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Must Hebrew Shed Its Sanctity to Become a Modern Language?

March 3 2015

Yes, argued Hayyim N. Bialik, one of the great poets of the early 20th century. He wanted to “reprogram” Hebrew for mundane use by stripping it of the layers of sacred connotation it had acquired over the centuries. Gershom Scholem, the great scholar of Jewish mysticism, held that to do so was impossible, but he also believed that Hebrew was “fraught with danger” because repressed religious meanings could resurface in unexpected ways. According to Jeffrey Saks, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist S. Y. Agnon showed through his works that Hebrew’s sacred reverberations could be channeled without being discarded:

S.Y. Agnon neither feared Hebrew nor considered that it could be neutralized of its embedded values. Agnon’s magisterial use of the language is a distillation of the dialects of [traditional Torah study] throughout the millennia, . . . [replete with] word plays and allusions to the entirety of the Jewish bookshelf. But that is merely on the aesthetic plane. If contemporary linguistic theory . . . is correct that language is not the reflection of a universal human hard-wiring, but far more culturally specific and determined, . . . anyone committed to the role of Jewish learning in Jewish life ought to re-explore and recommit himself to the pursuit of mastering the Holy Tongue.

Read more at Web Yeshiva

More about: Arts & Culture, Bialik, Gershom Scholem, Language, Modern Hebrew, Modern Hebrew literature, S. Y. Agnon

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security