Jews Surely Deserve a Potboiler Based on a Talmudic Legend

Like his previous nine novels, Steven Pressfield’s 36 Righteous Men is action-packed, ready-for-Hollywood genre fiction. But at the heart of the plot is the rabbinic tradition that at any given moment there are 36 righteous men in the world, whose identities are hidden. The twist: some powerful person is systematically killing them off, and Pressfield’s heroes must stop him. Adam Kirsch writes in his review:

Christian writers have long since woken up to the crowd-pleasing potential of the religious action-thriller. The popular Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, spun sixteen novels out of the book of Revelation. . . . Dan Brown sold 80 million copies of The Da Vinci Code by imagining a millennia-old Vatican conspiracy involving the Holy Grail and the true identity of Mary Magdalene. What do Jewish readers have to compete with that? A handful of arty novels about golems. Surely we deserve at least one book where the hero unravels an ancient Jewish mystery and staves off the end of the world by shooting an RPG at the devil to knock him back through the portals of Gehenna.

It’s often been observed that environmentalism serves many secular people today as a substitute for religion. But this has seldom been more explicit than it is in 36 Righteous Men. For what, in the year 2034, [when the novel is set], is a righteous person? It turns out that all of the [36 righteous] victims are, in one way or another, fighting against climate change; and the end of the world that [the villain] wants to bring about will take the form of our own destruction of the planet. Goodness is no longer a religious concept but an ecological one.

Yet at the same time, the genre in which Pressfield is working demands that the denouement involve explosions, not carbon-sequestering pilot demonstrations. And so 36 Righteous Men tries to have it both ways. [The heroes], equipped with shoulder-launched missiles and giant “Zombie Killer” shotguns, do battle . . . in Megiddo, the Israeli site of the biblical Armageddon; in doing so, they hope to protect . . . a climate scientist whose inventions will help stave off global warming.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Eschatology, Fiction, Global Warming, Talmud

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas