On the Occasion of Herman Wouk’s 102nd Birthday

To honor the prolific and best-selling American Jewish novelist, Jeff Jacoby recalls the impact Wouk’s work had on him:

I had discovered [Wouk’s 1955 novel Marjorie Morningstar] in the library of my Orthodox synagogue in Cleveland. I’m not sure what it was doing there, inasmuch as the abandonment of religious observance in favor of more worldly and unbuttoned lures was one of the book’s themes. Be that as it may, it more than held my interest—especially its description of the “necking” and “furtive sex fumbling” of Marjorie’s love life, a subject that for me was then wholly theoretical and utterly enthralling.

For all I know, I’m the only person who ever read Marjorie Morningstar in a synagogue on Sabbath afternoons. While my father studied Talmud in a class that was taught in Yiddish, I was preoccupied with Wouk’s vivacious heroine. Reading at the rate of a chapter or two each Saturday, it took a while to get through the book. I finished it just in time: one day before I was due to head off to college. . . .

But none of this is why I say that Herman Wouk forever transformed my life.

In 1959, with The Caine Mutiny and Marjorie Morningstar and a few other novels under his belt, Wouk startled his agent by sending him the manuscript of a book quite unlike anything he had written before. Its topic was religion, it bore the title This Is My God (the phrase comes from Exodus 15:2), and it was an explanation of the Modern Orthodox Judaism to which he was and is deeply committed. Wouk had brought all of his gifts as a storyteller to this exposition of his faith; what he produced was learned, warm, and sincere, an exploration of the beauty of Jewish life that managed to be both intellectually rigorous, yet broadly appealing.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: American Jewish literature, Arts & Culture, Herman Wouk, Modern Orthodoxy

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy