Much Modern Fiction Explores the Dissolution of Families. The Book of Ruth Explores a Family’s Restoration

Both the American novelist Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and the Israeli novelist Meir Shalev’s Two She-Bears feature main characters named Ruth, and employ parallels—in the former case, explicit—to the biblical book of that name, read in many synagogues on the holiday of Shavuot. Examining both novels’ use of biblical motifs, Sarah Rindner contrasts them to a short story by the great Hebrew writer S.Y. Agnon, “In the Prime of Her Life,” which is replete with echoes of the book of Ruth. Rindner writes:

The book of Ruth, a midrash states, was written only “to teach how much reward comes to those who perform deeds of lovingkindness.” In the hardscrabble world in which Marilynne Robinson’s Ruth resides, Christian neighbors can at best offer a bland and conventional kind of assistance. . . . In Two She-Bears, the patriarch of the [protagonist’s] family, Zev Tavori, does not possess the humility of the biblical Boaz. Whereas Boaz essentially effaces himself by enabling a variation of the biblical idea of yibum [Levirate marriage]—the continuation of the family line by the deceased husband’s brother [or, in Boaz’s case, relative]—Tavori turns to murder.

Modern novels often explore the dissolution of families and relationships. The book of Ruth, too, presents an account of familial dissolution, but it is followed by restoration. Agnon’s invocation of the book, notwithstanding his [frequent use of] irony, is a rare example of a modern work that mines the biblical story in its full depth. Ruth’s travails alongside Naomi, their exile, and their exclusion from civilized society are a natural fit for modern novelists like Robinson and Shalev. . . . The inexplicable acts of goodness that drive men and women like Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth are harder to find, in literature and in life.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Book of Ruth, Hebrew literature, Literature, S. Y. Agnon, Shavuot

The Palestinian Prime Minister Rails against Peace at the Council of Foreign Relations

On November 17, the Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations, America’s most prestigious and influential foreign-policy institution. While there, Shtayyeh took the opportunity to lambast Arab states for making peace with Israel. Dore Gold comments:

[Perhaps Shtayyeh] would prefer that Bahrain, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates declare the end of their conflicts with Israel only after all Palestinian political demands are met; however, he refused to recognize that Arab states have a right to defend their vital interests.

Since 1948, they had suspended these rights for the sake of the Palestinian cause. What Shtayyeh ultimately wants is for the Palestinians to continue to hold their past veto power over the Arab world. Essentially, he wants the Arabs to be [like the] Iranians, who supply Palestinian organizations like Hamas with weapons and money while taking the most extreme positions against peace. What the Arabs have begun to say this year is that this option is no longer on the table.

Frankly, the cracks in the Palestinian veto of peace that appeared in 2020 are undeniable. Shtayyeh is unprepared to answer why. The story of that split began with the fact that the response of the Palestinian leadership to every proposal for peace since the 2000 Camp David Summit with President Clinton has been a loud but consistent “No.”

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian Authority, U.S. Foreign policy