How “The Hobbit” was Brought to Israeli Readers

From the end of the Six-Day War in 1967 until 1970, Israel fought a low-intensity conflict, known as the “war of attrition,” with Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO. Ten Israeli air-force pilots were captured in the final year; after four months of solitary confinement, all were thrown into a single cell. Around that time, one of the pilots received a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Chen Malul describes what happened next:

The four pilots in the cell [with a solid grasp of English] decided to translate The Hobbit for those who would find it hard to understand. The pilots initially translated specific words and expressions. It did not take them long to discover that the work distracted them from their life in captivity, and soon they found themselves working day after day, for many long hours, on translating the entire book.

The work was done in pairs—one reading the text in English and translating it to Hebrew on the spot. The second’s job was to be an editor: to improve the Hebrew translation and adjust it to the high level of Tolkien’s original work. The many poems in the book presented a complex challenge, and the four turned to their cellmates for help. They later related that “we failed slightly with the poems in the book.” Under the circumstances in which the unprofessional translators found themselves, a labor of love would suffice. The entire project took four months, and it’s unlikely they thought the translation they worked so hard on while in captivity would ever be read outside the walls of their cramped cell.

The prisoners, who were released from captivity only after the Yom Kippur War, [returned to Israel] bearing a well-used copy of The Hobbit, along with seven full notebooks. In 1977, the Hebrew translation done by the pilots and their cellmates was published with financial support from the air force.

There are currently three published Hebrew translations of The Hobbit. . . . The one by the pilots and their comrades is considered the lowest-quality translation of the three, but it’s the translation I grew up on.

Read more at The Librarians

More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew, Israeli history, J. R. R. Tolkien, Translation, War of Attrition

 

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy