The Violinist and Her Twin Sister

Jan. 22 2021

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.

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Read more at Tablet

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

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia