A Literary Glimpse at Orthodox Jerusalem on the Eve of Sukkot, from an Overlooked Hebrew Author

Haim Be’er, born in the ḥaredi G’ulah neighborhood of Jerusalem in 1945, is a prolific author of novels, personal essays, and literary criticism. (Most of his work has never been rendered into English, one notable exception being his novel Feathers, translated by Hillel Halkin.) In general,  notes Jeffrey Saks in a brief essay, Be’er’s writing is deeply informed by his religious upbringing. Much of it also bespeaks the influence of the great Hebrew author S.Y. Agnon, who appears briefly in this reminiscence by Be’er of his native city on the eve of the Sukkot festival. Herewith, the opening paragraphs:

One late afternoon between Yom Kippur and Sukkot 1963 I stood in the dark recesses of Jerusalem’s Ohr bookshop, a treasure house of old and antique holy texts. The delightful aroma that wafted off the etrogs, precisely as described in a story by S.Y. Agnon, obliterated the mustiness of the old books, most of which had come from the homes of poor folks. I inspected the recent acquisitions [by] the . . .bookseller, Rabbi Avrum Rubinstein, from the estate of a Torah scholar recently departed to eternal rest. That dead man’s sons, who had strayed from the traditions of their father and had no need for his library of rare and valuable volumes, sold them to the bookseller for a pittance.

The small shop, located at the end of Meah Shearim Street, had been well known to me since the time I had begun my hunting expeditions in search of coveted books. It was here that I once passed a test posed to me by the bookseller. He showed me a large stack of old tomes, including entire anthologies of Hebrew poetry from Yemen, and said that if I succeeded in identifying the most valuable book in the lot I would receive it as a gift.

It was also in this shop that I met Hebrew literature’s most famous author, Agnon, for the first and only time. To my embarrassment I did not recognize him, mistaking him for a retired Galician businessman who had taken up book collecting in old age. He asked what family I came from. As I offered up my family tree stretching back seven generations, like a peddler laying out his wares, Agnon suppressed a smile and said, “You only know that far back? A person ought to know who his ancestors are going back to Adam in Eden.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew literature, Jerusalem, S. Y. Agnon, Sukkot

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority