Could an Italian Jew Have Created the Book That Baffled Researchers for a Century?

In 1912, the Polish collector Wilfrid Voynich discovered an old, handwritten book, written in a never-before-seen alphabet and accompanied by illustrations. It has since been examined by historians, linguists, cryptologists, and computer scientists, who have generated many theories about its origins—including that it was forged by Voynich himself—without producing anything conclusive. More recently the ink, paint, and vellum have been dated to the 15th century, and their chemical makeup suggests they come from Italy. The scholar Stephen Skinner, by focusing on the drawings rather than the text, now believes the author to have been Jewish, as Danuta Kean writes:

[Skinner] draws evidence for his theory of the author’s identity from a range of illustrations in the manuscript, particularly a section in which naked women are depicted bathing in green pools supplied by intestine-like pipes. [He] believes the illustrations show [ritual] Jewish baths called mikva’ot, which are still used [by Orthodox Jewish women] after childbirth or menstruation.

Pointing to the fact that the pictures show only nude women and no men, Skinner told the Guardian, “The only place you see women like that bathing together in Europe at that time was in the purification baths that have been used by Orthodox Jews for the last 2,000 years.”

He believes the drawings were of an invention designed by the mysterious author that aimed to ensure [by magical means] an efficient supply of clean water to a mikveh. . . . Other evidence Skinner uses to support his theory includes the lack of Christian symbolism in the manuscript—unusual [for the] time. . . . “There are no saints or crosses, not even in the cosmological sections,” he said.

Considered in addition to the absence of religious symbolism, Skinner said, visual clues in the manuscript suggest its author was a Jewish physician and herbalist. Many of the plants depicted, alongside astrological charts, are medicinal herbs such as opium and cannabis.

Read more at Guardian

More about: History & Ideas, Italian Jewry, Mikveh

Israel’s Retaliation against the Houthis Sends a Message to the U.S., and to Its Arab Allies

The drone that struck a Tel Aviv high-rise on Thursday night is believed to have traveled over 2,000 kilometers, flying from Yemen over Egypt and then above the Mediterranean before veering eastward toward the Israeli coast. Since October, the Houthis have launched over 200 drones at Israel. Nor is this the first attempt to strike Tel Aviv, only the first successful one. Noah Rothman observes that the Houthis’ persistent attacks on Israel and on international shipping are largely the result of the U.S.-led coalition’s anemic response:

Had the Biden administration taken a more proactive and vigorous approach to neutralizing the Houthis’ capabilities, Israel would not be obliged to expand to Yemen the theater of operations in the war Hamas inaugurated on October 7. The prospects of a regional war grow larger by the day, not because Israel cannot “take the win,” as President Biden reportedly told Benjamin Netanyahu following a full-scale direct Iranian attack on the Jewish state, but because hostile foreign actors are killing its citizens. Jerusalem is obliged to defend them and the sovereignty of Israel’s borders.

Biden’s hesitancy was fueled by his apprehension over the prospect of a “wider war” in the Middle East. But his hesitancy is what is going to give him the war he so cravenly sought to avoid.

In this context, the nature of the Israeli response is significant: rather than follow the American strategy of striking isolated weapons depots and the like, IDF jets struck the port city of Hodeida—the sort of major target the U.S. has shied away from. The mission was likely the furthest-ever carried out by the Israel Air Force, hitting a site 200 kilometers further from Israel than Tehran. Yoel Guzansky and Ilan Zalayat comment:

The message that Israel sent was intended to reach the moderate Arab countries, the West, and especially the United States. . . . The message to the coalition countries is that “the containment” had failed and the Houthis must be hit harder. The Hodeida port is the lifeline of the Houthi economy and continued damage to it will make it extremely difficult for this economy, which is also facing significant American sanctions.

Read more at National Review

More about: Houthis, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy