Elie Wiesel’s Homecoming

Twenty years after he and his fellow Jews were deported from the Transylvanian town of Sighet, Elie Wiesel, who died this past Saturday at eighty-seven, returned to his birthplace. Here is the 1965 essay he wrote on his visit:

The Jews’ Street, once so lively and noisy, is now deserted. Its name has been changed. It is called the Street of the Deported. Who deported whom? A question devoid of interest or importance. No one asks it. The past is buried. People must live. And above all, they must forget. I met my old elementary-school teacher: my name meant nothing to him. I spoke to a neighbor who used to come to us every day of the week: she did not remember me. Someday some worthy citizen will glance at the name of the business street and say quite innocently: “The Street of Deported? I seem to recall that they were Jews.” He will not be sure. Even today he is not sure. The Jews deported from Sighet did not belong to Sighet. They belonged to some other place, some other planet. They were strangers. If the Jews were to come back, they would be driven away again.

Had it not ever been thus? No doubt it had, but I had been too young at the time to understand it. The population had always thought that Jews did not become strangers, they were born that way. Only, these peaceful inhabitants go further than that. Today, for them, I am not even a stranger robbed of his childhood, not even a phantom in search of memories. Have they forgotten everything? No. Rather, they give the impression of having nothing to forget. There never were any Jews in Sighet, the former capital of the celebrated region of Maramures.

Thus, the Jews have been driven not only out of the town but out of time as well.

Read more at Commentary

More about: East European Jewry, Elie Wiesel, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Hungarian Jewry


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount