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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy