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No Vital Signs in Djibouti

Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Ari Greenspan

Most people have never heard of Djibouti — a poverty-stricken Muslim country located where eastern Africa almost touches the Arabian Peninsula — let alone been there. So why did Mishpacha’s Ari and Ari pay a visit to such a forsaken place? If the words “forgotten shul” conjures up a spirit of adventure in your heart, you’ll understand.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

It was hot. We mean really hot. So hot that we knew as soon as the plane door opened why the BBC identified Djibouti as the “hottest place on the planet.” So hot that we appreciated, in those first few seconds as a wave of hot, humid air smothered everyone onboard, the at-first-cryptic advice of our friend Avraham, a Jew in Ethiopia with business in Djibouti, who had told us, before we boarded our 50-minute flight from Addis Ababa: “Stay in such-and-such hotel. The air conditioning is good.”

We were fortunate to have Avraham to advise us, since most people have never heard of Djibouti. The country has an unexceptional past that has kept it out of the history books and newspapers. “Modern” Djibouti is a lawless Muslim country that looks like a poverty-stricken sandpit. Both of these factors make it hard to understand why Djibouti was once home to an active Jewish community. It’s only when you locate Djibouti on a map of Africa that you begin to see why any Jew would decide to set up shop in such a place.


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