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10 Cuban Jews Make Pilgrimage to Israel

August 16, 2003|From Times Wire Reports

The first group of Cuban Jews to visit Israel since Fidel Castro's rise to power recently traveled to the Holy Land.

After a year of tough negotiations with the Cuban government, 10 Cuban Jews made an Aug. 7 pilgrimage to the site of the biblical temples in Jerusalem. Cuba has not maintained diplomatic relations with Israel since ties were severed after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Associated Press reported.

Cuba was hesitant to approve the trip for fear the travelers would not return.

The tour was organized by an Israeli government-funded program called Birthright, which brings about 15,000 young Jewish adults to Israel from around the world.

William Miller, a Jewish community leader from Havana, said the trip marks an important step toward reviving Cuba's Jewish community, which has dropped from 15,000 before Castro's 1959 revolution to about 1,200 today.

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