Ode to Odessa

In a humorous and poignant picture of his hometown, newly translated by Val Vinokur, the celebrated Soviet Jewish author Isaac Babel, born in 1894 and executed in 1940 as a victim of one of Stalin’s purges, begins thus:

Odessa is a nasty town. Everybody knows this. Instead of saying “what’s the difference,” over there they say, “what’s the differences,” and also, instead of “here and there,” they say, “hayr and thayr.” But still, it seems to me you could say a lot of good things about this important and most remarkable city in the Russian Empire. Just consider—a city where life is simple and easy. Half of the population consists of Jews, and Jews are people who are sure about a few basic things. They get married so they won’t be lonely, make love so they will live forever, save up money to buy their wives astrakhan jackets, love their offspring because, after all, it’s very good and important to love one’s children. Poor Jews in Odessa can get very confused by officials and official forms, but it isn’t easy to shift them from their ways, their fixed and ancient ways. Shift they will not, and one can learn a lot from them. To a significant degree, it is thanks to their efforts that Odessa has such a simple and easygoing atmosphere.

Read more at Odessa Review

More about: Arts & Culture, Isaac Babel, Jewish literature, Joseph Stalin, Odessa, Soviet Jewry


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security