Israel’s Jewish Majority


Far from threatening Israel’s survival as a Jewish state, long-term demographic trends point to a strong Jewish majority not just in the state of Israel, but also in the land of Israel.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Demography, Israel, Palestinians, West Bank


Is the U.S. Helping to Form a New Palestinian Army?


The U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem, which serves as a de-facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority, recently violated a 2011 agreement by firing some of the IDF veterans who guarded the consulate and replacing them with members of the Palestinian police. The incident follows American efforts to beef up Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces, ostensibly to protect his government in the event of a violent confrontation with Hamas. Arming the PA has worked out poorly in the past, and there is little reason, writes Shoshana Bryen, to believe it will work better this time:

Throwing American support to one Palestinian faction over another was a political decision to side with what [the U.S.] government assumed was “better” or more “moderate” Palestinians, hoping they would use [American] help to put down Hamas rather than using it to kill ever more Israelis.

What it did was legitimize the creeping movement of the Palestinians toward [possessing] a full-fledged army.

The question always was twofold: What constitutes “appropriate” weapons for the Palestinian security forces, and how does the U.S. justify training security forces the ultimate loyalty of whom will be to a government that we cannot foresee and may become something—or already is something—[the U.S.] doesn’t like? . . .

To raise the questions is to understand that there are no sound answers from either the consulate or the State Department.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Hamas, Israel & ZIonism, Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, US-Israel relations


Israel’s Improving Ties with Japan


Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Israel was about more than improving economic ties between the two countries. Omer Dostri explains:

Since Abe came to power, Japan has undergone a process of changing its foreign policy, especially regarding its relationship with Israel. . . . Japan is turning toward more assertive and active policies when it comes to foreign relations, and it is interested in taking on a central role in the local and global arenas. . . .

These changes were made as tensions with China grew in the background, especially with regard to the ongoing conflict over the disputed islands in the East China Sea. Added to that tension is the nuclear threat against Japan from North Korea. These threats draw Japan closer to Israel on a strategic level, because, like Japan, Israel is threatened by a country racing to achieve nuclear military capability and is challenged by predatory neighboring countries, even if they are not in the same geographic area.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: China, Iran, Israel & ZIonism, Israel and Asia, Israel diplomacy, Japan

What Do Tiny Letters Have to Do with the Yiddish Stage?


Micrography, the use of miniature writing to draw shapes and pictures, has been a Jewish art form for over a millennium. Traditionally, the letters spell out biblical verses and form images of biblical scenes or religious objects. But Louis Rotblat, a Polish-born Jew who made his way first to England and later to New York, used micrography to draw portraits, including of two of the greatest figures of the American Yiddish theater: the playwrights Abraham Goldfaden and Jacob Gordin. David Mazower writes:

[Rotblat] had a genius for creating micrographs—minutely detailed compositions made up of thousands of tiny letters that appear whole from a distance but fracture and dissolve when viewed close up.

This unique form of Jewish folk art has a long history . . . and is still being practiced today. A micrographic artist needs the compositional skills of an architectural draughtsman, the fearlessness of a tattooist, and the flowing hand of an artist. Plus the fluency and stamina of the sofer, the Torah scribe, the occupation that many micrographers followed.

Rotblat created his first known micrographic portrait in London in 1897. It paid tribute to . . . Abraham Goldfaden, the founding father of the Yiddish stage. The Goldfaden micrograph . . . uses thousands of words from the text of the biblical operetta Shulamis, one of the most popular of all Goldfaden plays. In similar vein, his 1909 portrait of Jacob Gordin was also minutely detailed and was based on the text of a hugely popular play. This time it was Gordon’s Mirele Efros, also known as The Jewish Queen Lear.

Read more at Digital Yiddish Theatre Project

More about: Abraham Goldfaden, Arts & Culture, Jacob Gordin, Jewish art, Lower East Side, Yiddish theater

The ICC’s Misguided Declaration of Palestinian Statehood


By opening an investigation into the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has accepted that there is, in fact, a Palestinian state. Granting such recognition to “Palestine,” writes Eugene Kontorovich, flies in the face of international law and the ICC’s own founding documents:

[T]he prosecutor did not actually determine that Palestine qualifies as a “state” under the well-established legal definitions of the term. Rather, she said that the UN General Assembly’s vote in 2012 to call Palestine a “non-member state” is dispositive of the question. In short, she substituted the determination of the General Assembly for her own. The General Assembly is not a judicial body, but a political one. Its determinations are political, not legal. It also has no power under the UN Charter to create or recognize states. . . .

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the prosecutor has deferred to judgments of the General Assembly in lieu of legal analysis. Even more unhappily, the other recent occasion also involved Israel, and the prosecutor grabbed onto General Assembly resolutions to find an “occupation” where it could not be said to exist under normative international law, including International Court of Justice precedents. An Office of the Prosecutor that merely echoes the General Assembly is in danger of becoming simply another UN Human Rights Council.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: ICC, Israel & ZIonism, Lawfare, Palestinian statehood, United Nations

Orlando’s Jewish History


Jews settled in Florida long before it became a destination for vacationers and retirees. In Orlando, the first recorded Jewish settlers arrived shortly after the Civil War. Sala Levin describes the community’s early days:

Henry Benedict, an immigrant from Germany, settled in Orlando around 1890 and got started in pineapple packing and eventually became a major player in the development of the downtown area. Other Jewish Floridians worked in the dairy and citrus industries. In the early part of the 20th century, Moses Levy—originally from Pittsburgh—bought 24 acres of groves in the area. In addition to producing oranges, the grove also served as a gathering place for prayer services. “On Friday, before Shabbat, they’d hitch up their horses and spend the night, and the small community would gather on that farm,” says local historian Roz Fuchs Schwartz. High holidays were also celebrated at the orange grove. Community members contributed in other ways, too; dairy farmer Peter Wittenstein, for example, moonlighted as the kosher butcher and mohel.

Read more at Moment

More about: American Civil War, American Jewish History, Florida, History & Ideas, Synagogues