Tuesday, October 30, 2007


My fond memories of Israel Benoliel, son of Salomao Benoliel and Carolina Benoliel Carvalho Benoliel, were revived this month during the traditional Jewish "unveiling" ceremony. Israel died on February 5, 2007 on his 90th birthday. Born in Boa Vista, Cape Verde, Israel Benoliel was educated in Porto and Lisbon, Portugal and eventually made his way to the United States where he worked as a telecommunications engineeer in Virginia. He is survived by his wife Sylvia, two children and two grandchildren. His untimely death symbolizes the urgency with with we must chronicle the lives of the Jews of Cape Verde and their descendants, lest the memories be forgotten. Israel insisted on a Jewish burial--a wish that his wife--who is Catholic by birth, lovingly honored. Also in keeping with a more recent Jewish tradition, an "unveiling" ceremony took place this month. It's the formal dedication of the tombstone. Israel was fiercely proud of his Jewish ancestry. His parents were also born in Boa Vista, but his paternal grandparents, Esther Benathar and Abraham Benoliel hailed from Rabat, Morocco and immigrated to Cape Verde in the mid 19th century. (See my first entry to understand the reasons behind the immigration of Sephardic Jews to Cape Verde, then a Portuguese colony.) The Benoliel family was so powerful and benevolent that they practically fueled the economy of Boa Vista.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Cape Verde is so so tiny that it does not even appear on most maps of Africa!! Such was the case at a recent leadership forum sponsored by the Africa Travel Association (ATA) in New York City where Cape Verdean Prime Minister Jose Neves delivered a facsinating presentation about tourism in the island nation. Joking about the glaring omission from the ATA map, Prime Minister Neves quipped after his address, "I hope I have succeeded in putting Cape Verde on the map." As more people learn about the natural beauty of Cape Verde---its pristine beaches, its mountains, its delicious seafood, its extraordinary music, its warm and hospitable people, and why not, its Jewish cemeteries, mapmakers of the world will have to take notice!!! No longer will they get away with omitting this beautiful country from its rightful place off the coast of Senegal!!!