The World’s Oldest Jewish Library

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Jewish converts to Catholicism and their descendants began arriving in Amsterdam from Spain and Portugal and, taking advantage of local religious tolerance, returned to the religion of their forefathers. To facilitate their rediscovery of the Jewish tradition, they opened Biblioteca Ets Haim, which has become the oldest Jewish library in continuous operation:

Ets Haim was founded in 1616 to help the newcomers start living publicly as Jews again. Many had continued to practice their true religion in secret while living outwardly as Christians. Amassing the library allowed them to debate among themselves, after so long, what being Jewish meant.

In 1675, the library moved to the Esnoga, the Portuguese Synagogue complex. . . . The library holds, in total, nearly 30,000 printed works dating back to 1484 and more than 500 manuscripts dating back to 1282. The documents not only represent centuries of Jewish thought and scholarship, but also the community’s everyday life. . . .

In 1889, David Montezinos, the librarian at the time, donated his substantial private library (20,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and illustrations) to Ets Haim after his wife died.

Read more at Atlas Obscura

More about: Amsterdam, Conversos, History & Ideas, Sephardim

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy