A Musical Revival in a Chinese City Stirs Memories of a Jewish Past

Aug. 16 2016

In response to President Xi Jinping’s call for a “cultural renaissance,” the city of Harbin has invested many millions in building concert halls and sponsoring musical performances. The city, located near the country’s northeastern frontier, had been a major center of Western music a century ago, largely because of an influx of Russian Jews. Amy Qin writes:

The arts—and especially classical music—flourished [in Harbin] throughout the early 20th century. Nicknamed the St. Petersburg of the East, [it] was home to a thriving Jewish community that helped build a rich cultural scene, including China’s first symphony orchestra, made up of mostly Russian musicians. . . .

This summer the city . . . hosted . . . two concerts conducted by Zubin Mehta, featuring the Harbin Symphony Orchestra and fifteen members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. . . . City officials have a “vision of building a cultural bridge with Israel,” said Mehta, the longtime music director of the Israel Philharmonic. “So I came as a catalyst between the two sides.” . . .

During the 1920s, the city was home to as many as 20,000 Jews. . . . [It] soon became a gateway for Western classical music in China. . . . Harbin had as many as 30 music schools where a number of prominent international musicians trained. . . . There were jazz orchestras, ballet performances, drama groups, theater companies, and even a Yiddish theater.

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More about: Arts & Culture, China, Harbin, Israel Philharmonic, Israel-China relations, Music, Russian Jewry, Yiddish theater

No, Israel Hasn’t Used Disproportionate Force against Hamas

Aug. 15 2018

Last week, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched nearly 200 rockets and mortars into Israel, in addition to the ongoing makeshift incendiary devices and sporadic sniper fire. Israel responded with an intensive round of airstrikes, which stopped the rockets. Typically, condemnations of the Jewish state’s use of “disproportionate force” followed; and typically, as Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, explains, these were wholly inaccurate:

The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was [identified] as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians: Inas Abu Khmash, a twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman, and her eighteen-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’s bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With . . . 28 Israelis who required medical assistance [and] 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes on Hamas’s assets with so few deaths show how deep and thorough is the planning process the IDF has put in place. . . . Proportionality in warfare, [however], is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. . . . Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. . . . In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were [deemed] undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. . . .

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians from behind Gazan civilians is accepted, underreported, and not condemned.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict