The Adventures of Two-Gun Cohen


How a poor Jewish boy from London’s East End became chief of security for Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese nationalist and revolutionary founder of modern China.

Read more at Asian Jewish Life

More about: Chiang Kai-shek, China, Israel, Morris Cohen, Sun Yat-sen, Zionism


Iran Sanctions Are Already Crumbling


In accordance with the November 2013 interim agreement known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), which is still in effect, Iran was granted some limited relief from sanctions. But ever since then, write Emanuele Ottolenghi and Saeed Ghasseminejad, Iran has been circumventing the remaining sanctions with abandon. This does not augur well for any prospective deal premised on the idea that sanctions will “snap back” if Iran fails to uphold its obligations:

Iran’s [recent] economic windfall . . . goes well beyond the monthly cash transfers and temporary easing on trade stipulated in the JPOA. . . . [Tehran’s] gains are only partly due to sanctions relief: its improved position also results from lax sanctions implementation by its neighbors, reluctance by European authorities to discourage their own economies from trading with the Islamic Republic, and Tehran’s fine-tuning of its talent for bypassing sanctions. As a result, the interim nuclear deal looks increasingly like a slow-motion funeral procession for the sanctions regime. . . .

Direct trade [with Iran] is also getting a push from the new psychological environment that the interim deal has created. Few in Europe believe the sanctions will remain, and many are exploring future commercial opportunities. Meanwhile, Europe’s bilateral trade with Iran is climbing back to pre-sanctions levels—further evidence that banking sanctions are no longer effective. . . .

The Obama administration may still believe it is able to snap sanctions back at any time if Iran cheats on its commitments under a final agreement. Developments thus far under the interim deal suggest otherwise.

Read more at Business Insider

More about: European Union, Iran sanctions, Iranian nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

A Conservative Plan for Helping Arab Israelis


Although many on the Israeli left talk about promoting Jewish-Arab “coexistence” and complain about right-wing “racism,” they have few concrete or practical proposals for ameliorating the real problems facing many of Israel’s Arab citizens. Avi Woolf proposes some ways the right can do something about these problems while remaining faithful to its principles:

[Both] the Zionist and anti-Zionist left are promising minorities the moon, while [the right can] offer something realistic and achievable. . . . This means government investment in education, infrastructure, and whatever else is needed to allow minorities to thrive and prosper as law-abiding citizens. . . .

There are two areas which the right often emphasizes and which would benefit the Arab community in particular. The first is law enforcement. . . . Violent crime of all kinds is far more prevalent in the Arab sector than the Jewish one. . . . Drug gangs are a plague [for Arab communities], as are lethal family feuds and domestic violence. It is not for nothing that Meretz’s Arab candidate ran on an anti-crime platform.

Our failure to deal effectively with these . . . problems sends all the wrong messages. We are effectively telling the average law-abiding non-Jewish citizen that the state will not provide the minimum protection necessary for him to live and prosper, as Israel is only interested in enforcing the laws [insofar as they] affect Jews. . . . If a right-wing government cracked down on all law-breaking in the Arab community, it would demonstrate that its enforcement of law is for [the community’s] benefit and not just for protecting the state or Jewish predominance. . . .

The second important thing [the right] can offer to minorities is expansion of the free market. Poll after poll has shown that Israeli minorities are far more concerned with economic issues this election than political or national ones. . . . It’s hard enough for Jews to legally set up and maintain a business in Israel, so you can imagine the extra difficulty an Arab or a Druze faces.

Read more at Mida

More about: Druze, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Israeli politics

In War-Torn Ukraine, Jews Will Have Matzah for Passover


Since 2002, the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk has been home to one of the most important matzah factories in the former Soviet Union. Despite the looming threat of Russian invasion, its ovens are still running. Dovid Margolin explains the historical significance of matzah baking for post-Soviet Jewry:

For generations, matzah baking in the Soviet Union was a hidden, secretive affair. . . . Nevertheless, from the onset of Communist rule in the early 1920s until the regime’s demise in 1991, matzah remained a [Passover] staple for millions of Jews in the Soviet Union. Whether baked in the relative privacy of home or purchased at the local synagogue in exchange for government rations, matzah remained one of the last connections to Judaism [for many Soviet Jews]. . . .

During Soviet times, Jews living in smaller cities and settlements were unable to bake their own matzah, and therefore had to receive shipments from bigger cities such as Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev. After the breakup of the Soviet Union and the independence of its republics, these shipments continued; Dnepropetrovsk for years received its matzah from Moscow. When it began baking its own matzahs in 2002, it naturally exported them to Russia for sale.

Today, that is no longer possible. Matzah production may not have been affected by the ongoing war between Ukraine and [Russian-backed] rebel forces a few hundred kilometers to the east, but there has been a breakdown in trade relations between Russia and Ukraine as a result of [the war]. That means that while Ukrainian matzah is shipped around the world, this year it will not be available for Passover use just across the border in Russia. . . .


More about: Passover, Religion & Holidays, Soviet Jewry, Ukrainian Jews, War in Ukraine

Who’s Buried in the Prophetess Hulda’s Tomb?


A tomb on the Mount of Olives has long been venerated by Jews as the resting place of the biblical prophetess Hulda. Christians and Muslims, however, worship there for their own reasons, as Miriam Feinberg Vamosh writes (free registration required):

King Josiah, the Israelite leader from 641 to 609 BCE, aspired to purge the land of idol worship, after his own grandfather Manasseh had permitted idolatrous worship in the Temple. Josiah ordered the Temple renovated for proper worship of the one God, during which a scroll—ancient even then—with Deuteronomic texts was found.

The star prophet of the time, Jeremiah, was apparently out of town. But Hulda, wife of Shallum, one of the king’s courtiers (and, the sages suggest, Jeremiah’s cousin), was available for interpretation. She warned Josiah that, indeed, the punishments [for idolatry] listed by the book would apply, though only after Josiah’s time, because he was righteous. Her warning led the Jews to renew their covenant with Yahweh.

Hulda’s tomb may have been located within Jerusalem at one point and later removed. . . . [B]y the Middle Ages, Jewish pilgrims write that they had visited Hulda’s tomb at the top of Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. . . . But to Christians, this very same tomb is occupied by St. Pelagia, a 5th-century actress and singer from Antioch known for her beauty who, at the behest of her bishop, St. Nonnus, left her old life behind, disguised herself as a man, and came to Jerusalem where she lived alone in a monastic cell and died in 457 CE. . . .

Moving onto Muslim tradition, this is the tomb of Sit Raba’a al-Aduwiyyeh. She was born a slave in Basra, Iraq, in the year 714. According to the story, when her master saw a golden halo surrounding her as she prayed, he decided to free her.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Book of Kings, Christianity, Islam, Jeremiah, Jerusalem, Religion & Holidays

Are American Jews Really Distancing Themselves from Israel?


Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral victory has prompted much talk of American Jews feeling themselves increasingly “distant” from Israel. Some of this talk takes the form of loosely (or not-so-loosely) veiled threats: if Israelis don’t start voting the way American Jews supposedly want them too, they will lose American-Jewish support. Shmuel Rosner contends that this talk is based on faulty assumptions:

[W]hy blame Israel and its decisions for the phenomenon of “distancing”? Why presuppose that it is the Israeli voters that need to change their outlook to win favor with American Jews—and not conclude that it is American Jews that need to change their outlook to win favor with Israeli Jews?

The threat of “distancing from Israel” is based on two faulty pillars: that politics is a main driver of connection and disconnection to Israel [and] that Israel needs American Jews more than they need Israel. . . .

I don’t accept these assumptions—because they are unproven and untrue. Unproven because, as we’ve seen in many studies in recent years, the political divide is not the main driver that determines the connection of Jews to Israel. Of course, this might change, but thus far it has not. Untrue, because American Jews need the connection to Israel no less than Israel needs this connection.

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: American Jewry, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel and the Diaspora, Israeli politics, US-Israel relations