Jewish Life Carries on in Eastern Ukraine

Feb. 24 2017

Reporting from the city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, not far from advancing Russian forces, Dovid Margolin describes the state of the local Jewish community, which lives with the constant sound of artillery fire in the background:

Just as the city continues to function, so, too, have Jewish communal activities continued, even strengthened. Mariupol’s Jewish preschool and day school haven’t skipped a day. . . . In the last few weeks, Mariupol has seen two circumcisions: one of a newborn boy [performed by the local rabbi]; and the other of a fifty-five-year-old man who over the last decade has become an active synagogue member after a life without participation in the Jewish community. The latter bris was performed by Rabbi Yaacov Gaissinovitch, formerly of separatist-occupied Donetsk, who today lives in Kiev and serves as the country’s leading mohel. . . .

Having been made cynical by the ongoing war of attrition, [Mariupol’s Jews] do not believe the background noise of heavy artillery will go away soon, much as they hope [it will]. . . . While the boom of rockets can be heard throughout the day, the main show . . . begins like clockwork at 4:45 pm.

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Read more at Chabad.org

More about: Jewish World, Ukraine, Ukrainian Jews, War in Ukraine

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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Read more at BESA Center

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