at least in secret. In so doing, and among their many activities, they established a Halukka system, part of an age-old Diaspora Jewish custom, common at the time, of providing for the poor in the Land of Israel. In Mexico, this system was known as the Farda and it was headed by two of the leaders of the community, Ruy Diaz Nieto, and his son Diego. Unfortunately, they couldn’t escape the Inquisition as it was soon established even in the Spanish colonies overseas including Mexico which, at that time, included what is now, the southwest United States. All secret Jewish activities were put to an end, especially in regards to Halukkah, and many people were burned at the stake as a result, including the Nietos. For several centuries afterwards, there was no Jewish population in Mexico at all, except for a small community of conversos that managed to survive. Until this day, there are surviving communities of B’nai Anusim within the borders of today’s Mexico, and in several communities scattered in the American southwest, including three small towns in northern New Mexico that are entirely inhabited by B’nai Anusim.

When Mexico became independent in 1821, the Spanish Inquisition was abolished and a comparative atmosphere of freedom of religion was introduced. Soon thereafter, in the mid 1820s, the first few Jews, who openly identified as such, began to arrive. Since then, the community has grown. By 1926, contacts between the Jews of Mexico and those of the Land of Israel, was re-established, after a severance of approximately 350 years, with the visit of a Histadrut delegation, which prominently included Yitzhak ben Zvi, which participated in the International Workers’ Congress. By 1940, the 1st Mexican immigrants, under the influence of Zionist activist Avner Aliphas, arrived in the country. They’ve been arriving ever since. (And you thought it was just California and Texas.) In 1948, some came as part of the Machal during the War of Independence, helping the newly independent State of Israel fight off the Arabs who had embarked on a war of annihilation.

Since independence, Mexican olim have made tremendous contributions to Israeli society. They included such personalities as: tennis player Ilana Berger; Yosef Dayan, orthodox rabbi and advocate for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty over Israel; human rights activist Gabriela Lasky; and Knesset members Arieh Dulzin, Eliezer Ronen, and Binyamin Temkin.

About the Author
David currently lives in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles pursuing many interests. He is totally anti-Zionist and is a pro-Israel blogger who also blogs about the histories of the other Arab-occupied indigenous peoples of the Middle East and North (see IndMiddleEast.blogspot.com). His booklet, The Occupied Territories [by David Marc], about these indigenous peoples, is currently sold on Amazon.