For Israelis, Secular and Religious Alike, Jewishness Is as Natural as Breathing

Dec. 28 2018

In Israel, a new kind of Judaism has emerged, argues Shmuel Rosner, based on an extensive study he conducted in collaboration with the demographer Camil Fuchs. In that Judaism, the overwhelming majority of the country’s Jewish population—whether ḥaredi or “secular”—take part. He cites the rhythms of the Israeli year as an example:

Many of Israel’s institutions (such as schools) base their schedules on the Gregorian calendar. Many Israelis remember the Gregorian date, but struggle to keep track of the Hebrew date. Nevertheless, their culture follows the Jewish calendar. They take vacations on Sukkot and wear costumes on Purim (51 percent of adults reported doing so), insist on having family dinners on Friday night (as 82 percent say they do regularly), and cannot ignore Shavuot because television commercials remind them to buy cheese for the traditional dairy meal. . . .

Jews who live outside of Israel—most of them in the United States—are familiar with the challenge posed by what some of them call “Jewish continuity.” In short: the highly observant pass on their Judaism to the next generation; the less observant do, too, but [for them] it’s a struggle. When I lived in the United States and studied and wrote about American Judaism, I was fascinated by the great effort that Jews must invest to keep their tradition. I admired their effort. And still do.

But my current study taught me a lot about the benefits of living in a society in which Jewish continuity is a given. Of course, we have a lot to worry about in Israel—from security issues to our political culture to the never-ending conflict with our neighbors. Still, we are spared the worry about the future of Jewishness. When we asked Israeli Jews about their level of confidence that their children and grandchildren will be Jewish, the outcome was remarkable. The overwhelming majority—86 percent—are confident that their children will be Jewish. Nearly as many (79 percent) are confident that their grandchildren will be Jewish. What other option is there? . . . [Israelis] breathe Judaism . . . effortlessly.

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Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Judaism in Israel, Religion & Holidays

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat