The Planet Saturn and the Jews

Nov. 15 2017

Ancient Roman astrologers connected each day of the week with a heavenly body; hence Saturn corresponds to Saturday and was associated with the Jews, for whom the seventh day was holy. In Hebrew, as in English, the association is acknowledged in the planet’s name: Shabb’tai. Shlomo Sela explains the symbolic implications of this link:

Greek and Arab astrology . . . considered Saturn to be the most malignant of the seven “planets” [a category that included the sun and moon]; and thus the Jews, astrologically governed by Saturn, were considered to be contaminated by the planet’s wicked nature.

Abraham Ibn Ezra (ca.1089–1161) is the first Jewish thinker to deal with the problematic link among Saturn, Saturday, and the Jews. He addresses the astrological association throughout his writings, both scientific and nonscientific. He removes the sting of this embarrassing linkage by stressing that Saturn is actually conducive to a Jew’s religious faith. In his long commentary on Exodus 20:13, Ibn Ezra associates Saturn with the fourth commandment—“remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”—and explains that this correspondence allows the Jews, by not occupying themselves with everyday matters but devoting themselves solely to the fear of God on this day, to protect themselves from Saturn’s baneful influence and also to improve the quality of their religious belief.

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Read more at Herbert D. Katz Center

More about: Abraham ibn Ezra, Ancient Rome, Astrology, History & Ideas

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem