Marc Chagall and His Daughter

Aug. 15 2016

Friday was the 22nd anniversary of the death of Ida Chagall, the artist’s only child. While correcting some of the misinformation about Ida found in biographies of her father, Galya Diment discusses the circumstances of her birth and infanthood, her father’s at first ambivalent attitude toward her, and his paintings of her during her early years:

Ida Chagall was born May 18, [1916] in Petrograd, where her parents had moved from their native Vitebsk in the autumn of 1915, after their summer wedding and honeymoon. . . . The severe restrictions against Jews residing in big cities were relaxed during the war years, making it possible for the Chagalls to live in Petrograd legally. They could not, however, escape the general anti-Jewish violence raging in the country. Many unhappy citizens, soldiers among them, found the customary outlet for their frustration by attacking Jews. Chagall claimed that he himself barely escaped being killed one night in such a pogrom and saw other Jews being murdered: “Gunshots. Bodies falling into the water. I run home.” . . .

[At the time] the food situation in Petrograd—because of the catastrophically deteriorating economy of the war years and the increasing difficulty with transportation to this northwestern corner of the vast country—was becoming grimmer by the day. It caused bread riots, many of which would then erupt into anti-Jewish pogroms. Bella was apparently not producing much breast milk, probably due to her own poor diet, while commercial milk was very hard to come by. . . .

When summer came, the family went to a dacha not far from Vitebsk, around Liozno, where Chagall’s parents were originally from and where his grandparents still lived. They went there to make sure that Ida could have milk, they all could improve their health by eating the fruits and vegetables that still grew there in abundance, and so that Chagall could paint.

And paint he did, often on paper and cardboard because there was not enough canvas. In one of the paintings from that summer we see Bella greedily eating strawberries, gathered from the garden in sufficient quantities to fill three large plates, no doubt trying to compensate for the lack of vitamins suffered in wartime Petrograd. Ida, with her face largely blurred, looks on.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Jewish art, Marc Chagall, Russian Jewry, World War I

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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