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


How the Deal with Iran Strengthens Hamas


In the aftermath of the recent nuclear agreement, Hamas now stands poised to get more support from both the Islamic Republic and its rival, Saudi Arabia. Khaled Abu Toameh writes:

Emboldened by the deal, Hamas is now seeking to reap its fruits by tightening its grip on the Gaza Strip with the help of Iran. This, of course, is bad news for Hamas’s rivals in the Palestinian arena, [especially] the Palestinian Authority, as well as all those who still believe in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

The nuclear deal has also driven Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim countries to restore their relations with Hamas. Their goal is to entice Hamas and its patrons in the Muslim Brotherhood to become part of an anti-Iran Sunni coalition in the Arab world. . . .

According to Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip, the Iranians have already resumed their aid to Hamas’s military wing. Relations between Iran and Hamas were strained four years ago, after Hamas refused to support Iran’s ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, in his fight against rebel groups. Hamas officials are now hoping that the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran will lead to a dramatic increase in Tehran’s support for terror groups in the region.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Hamas, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, Saudi Arabia

Did John Kerry Threaten to Blame Israel if the Iran Deal Fails?


Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed fear that, were Congress to reject the Iran deal, “our friends [sic] Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed.” To Jennifer Rubin, the real message is otherwise.

Kerry does not “fear” Israel would be blamed; he is threatening to blame Israel if U.S. lawmakers decide that the deal is not in the interests of the United States. Not only is he inciting anti-Israel fervor, but he also is [suggesting] that Israel controls Congress. In doing all this, the administration echoes ancient tropes against the Jews and not-so-ancient ones against an Israeli government that won’t meekly assent to its death. . . . .

The president and his advisers desperately want to divert attention from their own grossly defective deal—and to blame Israel if it fails. Nothing could be more revealing of the deal’s weakness and the Obama administration’s hostility to Israel than the manner in which it is defending the deal.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Anti-Semitism, Iran nuclear program, John Kerry, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy


No, Israel Doesn’t Spend More on Settlers than on Its Other Citizens


Isaac Herzog, leader of Israel’s Labor party, recently stated that “from 2009 to 2014, Israel invested 10 billion shekels [$2.5 billion] in Judea and Samaria. That’s a huge amount of the state budget.” This assertion echoes an oft-repeated talking point of the Israeli left: that Israel spends more money per capita on its citizens outside the Green Line than on those within it. The claim, writes Evelyn Gordon, is patently false:

[A]ssuming . . . that [Herzog] meant 10 billion a year, not 10 billion over the course of five years, that still amounts to only 2.5 percent of the state budget. According to data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, however, there were 341,800 Jewish settlers in 2013 (the last year for which data are available), out of a total Israeli population of 8.1345 million. In other words, settlers account for 4.2 percent of the population.

Thus if the government is spending 10 billion shekels a year on the settlers, their proportional share of the state budget is 40 percent less than their share in the population. And most of that money would be spent regardless of where they lived, since all Israelis are entitled to healthcare, education, defense, and various other government-funded services.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Isaac Herzog, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Settlements, West Bank

In the Fight against Islamic State, Turkey Is No Ally


Last week, after a suicide bomber attacked a Turkish town near the Syrian border, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan allowed the U.S. to launch aerial attacks on Islamic State (IS) from Turkish bases. Although this tactical aid is important, writes Michael Rubin, it does not mean that Turkey has suddenly gone back to being an American ally:

Has Erdogan finally recognized that his passive, if not active, support for IS has endangered all Turks with a jihadist backlash?

[Although] those directing the U.S. fight against IS . . . might applaud Turkey’s sudden cooperation, . . . they don’t recognize that Turkey might be pursuing very different goals. While Turkish planes have launched some attacks on IS targets in Syria, they have directed far more sorties bombing the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgents and fighters in northern Iraq. . . .

Another way to look at this is that Turkey is bombing the same Kurdish Peshmerga [fighters] who have been most successful at rolling back IS in Syria and around Mount Sinjar in Iraq. By such a flagrant violation of the peace process with the PKK, Erdogan also is preparing the groundwork for dissolving the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Kurdish party whose members generally sympathize with the PKK and whose election success in June denied Erdogan’s followers a majority for the first time since they came to power in 2002.

Read more at AEI

More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey, U.S. Foreign policy

Preserving the Customs of Jewish Damascus


Moshe Chadid, an Argentine-born Jerusalem rabbi, has devoted much of his career to preserving the unique religious rites and traditions of his Damascus ancestors. Toward that end, he is publishing a series of liturgical works, many of which have been passed down either orally or only in manuscript form. Eliezer Hayun writes:

“For years,” [said Chadid], “[Damascene] communities used notes kept by the elderly that [detailed their] ancient customs. On Yom Kippur, for example, we commemorate the greatest rabbis who served in the city of Damascus in the past, going back 300 years, immediately after the Kol Nidrei prayer. The [names of] dozens of rabbis with their specific titles are now printed in our Yom Kippur prayer book.” . . .

Chadid recently completed what appears to be his greatest project: reviving the bakashot, a collection of supplications, songs, and prayers that were sung by community members at their synagogues in the small hours of Friday night, generation after generation.

The bakashot were a dominant component of [Jewish communal life in] Damascus. . . . Every Friday night, for hundreds of years, Damascene Jews would gather and sing the songs from midnight until dawn.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Mizrahi Jewry, Piyyut, Prayer, Religion & Holidays, Syrian Jewry