The Old-Country Roots of Zionist Music

In a new book on the development of Israeli songs, the historian David Assaf explains the East European, and often ḥasidic, origin of many classic tunes of the kibbutz and of secular pioneers. Allan Arkush, in a glowing review, notes that the book “is mainly about Hebrew songs, but Yiddish is rarely very far away,” and it contains a history of one of the most popular Yiddish songs of all time. Titled “Oyfn pripitshek”—a pripitshek being an old-fashioned stove used for heating as well as cooking—the tune owes its existence to one of the great Yiddish writers:

Sholem Aleichem was a friend and enormous booster of the composer of “Oyfn pripetshik,” Mark Warshafsky (1848–1907). But how, Assaf wonders, could the great Yiddish author write a realistic story like “Boaz the Melamed,” in which a hard-hearted ḥeder teacher brutalizes his pupils, while being an enthusiastic promoter of a nostalgic song featuring a melamed [traditional elementary-school instructor] who lovingly teaches his kids the “alef-beys”? The apparent contradiction, Assaf explains, expresses the ambivalence of many early 20th-century secularists who had a traditional ḥeder education.

At that time, many of the writers and intellectuals who had already left the small town and religious tradition behind them and moved to big cities had a deep feeling in their hearts that the decline of the shtetl in which they had been raised was almost a fait accompli. They also felt a certain longing for some old-world institutions, which they had come to perceive as bulwarks against assimilation despite all their failings.

This is the heart of the matter, but it’s only a part of the story. Assaf tells us where “Oyfn pripitshek” comes from—not just fond memories but a mid-19th-century French song that depicts a teacher sitting on a stump in a glade, teaching his pupils the alphabet—and where it very quickly went: Tel Aviv, where a Hebrew version likewise takes the children outdoors and focuses more on planting trees than learning one’s letters.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Israeli music, Jewish music, Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security