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History & Politics

Remembering the Fallen, and Why They Fell Remembering the Fallen, and Why They Fell
Monday, April 19, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The ten days from last week's Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) through today's Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron) to tomorrow's Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzma'ut) constitute, for Israelis and many Jews worldwide, a passage in which the theme of death and loss plays an inevitably central role. The evolution of that theme over the years has come to be reflected in poetic texts and liturgies whose meaning has itself evolved in Israeli and Jewish consciousness. Perhaps the most famous of these texts is Magash Hakesef  ("The Silver Platter") by the poet Natan Alterman, the centennial of whose birth is being marked this year....
Kibbutz Kibbutz
Thursday, April 8, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Passover marks the anniversary of humanity's longest-running experiment in freedom. Another celebrated experiment—the kibbutz—kicked off its centennial on the first day of the holiday.  In the hundred years since ten men and two women obtained land from the Jewish National Fund for their commune, Degania, kibbutzim have been the scene of sacrifice, achievement, heartbreak, decline, and attempted renewal. All aspects are central to the story of Israel and Zionism. Kibbutzim never accounted for more than a fraction of Israel's population; their significance lay in the leaders they produced, their central role in the ruling Labor Zionist movement, and their sharp ideological...
Crisis? Crisis?
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

What comes to mind when you think about great moments of crisis in U.S. foreign policy? The Berlin blockade, the Cuban missile crisis, Iran's seizure of American hostages? Or, perhaps, Israel's decision to build residential housing in northeast Jerusalem? Whether current tensions with Washington do constitute a crisis, and whether yesterday's crisis talks between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lead to a reduction or intensification of those tensions, will become apparent soon enough. But whatever the outcome, it is a fact that strains between Washington and Jerusalem have been part of the "special relationship" ever since President Harry...
East Jerusalem East Jerusalem
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

During Vice President Joseph Biden's visit to Israel last week, a routine bureaucratic approval of additional dwellings for ultra-Orthodox Jews was leaked to the media, thereby setting off a crisis in relations between the two countries. The neighborhood in question, Ramat Shlomo, is said to stand in Arab East Jerusalem. But what and where is East Jerusalem?    The term is an artificial construct, and a misnomer. Jerusalem is a city built on hills, embedded on a mountain ridge; Samaria lies to the north, Judea to the south.  The city has no grid system—no Fifth Avenue to divide the east and west sides....
The Messianic Aliyah The Messianic Aliyah
Monday, March 15, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Today marks the rededication of the Hurva (literally, "ruin") Synagogue, once the jewel in the crown of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Its history, and the debates over that history, open a window onto a fascinating chapter with powerful reverberations today. In 1700, days after arriving from Poland, a Jewish pietist purchased an abandoned plot known since the 15th century as "the Ashkenazi courtyard," hoping to build a synagogue. When his followers proved unable to keep up their payments, the Arab creditors reduced the site to rubble. In the 19th century it arose again, magnificently, thanks to the...
Allon’s Legacy Allon’s Legacy
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

It was fitting that Benny Begin, son of the late Likud-party prime minister Menachem Begin, should have been the cabinet minister representing Israel's government at the annual memorial service on Monday for Labor-party icon Yigal Allon. On the Zionist political spectrum, the Begins are stalwarts of the Right, whereas Allon was decidedly a man of the Left. Yet the inheritors of their respective legacies share a sense of clarity about Jewish rights in Israel, a desire for genuine accommodation with the Arabs, and an emphatic insistence on defensible borders.   Allon was born in 1918 in the Lower Galilee and died...
Marranos in Reverse? Marranos in Reverse?
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

At first blush, the blog reads like any modish commentary on the weekly Torah portion, complete with knowing references to the Mishnah and the building of the Tabernacle in the desert.  Only upon closer examination does it become evident that the discussion of the tabernacle as a medium for drawing nearer to God is a precursor to the claim that, nowadays, God can be worshipped "directly." The blogger is a follower of "Yeshua"—a Jewish believer in Jesus. In Jewish eyes they are apostates, but a group of "Messianic Jews" living in Israel say they follow authentic Jewish lives in the footsteps...
A Dead Issue? A Dead Issue?
Monday, February 15, 2010 by Elli Fischer | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Since the electrifying discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in the late 1940's, the scholarly consensus has been that they were produced by the Essenes, a small Second Temple-era Jewish sect known to us from Josephus. Last year, a book by Rachel Elior, Memory and Oblivion: The Secret of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Hebrew), upended this seemingly settled issue by contending that, in fact, the Essenes never existed. Elior's revolutionary thesis, argued with force and stridency, has been discussed in major mainstream publications from Israeli newspapers to Time magazine. But the controversy, and clashing assessments of her achievement as a historian, have...
China China
Monday, February 8, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Quite apart from the implications of China's growing influence in the global economy, China's politics, both domestic and foreign, clash directly with Western concerns in areas from democracy to the rights of individuals and minorities to (especially when it comes to Iran's race to acquire nuclear weapons) the security of Europe and the Middle East.   China is also interested in the Jews. It has had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1992, and Jerusalem has risked Washington's displeasure to maintain its military ties with Beijing. And China's interest extends beyond Israel, to Jewish civilization as a whole. Chinese scholars and academics seek to...
Buses and Boundaries Buses and Boundaries
Thursday, February 4, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

This morning, Israel's Supreme Court reconvenes on the matter of "mehadrin"  buses: public transportation in which women are expected, ostensibly on a voluntary basis, to enter from and sit in the back. The Court's hearing is in response to a decision earlier this week by the Transportation Ministry to grant formal recognition to such bus lines, several dozen of which now operate. Powerful segments of the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community argue that such segregation is the only way to insure appropriate modesty (tzni'ut) between the sexes. The degree to which Haredim in general agree with this position is not entirely clear, but the...
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Editors' Picks
Drawing a Line Sarah Glidden, Jewish Quarterly. Angoulême is proud of its history as the center of France’s comics and animation industry.  The city is less keen to acknowledge the role it played during the Second World War. (Comic)  
Noam Gershony’s Incredible Gold Marcus Dysch, Jewish Chronicle. The Israeli war hero lost the use of his legs in a helicopter crash in the 2006 Lebanon War.  At this year’s Paralympics, he became a hero again.
The Rest of the Leaked Romney Video Douglas Bloomfield, Jewish Week. In that fundraiser video, Romney also talked about Israel: “Pushing the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world.”
Rabbis for Slavery Howard B. Rock, Tablet. Today, New York’s Bnai Jeshurun Synagogue is a bastion of progressive politics. But on the eve of the Civil War, its rabbi was a champion of slavery.  A cautionary tale.
The Case Against Netanyahu M.J. Rosenberg, Huffington Post. Those who don’t like President Obama’s policy toward Iran shouldn’t think a President Romney would behave much differently.
The Razor’s Edge Dan Ephron, Daily Beast. How might war between Iran and Israel begin?  Former Mossad chief Ephraim Levy says the flash point could be the Iranian soldiers now in Syria helping the Assad regime. 
History Repeats Itself David Ignatius, Washington Post. The U.S. and its allies are moving in Syria toward a program of covert support for the rebels that looks very much like what America did in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Support for Israel Lite Daniel Halper, Weekly Standard. As in years past, the 2012 platform of the national Democratic Party affirms its unwavering support for Israel’s security interests, right?  Well, not exactly.
Lebanon’s Unholy Bedfellows Hilal Khashan, Middle East Quarterly. In Lebanon the Maronites are Christian liberals, while the Shiites are Islamic theocrats.  The contradiction hasn’t kept them from an alliance based on resentment of Sunni domination.
After Apartheid David Hazony, Forward. While many South African Jews actively opposed apartheid, post-apartheid South Africa has not proved entirely hospitable to the Jewish community.