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As the community began to disperse after the fall of the Soviet Union, Alanna E.Cooper traveled to Uzbekistan to document Jewish life before it disappeared.Azerbaijan has particularly complicated relations with Iran, which borders Azerbaijan to the south.Iran has supported Azerbaijan’s top enemy, Armenia, during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.Her publications have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Review of Books, Anthropology of East Europe Review, Jewish Social Studies, and AJS Review.
In October, Pope Francis visited Azerbaijan and praised the country’s culture of religious tolerance. He visited the Jewish state in 2015 as part of a program sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.
Shaffer, who has lived in Azerbaijan, said that current Azerbaijani leaders and their families all speak very warmly about their personal relations with Jews, especially regarding their children’s Jewish teachers in schools.“The Jews of Azerbaijan are very integrated into the society.
They are not ‘tolerated,’ like they are in some other parts of the world—they are part of the society,” she said. Avinoam Idan—a senior fellow with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University and a University of Haifa professor—told that when he first visited Central Asia and the Caucasus region in the late 1980s, he was very impressed with the emphasis on separation of church and state.“As someone coming from the Middle East, where religion and politics are mixed together, I was totally impressed when I came to these countries.
Aliyev said that to date, his country has purchased close to billion in defense equipment from the Jewish state.
In Kazakhstan—which has warmer ties with Iran than Azerbaijan—Iran also looms large in the nation’s ties with Israel.