These Honored Dead

 

The battle at Gettysburg took place 150 years ago: a blink of an eye in the millennia since Sinai. Such uncanny intimacy with the far past is what Jewish culture brings to American history.

Read more at Forward

More about: American Civil War, American Jewish Heritage Month, American Jewish History, Gettysburg, July 4

 

Israel’s Jewish Character Makes It More, Not Less, Democratic

 

Many have argued that a proposal before the Knesset to affirm Israel’s status as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is geared to favor Israel’s Jewish over its democratic character. Yoram Hazony contends that this argument is not simply wrong, but is based on a false understanding

[Israel’s] success has not been in spite of [its] character as the state of the Jewish people, but because of it. To see this, one need only compare Israel’s trajectory to that of other states established in the region at around the same time but based on a “multi-national” model: Syria (independent 1946) was assembled by the French by forcing together Alawite, Druze, Kurd, Assyrian Christian, and Sunni Arab peoples—willfully ignoring national and religious boundaries and vocal demands by some of these peoples to be granted independent states of their own. Iraq (independent 1932) was a similar British construct, imposing a single state on radically disparate Kurdish, Assyrian, Sunni Arab, and Shiite Arab peoples, among others. Most states in the Middle East—“pan-Arab” in name only—were built by the Western powers in just this way.

The results of these experiments in constructing multi-national states have been just as [John Stuart] Mill predicted. Israel, built around a cohesive and overwhelming Jewish majority, was able to establish internal stability without repression, and quickly developed into a fully-functioning democracy. In contrast, the other states of the region have been able to retain their integrity only through brutality and state terror. . . .

In a sense, this is a distinctly Israeli vision, emerging from the Jews’ experience of suffering and redemption in the last century. But it is also a humane and universal vision—the only one that can offer genuine hope to the devastated peoples of the region. This vision receives concrete re-affirmation in the proposed basic law confirming Israel as Jewish state, which reinforces a vision of the Middle East as advancing . . . in the direction of an order of independent nations based on the principle of religious and national self-determination.

Read more at Marginalia

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, John Stuart Mill, Middle East, Nationalism, Zionism

How the Far Left Fights the Integration of Israeli Christians

 

Arab and Aramean Christians in Israel who join the IDF often face persecution, not from their Jewish comrades in arms but from other Arabs—and, pointedly, from anti-Zionist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within Israel. Gabriel Nadaf, spiritual leader of Israel’s Aramean Christian community, writes:

All of these organizations claim that they are fighting for the weak, for the minorities who cannot stand up for themselves and demand and fight for their own rights. But ultimately, the actions of these NGOs beg the question of what rights they are really fighting for, whose interests they are protecting, and what their real agenda is. Clearly these NGOs have no interest in seeing Christian Arabs become part of Israeli society. Much like the Arab countries that have used Palestinians in various refugee camps as pawns in fighting the state of Israel, these NGOs are content to reduce my community to cannon fodder in their efforts to delegitimize Israel.

So my community is effectively being told to fight for their continued marginalization by Israeli society, even though it is the Israeli government’s goal to bring them more fully into the mainstream. Doesn’t the Christian community deserve the right to follow our own will and integrate, if it so chooses, into Israeli society? Not according to most of the NGOs that say they are assisting our community.

As a priest, I am distressed by this unwillingness to promote the welfare of individuals in the name of a monolithic group identity, whose goals and objectives can be set by those who might have very little in common with the community they supposedly represent. As Christians in Israel survey the situation of our brethren in the wider Middle East, we are appalled by the persecution that so many have experienced in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, among others. Truly, it has only been in Israel where Christians can fully practice our faith and be productive members of society.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Anti-Zionism, Aramean Christians, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, NGO

Virginia Lawyers versus Israel

 

The Virginia state lawyers’ organization has canceled a planned seminar in Israel, citing “legitimate concern” expressed by some members over “unacceptable discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security that affect travelers” to the Jewish state. David Bernstein comments:

The idea that either the state bar as an attorney organization or as a state agency has some obligation to avoid Israel is nonsense. Surely [state bar president Kevin] Martingayle and [his] colleagues can’t be so naive and out-of-touch to think that the concerns raised are not part of the broader divestment, sanctions, and boycott movement meant to delegitimize Israel. . . .

As near as I can tell, the only public discussion of all this before Martingayle’s letter was a petition circulated three days ago by anonymous “Concerned Members of the Virginia State Bar” that, as of this writing, has received a grand total of 34 signatures. It’s hard to imagine that Martingayle and colleagues canceled a planned event that already had a hotel booked, a continuing education program, and even optional tours set up based on those objections. Who are the “other individuals” mentioned by Martingayle who objected?

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Law, US-Israel relations

The Soldiers’ Seders of World War II

 

In the midst of fighting the Nazis and the Japanese, Jews serving in the U.S. armed forces around the world organized Passover celebrations and meals. Marjorie Ingall explores an archival collection of programs, menus, and specially-produced haggadahs:

Some of these seder programs were informal, handwritten, mimeographed affairs riddled with spelling errors (“HorseRaddish”); some were beautifully printed on heavy, textured paper. Most were similar in content: a cover indicating the place and time—with the year of both the Gregorian (1944 or 1945) and Hebrew (5704 or 5705) calendar, and the time (always in military time, sometimes at the elegantly late 2200 hours). There were lists of the order of events (seder literally means “order”) and the dishes to be served, almost always concluding in “Afikomon.”

Many programs proudly told us who did what and who cooked what: at a seder in Accra in what later became Ghana, the Four Questions were recited in Hebrew by Pvt. Joseph L. Joldoff and in English by Pfc. Dorothy Steinberg—apparently the youngest soldiers present. A 1945 program from New Delhi, featuring “Bombay Matzos” and “Beef Strokanoff” credited the food to the glamorous-sounding “Madame Luba Ruperti.” . . .

The food at these seders was usually a mix of [traditional] East European Jewish and fancy French-ish; French meant cosmopolitan in those days. There was a lot of “compote.” A few menus showed the influence of the cultures the soldiers were stationed in: the seder at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi featured “Beckti Farci a la Juife” (presumably that refers to bhekti, the Bengali word for barramundi; “a la Juife” probably refers to a preparation [resembling gefilte fish]).

Soldiers in Hawaii had fresh pineapple for dessert. Kashrut was a secondary concern: “For those observing the Dietary laws Tuna fish will be served in place of chicken,” a menu from Rome noted. One could see evidence of thrift: in New Delhi, you could have gefilte fish or matzah balls, but not both. And military comportment was expected; a menu from “liberated Italy” warned in small print: “Guests will kindly observe the regulation number of four cups of wine at the seder.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, Jews in the military, Religion & Holidays, Seder, U.S. Army, World War II

Ancient Egyptian Brewery Discovered in Tel Aviv

 

Archaeologists have unearthed remnants of a 5,000-year-old Egyptian settlement in Tel Aviv, the northernmost Egyptian site to be discovered from that era. The site contains clear evidence of beer brewing, writes Ilan Ben Zion:

Beer was a staple of the ancient Egyptian diet, a convenient means of converting grains into storable calories, and the alcohol content, while low, made contaminated water potable. “The Egyptians drank beer morning, noon, and night,” said [excavation director Diego] Barkan. Workers building the pyramids at Giza were given a daily ration of several liters of beer each day in addition to bread. . . .

The beer vessels [found in Tel Aviv], Barkan said, were made in a fashion not usual in the local ceramic industry, and of a type similar to those found at an Egyptian administrative building at En Besor, in the northwestern Negev desert. He said that the excavation was the first evidence of Egyptian presence from the Early Bronze Age in what is today Tel Aviv.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Egypt, History & Ideas, Tel Aviv