The Sewing Poet Who Thought He Could Break through the Limits of Mortality

July 19 2021

While the Yiddish writer and World War II partisan Avraham Sutzkever (1913-2010) is known primarily as poet, he also wrote numerous stories in prose. One such work—translated into English by Zackary Sholem Berger under the title “A Black Angel with a Pin in His Hand”—describes a fellow poet Sutzkever knew in Vilnius before the Holocaust. It begins thus:

His whole life he had been called Moyshe-Itzke, a familiar name, like you’d call a boy. The only people in whose memory he’s still barely alive remember him by that name.

Moyshe-Itzke was born because he wanted to be born. That’s what he told me. He then added confidentially that an entire collection of dark forces didn’t want to let him shine, but his will was stronger. The anointed writer Moyshe-Itzke was born in order to live eternally.

“I’m going to stay the way I am,” he said, assessing me superciliously, with the sort of face that would well up out of a shattered mirror. “Death isn’t relevant to me; we belong to two different worlds. It’s a pity that you won’t be walking these streets in a thousand years. You’d recognize me in throngs of people. I won’t change. Like a rock doesn’t change.”

He burst into hysterics, laughter like a dispersed mold, and kept going on like one possessed. “You say a rock can be overgrown with moss? Yes, my great soul will be overgrown with a beard. And you say that sparks sleep in the rock? They sing in my veins! The storm that can extinguish my sparks has not yet been born.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Holocaust, Jewish literature, Vilna, Yiddish literature

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount