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Castro Says Arabs Will Have to Face “Reality” of Israel

April 22, 1988

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Venezuela’s leading rabbi, Pynchas Brener, said Thursday that Cuban President Fidel Castro told him, ″Sooner or later the Arabs will have to make peace with Israel. Israel is a reality and there is no denying that fact.″

Brener, of the Israelite Union of Caracas, said he and five other Venezuelans met Castro for four hours last week in Havana. Brener said the Communist leader subsequently allowed three Cuban Jews to join family members in Caracas.

Lazaro Sanchez and his wife Sara, both in their late 40s, and their son Raul, 17, flew to the Venezuelan capital last Saturday, the rabbi said.

Brener went to Cuba last week for the second time in six months as part of a six-member mission from Venezuela to strengthen ties with Cuba’s dwindling Jewish community. About 900 Jews live in Cuba, but many are married to non- Jews and are non-observant, Brener said.

He said Castro granted the mission an audience at midnight April 12 for a wide-ranging discussion on religion and world politics.

Brener said that before Castro made his remarks about the Arabs and the Jews, he commented, ″You know, we Cubans live as isolated as the Israelis. That is why we can understand you (Jews).″

He said Castro drank to the Venezuelans’ health saying ″L’Chaim 3/8″ (Hebrew for ″To life 3/8″), using Cuban rum.

The rabbi commented, ″My impression is that Castro is interested in opening up,″ including re-establishing diplomatic relations with the United States and Venezuela, a U.S. ally.

But he said Castro sees religion as a competing ideology to communism.

Castro also agreed to allow the Venezuelan Jewish community to send copies of its weekly newspaper to Cuban Jews and to let a Jewish physician from Venezuela perform the rite of circumcision, Brener said.

He said a rabbi, probably from Venezuela or Israel, might also be allowed in for several months a year. There is no rabbi in Cuba at this time.

Brener said letting the Sanchezes emigrate was ″complicated″ because Sanchez had been a member of the Cuban Communist Party and his son is of draft age.

Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez have a daughter, Niurka Sanchez de Quiroz, who lives in Caracas with her Venezuelan husband, Rafael Quiroz, a member of Venezuela’s Congress.

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