Jewish Studies in Words and Pictures

An online exhibit created by the University of Pennsylvania’s Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies presents the evolution of the academic field of Jewish studies from 1818 to the 21st century, with documents and information about such compelling figures as Elia Benamozegh, author and prodigious publisher of Sephardi and Mizrahi liturgical works:

An Italian rabbi, kabbalist, and thinker of Moroccan descent who lived in the Tuscan port city of Livorno, Elia Benamozegh (1823-1900) authored an abundance of works encompassing exegesis, historical studies, and various newspaper contributions, written in Hebrew, Italian, and French. Through his posthumous masterwork, Israel and Humanity (1914), he significantly influenced the Christian-Jewish dialogue in Europe. . . . In his books penned in French or Italian, brimming with references to Western philosophy and literature, he never made mention of his oriental roots and rarely cited contemporary Sephardi authors. . . .

[However], Benamozegh seems to have used his press as a way to publish his likeminded contemporaries, thus mapping out a landscape of modern Sephardi and Mizrahi thought. This is certainly the case for the haggadah revised by Shelomoh Bekhor Hutsin (1843-1892) which Benamozegh published in 1887. This book, printed in Judeo-Arabic, Arabic, and Hebrew, according to the Baghdadi minhag (liturgical custom), lies at the juncture of tradition and modernity. . . . Hutsin . . . was an advocate of a version of Jewish enlightenment that was respectful of Jewish values and modern culture.

Read more at University of Pennsylvania Libraries

More about: History & Ideas, Jewish studies, Mizrahim, Science of Judaism, Sephardim

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood