Report: Castro Let Jews Go To Israel
By The Associated Press
LONDON (AP) --
Cuban President Fidel Castro agreed to a secret deal
that allowed 400 Jews to emigrate to Israel, The Sunday Telegraph
An Israeli official
confirmed the report. Speaking on condition of
anonymity, the official said 400 immigrants arrived more than a year ago
and have been living in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. Most are
students and hope their parents still in Cuba will be allowed to emigrate as
Cuba has no formal
ties with Israel, having broken off relations after
Israel's victory in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, so the exit visas were
granted through Canada, the London-based newspaper said, citing
unnamed sources in Israel.
There has been
no mention of the Jewish immigration in Cuba's
government-controlled news media. Officials with Cuba's Foreign Ministry
were not available for comment on Sunday.
Castro is known
to want to improve Cuba's image abroad and encourage
Washington to consider lifting the nearly 40-year-old economic embargo
wrecking the nation's economy.
said he expected that other Jews who want to leave Cuba
would be allowed out by next June.
of supplying arms to Palestinian terror groups, has long
been hostile to Israel. While he never cracked down on Jews, the country
officially embraced atheism in 1962, forcing many to shy away from public
In the early
1990s, however, the constitution was changed to make the
government secular. For the first time, believers of all faiths were accepted
in the Communist Party.
Still, the Cuban
government is desperate for new trading partners. The fall
of communism cut off $6 billion in annual aid from the Soviet Union,
Margalit Bejarano, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was quoted as
telling The Sunday Telegraph.
``Castro is seeking
out new economic ties, including ones with Israel,''
Bejarano was quoted as saying. ``He has no choice but to change policy to
survive ... The people need dollars, and they believe that letting Jews go
would make a good impression on Washington.''
Most Cuban Jews
are descendants of Polish and Russian Jews who fled
pogroms at the turn of the century. While most in the Jewish community
initially supported Castro after his 1959 revolution, many left Cuba after he
turned toward socialism and their businesses were expropriated or shut
In the four decades
since Castro's revolution, the Jewish community in
Cuba has shrunk from 15,000 to 1,500. There is no rabbi or Jewish school.
There are just three synagogues in Havana and one kosher butcher.
contact between the Cubans and the quasi-governmental
Jewish Agency in Israel, which brings Jews to the country, was made
through the World Union of Jewish Students, the Israeli official said.
A spokesman for
the Jewish Agency, Michael Jankelowitz, declined to
comment on the newspaper report.