Revolutionizing Judaism . . . With a Dictionary

June 10 2016

Testifying to the agenda of the Haskalah, the 18th-century Jewish Enlightenment, a rare dictionary provides translations of Hebrew words into German, written in Hebrew characters:

[T]his “German”-Hebrew dictionary was, in its time, a bold statement. . . . The express purpose of Netiv Lashon Ivrit (“Path of the Hebrew Language”), [as the dictionary was titled], was to teach Jewish children Hebrew. The anonymous author imagined the book being put to use in Jewish schools. There is no year of publication noted but it is believed that this book was printed in Dyhernfurth, Prussia (present-day Brzeg Dolny, in southwestern Poland) in the late 18th century. The town had a long tradition of Jewish printing. The dictionary only goes up to letter g and it isn’t known if any additional volumes were ever published. . . .

The Maskilim (proponents of the Haskalah) sought a new emphasis on the Hebrew Bible [over the Talmud], whose universal human values, [they believed], were a link between Jews and the wider world. Knowing Hebrew was a key to being able to read this text unmediated by rabbinic authorities.

Hebrew was considered a noble language and a link to the glorious Jewish past. The Maskilim, by and large, disdained Yiddish as a worthless jargon, a non-language. They promoted not only Hebrew but also the acquisition of elite European languages such as German and Russian. German in Hebrew characters, sometimes referred to as Jüdisch-Deutsch, was seen as a way to wean Jews away from Yiddish. It might look like Yiddish but, in fact, was a type of “anti-Yiddish.” For readers in the Russian Empire, where this copy of the book ended up, [it] provided an opportunity to learn both German and Hebrew.

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More about: Haskalah, Hebrew, History & Ideas, Language, Yiddish

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat