A New Work of Fiction Suggests Living Forever Isn’t Everything It’s Cracked Up to Be

Jan. 31 2018

Dara Horn’s novel Eternal Life traces the aftermath of a supernatural deal between two 1st-century lovers—Rachel and Elazar—who, to save the life of their ailing child, strike an agreement that requires them to live forever. By the 21st century, the two have married others, had innumerable children, and watched spouses and offspring die countless times. Reviewing the book, B.D. McClay writes about the tension that informs the narrative:

Hannah, Rachel’s granddaughter by her most recent marriage, announces that she’s on a team of scientists trying to figure out how to help people live forever, a project that fills Rachel, initially, with horror. But if Hannah can isolate the causes of aging and death, Rachel reasons, can’t she also help people to die? And if Rachel can safely let Hannah in on her secret, might she be able to explain why it’s good that people die?

This is a little too much for a fairly slender novel to juggle, and Eternal Life doesn’t quite have the magic of Dara Horn’s previous books. . . . Despite its flaws, [however,] Eternal Life is frequently moving, especially in its early chapters as Rachel remembers her long life, the sorrows that cut deeply even after centuries. “What reasons,” she wonders, “are there for being alive?”

It’s not an easy question to answer. . . . In a sense, Dara Horn’s other novels [like The World to Come and A Guide for the Perplexed] do a better job of answering [it]. Perhaps death isn’t real, and neither is life as we know it; perhaps we are surrounded and sustained by eternity, and by love, and incorporated into a complex and beautiful story that we could never ourselves anticipate, playing roles we’ll never really understand. Perhaps we can only feel that eternity when we know we’ll have to leave the stage. But we don’t, at least in Horn’s books, leave the stage for nothing. We leave it for reality, for more life. At the risk of sounding circular, the meaning of life isn’t, indeed can’t be, death; it’s life.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Dara Horn, Jewish literature, Mortality

 

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon