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Holocaust Remembrance Day Holocaust Remembrance Day
Friday, April 9, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

David Weiss Halivni sits in the National Library in Jerusalem working, as he has done for decades, on his multivolume commentary to the Talmud.  His lifelong immersion in the Talmud began in his hometown of Sighet, in the Carpathian Mountains. In 1944, at age seventeen, he was sent with his family to Auschwitz and a series of labor camps, and emerged a lone survivor. After the war he made his way to New York's Jewish Theological Seminary, quickly establishing himself as one of the premier Talmud scholars of the age.  Like most academic talmudists, Halivni approaches the text with a deep...
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...
Britain and Israel Britain and Israel
Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Prime Minister Gordon Brown went to Buckingham Palace yesterday to ask Queen Elizabeth to dissolve parliament on April 12. New elections will take place on May 6. At the moment, the Conservative party under David Cameron is leading Brown's Labor party in the polls; the Liberal Democrats, headed by Nick Clegg, are in a strong third position. The sun may have set on the British Empire, but the U.K. continues to exercise considerable influence in the international arena. Britain is a major force in the European Union and a permanent member of the UN Security Council; it plays a leading role...
Orthodoxies Orthodoxies
Friday, April 2, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

"Is Modern Orthodoxy an Endangered Species?" This was the question posed at a conference yesterday in Jerusalem. Some speakers suggested that the very term "Modern Orthodoxy" doesn't fit the Israeli context or even accurately describe this slice of Jewish life. But what, indeed, is it? Like nearly all denominational labels, this one is a product of the ideological and political debates of the 19th century, as the radical options posed by modernity—including the possibilities of assimilation without conversion to Christianity and of political self-determination—scrambled traditional categories as never before. In this unprecedented situation, adherents of tradition in general and of traditional Jewish law...
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...
Tuesday, March 23, 2010 by | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Against a background of sharp disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem, the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee winds down today. On Monday, the 7,500 delegates—Jews, Christians, African Americans, as well as European and Canadian activists—heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declare that the United States would tell Israel the "truth" when "difficult but necessary choices" had to be made. Today, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama. Delegates from all 50 states planned to spend Tuesday on Capitol Hill speaking with their respective Senators and Members of Congress. But what is AIPAC, and what...
Mubarak Mubarak
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

While attention in Israel and elsewhere is focused on the sudden deterioration in relations with the Obama administration, Iran's seemingly unstoppable push for nuclear weapons, and the possible outbreak of a third intifada, few have commented on the implications of the continued hospitalization in Germany of 81-year-old Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt. On March 4, Mubarak placed Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif in charge of Egypt's affairs and entered a Heidelberg hospital to have his gall bladder removed. German doctors said they are satisfied with his recovery. Nevertheless, rumors that Mubarak had died sent share prices temporarily falling on Cairo's stock market....
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...
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Editors' Picks
Bibi's Burden David Margolick, Vanity Fair. As the Israeli populace—disillusioned with grandiose peace plans, increasingly controlled by the Orthodox—has moved right, Netanyahu has been able to stay in one place: His country has come to him.
Liberty and Espionage Jerusalem Post. The indicted Haaretz reporter Uri Blau is no martyr.  There is plenty of scope for journalists to ply their trade without putting themselves above the law and endangering the entire populace.     
The Yeridah Myth Pini Herman, Forward. The received wisdom has long been that Israel has a problem with emigration. Yet the data shows not only that comparatively few Israelis leave, but also that most come back.
Accounting for Abbas Jonathan Schanzer, Foreign Policy. If Mahmoud Abbas has struggled to match Yasser Arafat as a popular leader, he has proven to be at least as adept as his predecessor in embezzling funds.
Whose Victory? Ed Rettig, Times of Israel. As non-Orthodox movements celebrate the ruling allowing their rabbis to receive public money in Israel, they should remember that with government funding comes government control.
Dolphins from Deutschland Ronen Bergman, Spiegel. Angela Merkel thought Israel was going to freeze settlements in return for getting German nuclear-capable submarines. There's been no freeze, but Germany is sending the subs anyway.
Refugees Forever Asaf Romirowsky, Alexander Joffe, Haaretz. UNRWA says that grandchildren of Palestinian refugees remain "refugees." No other refugee group gets this treatment—but, then, no other group supplies the majority of UNRWA's staff.
Eighteenth-Century Aliyah Fred MacDowell, On the Main Line. Two hundred years before modern Zionism, Jews across the Russian empire funded Rabbi Judah Chassid and his 120 followers on their trek from Europe to a new life in the Promised Land.
A Jewish Esperanto? Philologos, Forward. According to two encyclopedias, out of an estimated 16 million Jews in the world in 1939, 11 million were Yiddish speakers. But that figure doesn't stand up to closer inspection.
The Other Olympics David E. Sanger, New York Times. The U.S. cyberwarfare program (likely working with an Israeli partner) has frustrated Iran's nuclear project for six years. But now that the virus is loose, America must be braced for retaliation.