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.

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

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam