The Violinist and Her Twin Sister

Perhaps the greatest Yiddish poet of the post-war era—if not of the language’s entire history—Avrom Sutzkever (1913-2010) spent most of World War II in the Vilna ghetto before fleeing to the forests to fight with the partisans. Thereafter he settled in Israel. He was also a prolific author of prose, some of which, like this short story translated by Zackary Sholem Berger, comes close to poetry. The tale is set in the Aladdin Cafeteria in Jaffa, near the sea where, as the author reminds us, the prophet Jonah set sail for Tarshish:

I’m in the Aladdin again today. It’s a spitefully humid day. The sea air is limp. It floats face up on the small, shattered waves, and the gap in the air over the sea is the color of the inside of a mother-of-pearl shell.

A locust hatches in weather like this.

I have an idea, which progresses to a vision: the waves opposite me are not waves but the grandchildren of the whale that swallowed Jonah. . . .

According to the clock it’s now noon, and in the glass belly of the whale there are only a few guests: a drowsing old man with a newspaper in his drowsy hands; a snuggling couple like two thick branches of one, let’s say, tree of love; a woman with a black veil over her face; and me, the witness to all this. Nevertheless, the cafeteria manager takes such pity that he orders the lights turned on. The bulbs manage but a blink and like freshly decapitated snake heads go out with a hissing of tongues.

On the outside of the windowpanes, which chatter like teeth, a cloud floats by, earth that has made its way up into heaven, a fiery plow in its breast. I see its reflection: the woman with the black veil is sitting at my table right now. The storm slapped the glass whale and slid the woman over to me, together with the chair.

Six digits carved into her left arm, ending with a one and a three.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Holocaust, Israeli literature, Jonah, Yiddish literature

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden