Titus and the Gnat

Aug. 12 2022

After the Roman general, and later emperor, Titus razed Jerusalem and plundered the Temple—according to a talmudic legend—God punished him by sending a gnat via his ear into his brain, which eventually drove him to madness. Cynthia Ozick transformed the tale into a poem in 1982, published for the first time last week. It opens thus:

Wicked Titus (the name the Rabbis gave),
of Roman arms,
strategist of bloody harms,
took Jerusalem in fief,
razed the Temple to its grave,
and Zion brought to grief.

The flame of the Ark
brutally he blew to dark
shaped of its tapestry a sleeve,
loaded it with loot.
For holy Zion, no reprieve.
Then homeward went the Roman boot.

At sea, up sprang a gale.
It shook the Roman masts to sticks.
“This God of theirs can play these tricks
on water, but the land is dry,
On land He can’t prevail.
Just let Him try!”
Thus spake that master of detritus,
Zion’s ruin, Wicked Titus.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Ancient Rome, Cynthia Ozick, Poetry, Second Temple, Talmud

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy