Azerbaijan’s Tourism Potential Displayed At Expo Tel Aviv

Last week, Expo Tel Aviv had a special “interactive presentation on the Red Village,” the last Jewish shtetl in the world, which is located within Azerbaijan.  
Fidan Akhundzade, the regional manager of the Israel market for the Azerbaijan’s Tourism Board, proclaimed that Israel is a niche market for Azerbaijan, with flights flying between Baku and Tel Aviv running several times per week on Azerbaijan airlines: “Azerbaijan is an ancient country that is at a crossroads between the East and West.” This combination of East and West is one of the things that makes Azerbaijan so special.
Akhundzade stressed that while Azerbaijan is majority Muslim, there are also many Christians, Jews and members of other faiths, who live in Azerbaijan: “Our ancestors were Zoroastrian. There are many symbols of fire in Azerbaijani culture, such as the cuisine.”
She noted that some of these Zoroastrian temples remain for tourists to see in the country: “Azerbaijan is known as the land of fire because of our history with Zoroastrianism. But Baku is also a modern city, with modern museums, like the Heydar Aliyev Center. The architecture of this building is famous.”
After Akhundzade went into detail regarding various tourist attractions in Azerbaijan, an interactive tour of the Mountain Jewish Museum was given by Igor Shaulov, director of the Mountain Jewish Museum in Guba: “From one side, you can see the Jewish heritage. On the other side, you can enjoy various activities in the Azerbaijani Republic. In the Red Village, there are seven synagogues still existing. Two synagogues are still operating.”
He noted that one can learn about the history of the Jewish community at Red Village at the Mountain Jewish Museum, which is the only Mountain Jewish Museum in the world: “The Mountain Jewish Museum was built in 1906, but it was maintained.   We kept the same stone and same type of building.  It operates both as a synagogue and a museum.”
According to Shaulov, “The Mountain Jewish Museum displays an Azerbaijani carpet with a Star of David.  There is also an exhibition on Mountain Jewish music, Mountain Jewish customs, and other aspects of Azerbaijani Jewish history displayed at the museum. We have a part of the museum dedicated to our holidays, shabbat, weddings, etc. We show you a real story of a rabbi in Khuzari city who protected himself from Nadir Shah. When he realized that they damaged a holy book, he apologized for that. After that, he gave permission for his people to leave Khuzari and not touch the Jewish community anymore.“ This is the roots of the Red Village, as the Jews lived there as they understood the area was protected.
In a recent press release put out by the Mountain Jewish Museum, the interactive display held at the Tel Aviv Expo of the Red Village was applauded.  
German Kakharyaev, President of the STEGI Foundation, observed: “Our commitment to the faith and heritage of our ancestors has withstood the test of time, but now that most of our people have left their traditional place of residence, our traditions, culture, and language need to be preserved. We hope that the opening of a museum in the Red Village, as well as a yeshiva and mikvah, will strengthen the community and serve to attract tourists from Israel and other countries to the Red Village.”
“The Azerbaijan pavilion has representatives of Azerbaijan Airlines, the Shahdag tourist center, the Museum of Mountain Jews and other travel companies,” stated Raphael Nabizade, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University, stated following the exhibition. “The stand attracted many visitors who learned about Azerbaijan’s rich culture, history and Jewish heritage.”
According to him, “Israelis that visit Azerbaijan can gain a unique cultural experience at affordable prices. Azerbaijan has been home for the Jewish community for centuries, which has been cherished and preserved till nowadays. The unique example of it is Red Village, the only community with a dense Jewish population outside of Israel.”  


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