From Soviet Jew to Academic Bible Scholar

Born, raised, and educated in the Soviet Union, Serge Frolov left Russia for Israel in the 1990s. Now he teaches Bible and Jewish studies at Southern Methodist University. In an interview with David Steinberg, he speaks about his Jewish identity, his education, and his scholarship:

My parents were brought up in the Soviet Union, and my family was not at all religious. Nevertheless, we were conscious of our Jewish identity and read Sholem Aleichem. I received my first Bible at the age of fifteen. Even getting a Bible was complicated. In Russia at the time, you couldn’t just buy a Bible in a bookstore, but the Russian Orthodox Church was allowed to sell them.

The Bible they sold was the authorized translation into Russian from the mid-19th century; interestingly, the main translator was a converted Jew. Of course, this Bible included both Old and New Testaments. Intellectually, I knew that the New Testament was something else, and represented another religion, but I didn’t really feel or understand the difference. Moreover, I didn’t really relate to the Bible—even the Old Testament—as “our heritage” but as a “global heritage.” . . .

Reading the Bible was a kind of escape from Russia, a window into a world that was completely different from my experience in every way. The ideas it expressed about the human condition and about God were never taught anywhere in Russia. It was exotic. I didn’t know anybody else reading the Bible, so my doing so was a strictly personal indulgence.


More about: Bible, Biblical criticism, Biblical scholarship, History & Ideas, Soviet Jewry

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