Avram Davidson’s Discovery of Judaism and Journey to Science-Fiction Fame

In the 1950s, Commentary magazine published a series of dispatches from the state of Israel by a young American-born Jew named Avram Davidson. Michael Weingrad describes the unusual life and literary career of the author of these “finely observed vignettes.”

Davidson is today remembered as a venerated if never widely read writer of science-fiction and fantasy literature, an editor, and a recipient of the genres’ awards, including the 1986 World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. But his earliest publications reflected a Jewish journey that began in a non-observant family in Depression-era Yonkers, and was sparked by a Jewish awakening that led him to adopt Orthodox Judaism in his teens. During World War II he served in the Pacific in the Navy’s medical corps, and struggled to keep his relatively new commitment to Jewish religious law. After the war, he returned to Yonkers and took a fiction-writing class at Yeshiva University.

Davidson later returned to the U.S., where his novels and stories would earn accolades from such masters of the genre as Ray Bradbury and Ursula K. Le Guin. Although his commitment to Judaism remained, writes Weingrad, it made little appearance in his work:

A rare exception to the absence of Jewish content in Davidson’s fiction is his often anthologized story “The Golem,” first published in 1955. The story is borscht-belt comedy, in which a golem tries unsuccessfully to intimidate an elderly Jewish couple who, with Yiddishisms and mundane preoccupations, talk too much to register the portentous monster in their midst. . . .

I would make a case for one of Davidson’s novels as a top-notch work of fantasy, a landmark book in which Davidson’s strengths and his compulsions both align neatly with the matter at hand: The Phoenix and the Mirror. . . . Davidson places his scholar-hero in an imagined antiquity, a pre-Christian Roman empire in which sects and saints, Phoenicians and Jews, Greek mythology and Enochian mysteries all rub shoulders.

In the novel’s kaleidoscope of mythoi, Davidson turns the Trojan War into the Tyrean War, with the son of the King of Tyre approached not by three goddesses, as was Homer’s Paris, but by “the Great Elim—Mikha-El, Gavri-El, Raphoy-El, and Ori-El,” who ask him “to decide which among them was the wisest.”

Read more at Investigations and Fantasies

More about: American Jewish History, American Jewish literature, Commentary, Judaism, Science fiction


Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security