Asmara’s once-thriving Jewish community is down to a single member, BBC reported this week. The first Jews in Eritrea came from Yemen in the late 19th century, on the heels of Italian colonial expansion. They were later joined in the 1930s by Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. Many left when Israel gained statehood in 1948, while others fled during Eritrea’s bloody 30-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia. Now, only Sami Cohen, 58, remains. He stays, he says, because there is nobody else to maintain the 100-year-old synagogue, which is used by Jews passing through the country, including Israeli diplomats. Cohen also tends the Jewish cemetery, where many of his relatives are buried. “History starts in the cemetery,” Cohen says, “because it’s where we all end up.”
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