Reading the Bible with Kirk Douglas

For nearly a quarter-century, David Wolpe met weekly with Kirk Douglas—born Issur Danielovich—to study Torah. Wolpe reminisces about this Hollywood star, who died on Wednesday, and his strong sense of connection to the Jewish people:

[Douglas] came from nothing. His father, Herschel, who emigrated from Moscow to Brooklyn in 1908, literally picked rags up on the street and resold them. His son, Issur, born in 1916, trained himself as a wrestler and managed to combine sports and academic prizes at his public school to go to St. Lawrence University where he became student-body president. From there it was to the New York stage, the navy, and then Hollywood, with the encouragement of his old friend, [and fellow Jew], Lauren Bacall.

Issur Danielovich became Kirk Douglas after college graduation. He sat around with friends trying on new names (Norman Dems was another consideration). He wanted a name that started with a “d,” and someone suggested Douglas. Another friend suggested Kirk and he liked the hard sound of it. He explained later that the Gentile-sounding name exposed him to new levels of anti-Semitism because people did not know he was Jewish and would say vile things about Jews blithely to his face. “Issur” he wrote in his biography, “was with me all the time.”

He got angry about anti-Semitism, about the government, about Israel and the Palestinians, about things in the Torah he did not like. Once, fed up with a certain passage where he believed God was being harsh, he slammed the book shut and said “Ach, get me a better story.” Yet he would also say over and over that the stories in the Bible were the wisest in the world, and if he were young, he would start making movies of them, beginning with King David—[about whom he once said], “That’s the role I was born to play.”

Read more at New York Times

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Hollywood, Judaism, King David

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