Mark Podwal: A Unique Artist Preoccupied with Jewish History

In an encomium to the American Jewish artist Mark Podwal, Cynthia Ozick describes his uncanny ability to create striking images that capture the themes of Jewish history. (With slideshow; originally published in 1990.)

Podwal’s genius for . . . historical contradictions—or intensifiers—[is on display] in a drawing that accompanies Elie Wiesel’s The Jews of Silence, a meditation on the travail of Soviet Jews. Moscow rises up before us with its recognizable onion-domed old churches—only the “domes,” when you look again, turn out to be the joyfully beflagged tops of decorative spice boxes—the spice boxes used in Jewish tradition for the havdalah ceremony that separates the close of the Sabbath from the ordinary weekday round. Yet these Jews are not permitted ordinary lives.

In the foreground, one spice box, attempting to escape, has been struck down and lies prostrate on Russian earth; nearby, another strives to stand erect; the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are seen coursing like musical notes—or else like a swarm of fertilizing bees—through the city. A multitude of implications bombard the eye in glorious simultaneity: the Jews of the Soviet Union remember who they are, and like the tall heads of the spice boxes aspire to freedom and hope through the continuity of the Covenant. They may be downtrodden for the moment, but the buzz of liberation animates them. Besides, there are windows in the spice boxes—some are thrown open, others are still shut, but one of them is emblazoned with a Star of David. And a free Star of David hurtles across the Moscow sky.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Cynthia Ozick, Elie Wiesel, Jewish art, Soviet Jewry


Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden