The Ancient Jewish Statesman Who Rebuilt Jerusalem, Wrote Israel’s First Constitution, and Authored the First Political Memoir

Nov. 28 2016

The title character and apparent author of the biblical book of Nehemiah was a Jewish cupbearer in the court of the Persian emperor in the mid-5th century BCE. Having lobbied successfully to be appointed governor of Judea, he instituted political reforms and repaired the walls of Jerusalem. Reviewing Nehemiah: Statesman and Sage, a study by the rabbi and former U.S. government official Dov Zakheim, David Wolpe examines the career of this great Jewish leader:

Zakheim makes a plausible case that Nehemiah’s reforms amounted to “a new constitution, the first of its kind in Jewish history and perhaps the first of its kind anywhere.” There had been other codes of law, of course, but a constitution is “more than a code of law. It marks a commitment by a people to organize their governance according to agreed-upon principles.” Nehemiah used religious law but was not confined to it, proving a reformer as well as an urban revivalist. . . .

In his conclusion, Zakheim summarizes Nehemiah’s role in this way: “Senior official, governor, statesman, legislator, religious enforcer, national leader, social reformer—Nehemiah was a man of many roles, and he excelled at them all.” [Nehemiah’s predecessor or contemporary] Ezra is remembered in Jewish history as the man who restored the Torah to the nation; Nehemiah was the restorer of Israel’s national identity and cohesion. In that sense, both figures and their missions were complementary. Any observer of modern Israel—where questions of religion’s place in nationality are argued each day, and where a small nation is surrounded by enemies—must marvel at how little has changed in a world where so much has changed.

In addition to the roles listed by Zakheim, however, there is one more to add to Nehemiah’s résumé, perhaps the most important one: Nehemiah was the author of his own story. As Pindar wrote several hundred years later, “Unsung, the noblest deed will die.” Nehemiah both made and shaped history. . . . [T]he nation he revived endured in its land for another 500 years before the Romans exiled it. Two-thousand years later, when the walls of the city were refurbished, his legacy was commemorated by his descendants.

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Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Ancient Persia, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Nehemiah

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism