A Newly Translated Work of Poetry Pays Homage to the Murdered Jews of Crete

July 18 2022

A collection of poems by Iossif Ventouras, the only surviving Jewish man born in Crete, has recently been published in English as Tanais. It gets its name from one of the poems in the volume, which in turn is named for an ancient Greek colony in what is now Russia—and a ship whose fate was bound up with that of Cretan Jewry. Mark Glanville explains in his review:

In early June [1941], the Nazis filled the holds of the ship with about 900 prisoners bound for Auschwitz, among them Cretan partisans, Italian prisoners of war, and the entire Jewish community of Crete, which comprised 299 souls, 88 of them children. On June 9, the Tanais was torpedoed by the British submarine Vivid, killing all but a handful of passengers. This was the end of the Cretan Jewish community, which had thrived on the island for more than 2,000 years. (Jews are said to have served as guards at the palace of Knossos, where King Minos had Daedalus build the labyrinth with his son the Minotaur at its center.)

This event looms large in Ventouras’s work, and Glanville deems “Tanais” and another poem in the volume, “Kyklonia” (“cyclone”), “two of the most important and devastating poems written in the wake of the Holocaust.” He compares their resonances, and opening verses:

Ventouras is a true heir to two ancient traditions, Jerusalem and Athens. In “Kyklonia,” he writes:

Question: what is your name?

Answer: My Jewish name, or . . . ? My Greek name is . . .’

The poem opens with an epigraph from Jeremiah (1:13): “I see a bubbling pot/ and its spout is facing north,” which the poet adopts as a description of the German invasion of Greece and Crete. Ventouras’s other great Holocaust poem, “Tanais,” opens with . . . the words of the sorceress Circe from Book Ten of the Odyssey. And Odysseus will go down to Hades to encounter the spirits of those he has fought alongside at Troy.

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More about: Greece, Holocaust, Poetry

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror