A Tale of Two Communities


The long-term demographic decline of British Jewry has ended, but only because one sub-group has burgeoned while the other continues to shrink.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy

More about: Anglo-Jewry, Demography, Ultra-Orthodox, United Kingdom


The Devils in the Details of the Iran Deal


The agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program is designed, writes Jeffrey Herf, to constrain America’s ability to respond to any cheating on Tehran’s part. And that is only the tip of an iceberg of problems:

[T]he agreement embeds the United States in a web of multilateral processes that place significant and perhaps insuperable obstacles to both a “snapback” of economic sanctions and . . . an American military strike should Iran be found in violation [of its terms]. It [also] creates . . . economic interests on the part of other countries, and perhaps our own as well, that will [encourage them] to give Iran the benefit of the doubt in such instances.

It [also] enhances the veto power of other states, including our allies, over possible American action. By intentionally embedding American decision-making in complex and time-consuming multilateral processes, it is a crowning achievement for those who oppose the unilateral use of American power. Should Congress fail to override a promised presidential veto, we will be living with an agreement that has no effective enforcement mechanism. . . .

Should this or a future president of the United States conclude that intensified economic sanctions or a military strike from the air are the only ways to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, he will have to do so in the face of a coalition pleading for inaction composed of both our adversaries and, most probably, our allies as well. It would be a coalition fostered by the very terms of this agreement.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Barack Obama, Iran nuclear program, Iran sanctions, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Europe’s New Anti-Anti-Semitism: An Answer to Radical Islam?


Surveying the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, Dave Rich notes the strong stand taken against it by some leading European politicians and examines some of the implications:

The problem of European Muslims killing European Jews . . . is not explained by anger over Gaza, or by tensions between Muslims and Jews. It is part of the broader problem of extremism that has found purchase within European Muslim communities. . . . This is a problem that Jewish communities cannot solve for themselves, but is one for which European governments need to find the answer.

However, the new politics of anti-anti-Semitism run much deeper than the immediate need to confront the jihadist challenge. In essence, it represents a version of the postwar European settlement, in which nationalism and militarism have been renounced and Holocaust remembrance has become a vehicle for transmitting core European values of tolerance and pluralism to the next generation. . . .

This appropriation of Jewish interests by European elites and nationalist movements has its antithesis in the rejection of establishment Holocaust-commemoration programs by those who feel outside the mainstream of European society. In the UK, for example, a willingness to attend Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies has become a litmus test of moderation among Muslim organizations. The Muslim Council of Britain’s [refused] to do so for much of the first decade of its existence; . . . its subsequent attendance at the ceremonies since 2010 has itself been criticized by some of its own members.

Some radical left-wing movements and activists are also critics of mainstream Holocaust commemoration, which they see as “Zionist,” in that it reinforces the moral case for the existence of the state of Israel. Increasingly, left-wing groups and their Islamist allies in the UK view the Holocaust as a tragedy whose ultimate victims are the Palestinians, not today’s Jews, and see Israel as the heir to Europe’s nationalist, militarist, and even Nazi past.

Read more at World Affairs Journal

More about: Anti-Semitism, European Islam, European Jewry, European Politics, Jewish world, Radical Islam


Terror in Cyberspace and the Myth of the “Lone Wolf”


Gabriel Weimann notes some of the ways the Internet is changing terrorism—among them, the role of the so-called “lone wolf”:

In the last few years, no terrorist attacks in the West were conducted, as 9/11 was, by a large group of . . . people. They are conducted instead by individuals acting alone. . . . [These attacks] appeared to have been undertaken by operators who had not been to a training camp and were not part of a terrorist group. However, as in nature, lone wolves do not survive. . . . Part of my research has focused on tracking lone wolves online and we found that all the attackers had a virtual pack behind them, one that we could track and identify. We could see their emails, the websites, the videos they downloaded or uploaded, their postings on Facebook and their tweets—we could see just about everything. All were radicalized, recruited, instructed, trained—and sometimes the attacks were even launched—online. And some terror attacks have been prevented because counter-terrorism agencies monitored the Internet. . . . [I]f there is a virtual pack, and you know how to follow the tracks, it is still possible to interdict the terrorists.

Read more at Fathom

More about: 9/11, Cyberwarfare, Internet, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism

In Avoiding “Heresy,” a Collection of New Hebrew Writing Plays Dumb


In a recent issue, the magazine World Literature Today featured translations of fourteen pieces of new Hebrew writing. Introducing the collection, the guest editors explain their decision to avoid works that, in focusing on Israel’s grand political questions, commit the “heresy of normalcy.” For Erika Dreifus, there’s something decidedly “un-heretical” about the entire collection:

Among the prose selections . . . I found that two pieces did, in fact, deal substantively with the matzav [i.e., Israel’s political and security situation]. And I couldn’t help concluding that they were utterly un-heretical in ways that I’m not sure the guest editors fully anticipated. . . .

If you perhaps thought it problematic that the only part of Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land most (non-synagogue/JCC members) would be likely to read was the guilt-infused “Lydda” chapter that ran in the New Yorker, and if you happened to read and find resonance in Matti Friedman’s recent Mosaic article on “Israel and the Moral Striptease,” you may also struggle with Tomer Gardi’s “Rock, Paper.” Suffice it to say that it’s not exactly a tribute to the Jewish state. Another powerful piece, Ayman Sikseck’s “To Jaffa,” depicts the anxiety of living with the anticipation of a Palestinian terror attack; the narrator, however, is an Arab Israeli, not a Jew.

Now, I’m not that naive. I hardly expect to find outright sympathy for, say, the residents of Sderot or the families of [the terror victims] Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, let alone any remote appreciation for anything about the Jewish state, in the pages of a literary magazine published by an American university. . . .

But if they were, in fact, going to include writing about war and terrorism in their feature after all, would it have been so very difficult to include something to counterbalance Gardi’s “self-flagellation” (to borrow Friedman’s term)? Or to acknowledge that Palestinian terrorists are typically aiming to kill Jews? For that matter, wouldn’t it have been possible, perhaps, to contextualize the references to Jewish emigration from Arab countries between 1948 and the early 1970s, as alluded to in [two of the] pieces? The dismal truth is that for too many readers in the United States today—including, I’m sorry to say, many ostensibly well-educated readers among the American literati—that would be the most heretical reading of all.

Read more at Erika Dreifus

More about: Ari Shavit, Arts & Culture, Hebrew literature, Israel & Zionism, Israeli literature

A Group of Archaeologists in Israel Is Recreating a Biblical Oven


A group of archaeologists working in Israel constructed a clay oven similar to those common in biblical times and used it to bake bread. Cynthia Shafer-Elliott describes the process:

There are a few different types of traditional ovens that are still used today in the Middle East. One of the most common . . . is the tannur. A tannur is a beehive-shaped clay oven, usually close to one meter high, and will typically have two openings: one at the bottom and one at the top. Ethno-archaeological studies show that after a fire fueled by kindling and animal dung is built on the floor of the tannur, the ashes are raked out of the bottom opening, before using the top opening to slap the dough onto the interior walls or even the floor to bake. Platters and cooking pots could also be placed on top of the upper opening and used for baking or cooking, respectively. . . . The term tannur is found in the Hebrew Bible fifteen times, seven of which refer to an oven used to bake bread. . . .

We were all pleasantly surprised at how well the tannur worked and how tasty the bread turned out. Like many ancient societies, the Israelites were dependent upon cereals; so much so that the word for bread, leḥem, is synonymous with food. The process of turning grain into flour, then into dough, and finally into bread, would have been time-consuming—not to mention the construction and maintenance of the tannur itself.

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Food, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas