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A Storied Jewish Archive, Now Digitized, Will Remain in Russia

Nov. 15 2017

Founded in the 19th century by a wealthy Russian Jewish family with close ties to the tsars, the Günzburg collection is one of the world’s most impressive troves of Judaica. The Russian State Library in Moscow has just concluded an agreement with the National Library of Israel to digitize it and make it available to the public, as Ofer Aderet writes:

The Günzburg collection is a rich and unique collection of books and manuscripts that contains over 14,000 items, including thousands of rare Hebrew books as well as manuscripts in Hebrew and many other languages. It includes medieval works in science, philosophy, and Jewish studies, midrashim, copies of the writings of Moses Maimonides and the [13th-century Catalan talmudist and communal leader] Shlomo ibn Aderet, biblical commentaries, books of Hebrew grammar and halakhah, medieval poetry, and kabbalistic and medical texts. . . .

In 1917 a contract between the B’nai B’rith Library [the precursor to the National Library] and the Russian authorities was signed for the purchase of the collection. Half a million gold rubles were transferred to the Russians (about $15 million according to today’s gold value) through donations by Russian Zionists.

The books had already been placed in cartons in preparation for their dispatch to Palestine, but delivery was delayed due to World War I. With the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution the books were seized, nationalized, and transferred to the Lenin State Library in Moscow. Albert Einstein, Chaim Weizmann, and later Benjamin Netanyahu tried in vain to persuade the Russians to return the collection. . . .

The digitization project was funded by the Peri Foundation, headed by Ziyavudin Magomedov, a Russian Muslim billionaire businessman from Dagestan, who is active in cultural preservation.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: History & Ideas, Jewish archives, Middle Ages, Russian Jewry

 

In Pursuing Peace with Saudi Arabia, Israel Must Demand Reciprocity and Keep the Palestinian Question off the Table

Nov. 22 2017

The recent, unprecedented interview given by the IDF chief of staff to a major Arabic news outlet has fed the growing enthusiasm in Israel about the prospects of a peace treaty and mutual recognition between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Mordechai Kedar urges level heads and caution, and puts forward ten principles that should guide any negotiations. Most importantly, he argues that the two countries normalize relations before coming to any agreements about the Palestinians. To this he adds:

The most basic rule in dealing with the Saudis and their friends is that Israel must not feel that it has to pay anything for peace. . . . If the Saudis want to live in peace with us, we will stretch out our hands to offer them peace in return. But that is all they will get. Israel [has] been a state for 70 years without peace with Saudi Arabia and can continue being a state for another 7,000 years without it. Any desire for a quick peace (as expressed in the disastrous slogan “Peace Now”) will raise the price of that peace. . . .

[As part of any agreement], Israel will recognize the House of Saud’s rule in Mecca and Medina—even though the family does not originate from the Hejaz [where the holy cities are located] but from the Najd highland—in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel’s right to Jerusalem as its historic and eternal capital city. Israel will recognize Saudi Arabia as an Islamic state in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel as the Jewish state or a state belonging to the Jewish people. . . .

Israel will not allow incitement against Saudi Arabia in its media. In return, the Saudis will not allow anti-Israel incitement in Saudi media. . . .

It is important to keep the Americans and Europeans away from the negotiating table, since they will not be party to the agreement and will not have to suffer the results of its not being honored—and since their interests are not necessarily those of Israel, especially when it comes to the speed at which the negotiations move forward. The Americans want to cut a deal, even a bad deal, and if they are allowed into the negotiation rooms, they will pressure Israel to give in, mainly on the Palestinian issue.

Read more at Israel National News

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia