A Tale of Wealth, Corruption, and Small-Town Jewish Mores

In a short story by the great Hebrew author S.Y. Agnon, an unspecified member of the Rothschild family—proverbially wealthy Jewish bankers—finds himself in a small shtetl for the Sabbath. Here Rothschild (as he is called throughout) encounters “the Patron,” the head of the local Jewish community of whose own riches the townspeople are in awe. The following passage describes the Patron’s grand entrance into the synagogue during Friday-night prayers:

Rothschild saw that the sun had set yet no one had started reciting the prayers for welcoming the Sabbath. He looked at his watch, he looked at the window, and he looked at the schedule on the wall. Rothschild asked, “The time to welcome the Sabbath has arrived, why aren’t we reciting the prayers?” They responded, “We are waiting for the Patron to arrive in synagogue, for we do not pray until he arrives, but he’ll surely arrive soon, since the sexton has already gone to get him.”

As they were talking the door opened and in walked the sexton, who called out, “Sha-a-a!” informing one and all that the Patron was about to enter. Everyone answered, “The Patron is coming! The Patron is coming!”

Rothschild raised his eyes and saw a corpulent man, as wide around the middle as he was tall, dressed in silks and sables, with his face set toward the east.

The Patron reached the eastern wall at the front of the synagogue and sat in his place, all the while puffing and panting from his walk.

The prayer leader approached him, bowed, and asked, “What does your honor think? May we welcome the Sabbath?” The Patron nodded yes. The prayer leader retreated, with his face toward the Patron and his backside to the congregation, ascended the platform, wrapped himself in a tallit, and began the prayers.

After the prayers everyone pushed and shoved to approach the Patron, bow to him with awe and reverence, and wish him a Shabbat Shalom, while he nodded his head in affirmation as if to say the same.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew literature, Jewish literature, Rothschilds, S. Y. Agnon, Shtetl

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict