Seventeen Centuries of Synagogue Architecture, in Miniature

At the time of its founding (in 1973), the Yeshiva University Museum commissioned ten hand-made scale models of historic synagogues, ranging from a 3rd-century Syrian synagogue to the 19th-century Tempio Israelitico in Florence, Italy. The museum has put the miniatures on display once more—for the first time in almost 30 years. Diane Bolz writes:

The synagogues selected for the exhibition were chosen for their historical and architectural significance. Also important was the quality and availability of documentation essential to producing archaeologically and historically accurate reconstructions. In addition, the buildings had to exhibit . . . “a unifying idea”—a significant symbolic feature or specific architectural characteristic that distinguished that synagogue. . . .

The models are accompanied by an impressive array of original objects associated with each synagogue, including a bronze incense shovel from the era of the Second Temple that has links to the decorations in the [6th-century] Beit Alpha synagogue; a Torah scroll used in Amsterdam’s Spanish-Portuguese synagogue, which may date from before the time of the expulsion of Jews from Spain; and a large-scale brass Hanukkah lamp and silver Torah shield that echo the furnishings of the 17th-century Zabludow synagogue in Poland. Other artifacts, drawings, paintings, manuscripts, photographs, and maps . . . bring to life the cultures that produced these synagogues and the thematic elements that connect them.

Read more at Moment

More about: Architecture, Arts & Culture, Museums, Synagogues

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas