Andalusian Jewish Poetry’s Greatest Outsider, and Its Greatest Insider

There are prosaic works filled with their own form of poetry, and then there is poetry itself. Two of the greatest Hebrew poets by any standards were Solomon Ibn Gabirol and Moses Ibn Ezra (not to be confused with his cousin, the Bible commentator and poet Abraham Ibn Ezra). Both products of the Jewish cultural efflorescence of medieval Spain, the two men adapted Arabic stylings into Hebrew verse, described both sacred and profane subjects, and authored learned treatises as well as poems. Tamar Marvin writes:

Ibn Gabirol is a true original; you won’t find another medieval person of his particular flavor anywhere in Jewish history. There are others, of course, of whom this is true, but the singular voice available to us through Ibn Gabirol’s poetry allows us a particularly intimate glimpse into his personality, while his philosophy surprises us with its detachment from Jewish tradition (which also caused it to become detached from him for centuries).

Moses ben Jacob Ibn Ezra (also called Abu Harun) (c. 1055–after 1135), a younger near-contemporary of Ibn Gabirol, ended his life with a hefty dose of the tragedy that infected the elder poet’s. However, Moses Ibn Ezra was, temperamentally speaking, much more in tune with the cultural power brokers of al-Andalus. . . . Moses Ibn Ezra exhibits heights of technical proficiency in his poetic creations along with an evident love of classical Hebrew, but perhaps most of all, joyfulness in language and unmitigated beauty in expression.

Read more at Stories from Jewish History

More about: Hebrew poetry, Medieval Spain, Solomon ibn Gabirol

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy