One Great Hebrew Writer Memorializes Another

July 20 2021

One of the most gifted Hebrew novelists of the beginning of the last century—and perhaps the most unsettling—Yosef Ḥayyim Brenner brought new life to the literary scene in the Land of Israel when he settled there in 1909. His murder during the 1921 Arab riots in Jaffa brought an abrupt end to his career. Forty years later, his friend and one of his few peers, the novelist S.Y. Agnon, saw fit to eulogize him in an Israeli journal. Jeffrey Saks offers a translation of Agnon’s reminiscence, which concludes with a talmudic citation:

I will say no more of Brenner, except that when they found his body he was clutching a bundle of pages from the book he had just written, with pages strewn around his body drenched in his blood. Blood is the soul of man. He wrote his books with his soul; his blood sanctified his writing. It is said of [the 2nd-century sage] Rabbi Ḥaninah ben Tradyon that he expounded upon the Torah with his pupils gathered about him while clutching a scroll of the law to his bosom, [despite the Roman decree against Torah study]. They caught him and asked why he had taught Torah. He replied, “It is the command of the Lord my God.”

They brought him to be sentenced, and wrapped him in his Torah scroll, and encircled him with bundles of branches, and they set fire to it. And they brought tufts of wool and soaked them in water, and placed them on his heart, so that his soul should not quickly depart his body, but that he would die slowly and painfully. His daughter said to him: “Father, must I see you like this?” He said to her: “If I alone were being burned, it would be difficult for me, but now that I am aflame along with a Torah scroll, He who will seek retribution for the disgrace accorded to the Torah will also seek retribution for the disgrace accorded to me.”

Heaven forfend that I compare our modern Hebrew literature to the Torah itself. Yet, a man sanctified his life through his death and his death through his life, and was slaughtered in the Land of Israel for being a Jew among the Jews of the Land. It is fitting to say of him, “He who will seek retribution for the disgrace accorded to us will also seek retribution for the disgrace accorded to him.”

Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

More about: Hebrew literature, Martyrdom, S. Y. Agnon, Yosef Hayyim Brenner, Zionism

Russia’s Alliance with Hizballah Is Growing Stronger

Tehran’s ongoing cooperation with Moscow has recently garnered public attention because of the Kremlin’s use of Iranian arms against Ukraine, but it extends much further, including to the Islamic Republic’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah. Aurora Ortega and Matthew Levitt explain:

Over the last few years, Russia has quietly extended its reach into Lebanon, seeking to cultivate cultural, economic, and military ties in Beirut as part of a strategy to expand Russian influence in the Middle East, while sidelining the U.S. and elevating Moscow’s role as a peacemaker.

Russia’s alliance with Hizballah was born out of the conflict in Syria, where Russian and Hizballah forces fought side-by-side in an alliance with the Assad regime. For years, this alliance appeared strictly limited to military activity in Syria, but in 2018, Hizballah and Russia began to engage in unprecedented joint sanctions-evasion activities. . . . In November 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury exposed a convoluted trade-based oil-smuggling sanctions-evasion scheme directed by Hizballah and [Iran].

The enhanced level of collaboration between Russia and Hizballah is not limited to sanctions evasion. In March 2021, Hizballah sent a delegation to Moscow, on its second-ever “diplomatic” visit to the country. Unlike its first visit a decade prior, which was enveloped in secrecy with no media exposure, this visit was well publicized. During their three days in Moscow, Hizballah representatives met with various Russian officials, including the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. . . . Just three months after this visit to Moscow, Hizballah received the Russian ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Rudakov in Beirut to discuss further collaboration on joint projects.

Read more at Royal United Services Institute

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Lebanon, Russia