Theodor Herzl’s “The Menorah” and the Connection between Jewish Nationalism and Jewish Faith

Nov. 29 2018

In a short story published in December 1897—a few months after the First Zionist Congress—Theodor Herzl described a European Jew who, after going through adulthood indifferent to his people and to the religion of his ancestors, decides to “to return to Judaism.” He therefore, for the first time in many years, lights Hanukkah candles with his family and reflects on the holiday’s meaning. Analyzing this very short piece of fiction, titled “The Menorah,” Daniel Polisar explains that for Herzl Zionism was not only about providing an escape from anti-Semitism, but about making possible a renewal of Jewishness itself. Nor was Herzl the strict secularist he is sometimes imagined to be, but someone deeply invested in the Jewish religion, albeit in an idiosyncratic way. (Interview by Alan Rubenstein. Audio, 48 minutes. Options for download and streaming are available at the link below.)

To enroll in Polisar’s seven-part online course on Herzl, click here.

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More about: Hanukkah, History & Ideas, Judaism, Theodor Herzl, Zionism

Hizballah Prepares for War, and UN Peacekeepers Do Nothing

Dec. 10 2018

According to last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2373, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—the peacekeeping force created after the Second Lebanon War to keep both Israel and Hizballah out of southern Lebanon—is authorized “to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” If anything ought to rouse UNIFIL to action, writes Elliott Abrams, it should be the IDF’s recent discovery and destruction of tunnels dug by Hizballah to move troops into the Galilee:

The existence of these tunnels, dug from precisely the area of southern Lebanon that UNIFIL is meant to patrol, means that this area is indeed “utilized for hostile activities.” What, then, is the meaning of [UNIFIL’s statement in] response that it “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”? The meaning is that UNIFIL will likely do nothing.

UNIFIL is not supposed to be merely a means of communication, or the Security Council would have bought cell phones instead of paying for a military force. Moreover, there are no “appropriate authorities” in Lebanon; if there were, Hizballah would never have been able to dig its tunnels.

The tunnels are hardly the only brazen Hizballah violation of the Security Council resolutions undertaken right under UNIFIL’s nose. Consider this: Hizballah is blocking roads in southern Lebanon to smooth the path of missiles it is moving into the area. . . . Then there is the village of Gila, just north of the Israeli border, where there is a Hizballah headquarters and according to the Israelis about twenty warehouses with weapons, combat positions, lookout points, and dozens of underground positions. All this was built in an area supposedly patrolled by UNIFIL. . . .

This is a test of UNIFIL and its new commander, [Stefan Del Col, who took over in August]. “Communicating” to “appropriate authorities” is a euphemism for doing nothing at all. Hizballah is preparing for war. UNIFIL is supposed to get in its way. If it cannot hinder Hizballah’s war preparations in any way, and is even ignorant of them, UNIFIL is a waste of time and money.

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Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, United Nations