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Hebrew’s Excellent Adventure

March 30 2017

In The Story of Hebrew, Lewis Glinert traces the history of the holy tongue from pre-biblical times to contemporary Israel, explaining not just how the language evolved but also how it was viewed, preserved, and—against considerable odds—revived. Alan Mintz writes in his review:

[A]fter reading Lewis Glinert’s witty and learned volume, I not only understand why he called it [The Story of Hebrew], I’d be tempted to go him one better and suggest The Adventures of Hebrew. It’s a great story because there is nothing inevitable about it. Whether it was the period of the Bible or the Mishnah or Maimonides, there was always a danger, often the likelihood, that Hebrew would be lost in the break-up of great communities and subsequent migrations. That Hebrew managed to emerge from each crisis enriched is a fact we can appreciate only in retrospect. Each station along the way is, in fact, its own story thick with complications, suspense, and surprise.

The biggest surprise is that we have gotten the shape of the story all wrong. Because of the success of Zionism and Israel, Hebrew is the first language of several million people, and we tend to take that fact as the fulfillment of its destiny. A moribund, bookish tongue was finally given voice and sprang to life, redeemed.

Make no mistake: the revival of Hebrew was indeed a miracle. But Glinert shows that in telling that story, we have radically underestimated the importance of Hebrew as the matrix of Jewish literacy for almost 2,000 years. . . . I thought that I was well-versed in the history of Hebrew, but there was hardly a page in this book from which I didn’t learn something new.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Hebrew, History & Ideas, Jewish history, Language

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen