How Did Vampires Get into Medieval Jewish Texts?

While the array of demons mentioned in talmudic literature does not include vampires, occasional reference to such creatures does appear in medieval rabbinic texts. Elon Gilad notes some examples, most prominently a passage from the 13th-century ethical-pietistic work Sefer Ḥasidim which describes a flying, blood-sucking, female human-like creature called a striya. (Free registration required):

Belief in striyas was probably borrowed from [Jews’] Gentile neighbors, who believed in living-dead beings called strigoi in Romanian, shtriga in Albanian, and strzygi in Polish. So it seems some Jews believed in vampires after all, but this belief never caught on and became widespread.

Today nobody believes in vampires anymore. But when the vampire fiction making the rounds in the West began to be translated into Hebrew, revivalists needed to find a word for the imaginary being of the night. They did: the modern Hebrew word for “vampire” is arpad—taken from an obscure Aramaic word in the Talmud for “bat” (Bava Kama 16a).

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ḥasidei Ashkenaz, History & Ideas, Middle Ages, Midrash, Superstition

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas