Of Genomes and Jews

July 27 2015

A recent collection of essays, Jews and Genes, addresses the implications for Jewish identity and Jewish peoplehood of recent discoveries in the field of genetics. Jonathan Kirsch writes in his review:

Significantly, some of the richest and most provocative essays in the collection have nothing to do with science. For example, Yosef Leibowitz . . . deconstructs the text of Genesis to extract the distinction between “the nature of the human soul and the image of God within it.” Leibowitz argues that the power bestowed upon humankind by the Creator is always checked by moral boundaries, and the constant tension that exists between power and morality “lie[s] at the core of our humanity.” Contrary to many of his fellow contributors, Leibowitz concludes with an unsettling question: “If God’s ‘image’ is within us so long as our physical bodies are here to embrace it, are we to nurture and protect it from the moment of the first living cell until the last?”

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Abortion, Genesis, Genetics, History & Ideas, Judaism


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy