Przyslala Ala Elczewska
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Fidel Castro, who has died at the age of 90, was outspoken in his hatred of Israel. For more than a half century, since seizing power in a military coup in 1959, he led Cuba as a leader of the non-Aligned movement, which sought to isolate and condemn Israel on the international stage.
At the same time, Castro gave some measure of protection to Cuba’s small Jewish community. Here are some surprising numbers related to Fidel Castro’s Jewish links.
The approximate number of Jews who called Cuba home in 1959 when Fidel Castro seized power from military dictator Fulgencio Batista, and installed himself as President.
Today, Cuba’s Jewish population numbers approximately 1,400.
Amount of arms Israel sold Cuba in 1959, when Castro sent Jose Ramon Fernandez (later Vice President of Cuba) to Israel to negotiate buying weapons from the Jewish state. Although Israel declined to sell Castro’s government weapons, Israel gave Cuba major civilian assistance, sharing its advanced citrus cultivation knowledge with Cuba for the next ten years.
Number of days of official mourning that Fidel Castro declared after the death of Israeli President Itzhak Ben Zvi in 1963. When Algerian Premier Ahmed Ben Bella warned “Whoever respects a dead Israeli in that way has no right to come to an Arab land”, Castro promptly cancelled a planned visit to Algeria.
The number of Soviet-influenced states who refused to sever ties with Israel after the Six Day War in 1967: Cuba and Romania. (Fidel Castro maintained that he would only cut ties with nations that directly threatened Cuba and resisted pressure to end diplomatic relations.)
Castro and Yassir Arafat
The number Latin American nations that granted the PLO terrorist organization full diplomatic status by 1967: Cuba and Nicaragua. Fidel Castro was an enthusiastic supporter of the PLO’s terrorist activities, helping train the group’s terrorists in Jordan and allowing PLO terrorist training camps to operate inside Cuba, helping prepare Israel’s enemies to attack Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide.
Number of years that Cuban-Jewish diplomat Dr. Ricardo Subirana Y Lobo represented Cuba in Israel, until Castro abruptly ended diplomatic relations with the Jewish state in 1973. Dr. Lobo said at the time he’d had no warning, telling reporters “I have heard nothing from Havana. Good relations have always prevailed between the two countries.”
Number of years Israel and Cuba have lacked formal diplomatic relations, ever since Castro severed ties with the Jewish state in 1973.
The number of years the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution slandering the Jewish state stood in the UN. Cuba was one of the resolution’s initial sponsors in 1975, and Fidel Castro also resisted its repeal in 1991. (Cuba was one of only 25 hardline nations in voting against the unpopular and deeply damaging resolution; 111 nations voted for its repeal.)
The number of kosher butchers in Cuba. Although he brutally repressed private enterprise in Cuba after seizing power in 1959, Fidel Castro did make one surprising exception: he allowed Cuba’s sole kosher butcher shop, in Havana, to remain open. Today, although there is no official kosher certification in Cuba, and no rabbi, the leader of Cuba’s tiny Jewish community runs the butcher shop, slaughtering his own animals and donating the meat to Havana’s three synagogues, which provide free meals to the community.
The number of years USAID contractor Alan Gross was held in Cuban jail for the “crime” of setting up internet access for the Jewish community of Cuba without government permission. Mr. Gross was arrested in 2009, the year after Fidel Castro gave up the presidency to his brother Raul, but he was still thought to be influential in Cuban politics. After suffering ill health in prison, Mr. Gross was finally released in 2014 as part of a prisoner swap. Three spies sent to the US by Fidel Castro in 2001 were also released.