Television’s Most Ordinary, and Most Unusual, Orthodox Jew

Nov. 22 2021

In an episode of the short-lived science-fiction series Firefly, viewers are introduced to a character named Amnon, clad in the yarmulke and ritual fringes of an observant Jew. Amnon is a benevolent minor character who works at an interplanetary post office; no mention is made of his religion or ethnicity, and he never appears in subsequent episodes. As Yair Rosenberg has uncovered, the actor who played him—Al Pugliese, who died this summer at the age of seventy-four—was at the time deeply engaged in studying Judaism, so as to better understand the roots of Christianity. The subject remained a lifelong passion for Pugliese.

Rosenberg also asked the episode’s co-writer and director, Tim Minear, why he chose to insert a Jewish character, and found something far more unusual:

“We were trying to make the character more real,” he explained. “When you have someone who’s only there for a couple scenes, you want to find ways to make [him] seem more substantial.” By giving the galactic postal clerk a clear Jewish identity, the show gestured to a wider world beyond what was explicitly seen on screen. “We wanted it to feel like he had an existence outside of the frame.”

This answer sounds simple, but it’s actually quite unusual for mainstream television. Typically, whenever a show introduces a visibly Jewish character, it’s to make some point about his faith in service of the story. Too often, religious Jews are oddities whose strange practices serve as convenient plot devices. What makes Amnon remarkable, however, is that he is not remarkable. None of the characters in Firefly comments on his faith, because it is entirely unexceptional to them. In this universe, 500 years into the distant future, Jews are not a curiosity or a plot point or an endangered species, but simply a normal everyday presence.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Orthodoxy, Science fiction, Television

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela