How Protestant Missionaries Created the First Ladino Textbooks

In the latter part of the 19th century, Jewish schools in what are now Greece and Turkey began using simple textbooks to teach pupils to read and write in Ladino, an approach that differed both from the traditional method of teaching only Hebrew (on the assumption that children would learn Ladino, written in Hebrew characters, on their own) and the more modern emphasis on learning French, the language of European culture. Sarah Zaides explains the surprising origin of these textbooks:

Beginning in the 1820s, Protestant groups from Britain and the United States influenced by millenarian beliefs anticipated that the upcoming 20th century would usher in the End of Days—a cataclysmic period in which Jews would play an important role. According to Christian sources, . . . Jews would eventually recognize the error of their ways, follow Jesus, and return to the land of Israel to usher in the Second Coming.

To promote this belief, Protestant missions established schools in the various cities of the Ottoman empire. They also seem to have published the first silabarios [as these textbooks were known]. The first one, published in 1855, contained four short chapters, including a chapter on Rashi script [the style of Hebrew writing and printing normally used for Ladino] and reading-comprehension passages. Due to the visibly Christian themes in these passages, the historian Rachel Saba Wolfe has suggested that missionaries composed and published them in the hope of attracting Jews to Christianity by making the tenets of the faith available to Jews in their own language. During the 19th century, missionaries in the Ottoman empire also published Ladino translations of the Hebrew Bible and of the New Testament, as well as biblical concordances and even a newspaper, with the same goals in mind.

In response to the appearance of these missionary texts, Sephardi Jews decided to publish their own books in Ladino that would promote Jewish messages to the Jewish masses and counter the missionary propaganda. The silabarios [they composed] replicated aspects of the structure of the Protestant books, but, importantly, changed the content of the reading-comprehension passages to reflect Jewish rather than Christian perspectives.

Read more at Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

More about: Christianity, Greece, History & Ideas, Jewish education, Ladino, Ottoman Empire, Sephardim

 

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security