For Lag ba-Omer, a Story of the Land of Israel by S. Y. Agnon

The minor holiday of Lag ba-Omer, which falls today, marks the 33rd day after Passover. In Israel, many celebrate it with pilgrimages to the putative grave of the 2nd-century sage Shimon bar Yoḥai, located in the Galilean town of Meron. All of this figures prominently in a Hebrew story, “To the Galilee,” by the Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon. Set in 1911, the story has been newly rendered into English by Jeffrey Saks (with an introduction here). It opens like this:

After a few years in Jaffa and her settlements and in Jerusalem and her study halls I decided to go and see the land—the [Sea of Galilee] and Deganya kibbutzim and their inhabitants, who have added two settlements to the existing 37. I had too little money to hire a donkey to ride on or a wagon to travel in, but I had plenty of time, so I decided to make my way by foot.

I timed the trip to celebrate Lag ba-Omer in Meron, because I still remembered something of what I had heard in my childhood about the spectacles and wonders witnessed on Lag ba-Omer night at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai.

I placed a loaf of bread and some olives in my pack, took my walking stick, and locked my door. I placed the key on the windowsill behind the blinds, so if a friend came to visit and found me away he could still find the key, open my room, and find himself a place to rest. It was the custom in the Land in those days that a person could always find lodging with a friend—if not a proper bed, then at least a floor to sleep on and a roof above his head.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Galilee, Lag ba'Omer, Land of Israel, Modern Hebrew literature, S. Y. Agnon

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas