In Our Identity-Obsessed Age, Being Jewish Somehow Doesn’t Rate

Last week, the stand-up comedian and actor Richard Belzer died at the age of seventy-eight. In his comedy and television appearances, Belzer made frequent mention of his Jewish identity—once even performing a ribald Yiddish parody song from the 1940s on The Late Show with David Letterman. The musician Paul Shaffer, his collaborator in that particular routine, has also touchingly recounted Belzer accompanying him to synagogue when he, Shaffer, was saying kaddish for his father. Eddie Portnoy documents Belzer’s interest in Jewish matters, and notes something peculiar about the way his death has been covered, given especially the current fixation on the “representation” of minorities:

[I]t’s been strange to read obit after obit in outlets like the New York Times, the Guardian and the Hollywood Reporter, among others, that didn’t bother to mention that Belzer was Jewish-—even when, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency pointed out, the character for which he was best known, Detective John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, identified [explicitly] as Jewish.

Moreover, according to Paul Shaffer, he was a proud [Jew]. . . . To call Burt Bacharach an “American composer” or Barbara Walters a “pioneering woman newscaster” is accurate, but misses a significant ethno-cultural aspect of these people, one that was integrally responsible for making them who they are and influencing their creative choices.

One case in point is an excellent book by Kliph Nesteroff that appeared in 2015 called The Comedians, which richly details the history of stand-up comedy in America. Assiduously researched, it’s become the definitive work on the topic. The book, however, deracinates the history of the field. From reading it, you would never know that 20th-century American comedy was largely a Jewish enterprise. In fact, you’d hardly know that Jews were involved at all.

Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: American Jewry, Comedy, Jewish humor, 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