Celebrating Hanukkah in Greece

When Greece annexed Salonica in 1912, it became the Greek city with the largest concentration of Jews. These Jews, who for the most part spoke Judeo-Spanish, made up a plurality of Salonica’s population; only after joining Greece did they begin to think of themselves as Greek Jews and learn to read and write the Greek language. This newfound identity complicated Hanukkah, which commemorates a Jewish victory over the Syrian Greeks. Devin Naar writes:

Continuing to plan for a Jewish future in Greece, even once the country entered the war against Italy in 1940, Jewish leaders in Salonica published a new prayer book, Sha’arey T’filah, in March 1941. . . . [T]he editors of the prayer book—Salonican-born Jews who had been educated in Palestine—dedicated it to a Jewish soldier who had fallen on the battlefield defending “our beloved homeland, Greece.” Written not in Greek, but rather in Judeo-Spanish, the dedication aimed to show to Jews themselves that they ought to think of themselves not only as religiously Jewish and culturally Sephardi, but as Greek patriots, too. They believed that all of these allegiances could be held simultaneously.

But in order to accommodate their Jewish and Greek identities, they made two noteworthy changes to the prayer book. In the Al ha-Nissim prayer added to the liturgy on Hanukkah that refers to the miracles associated with the holiday, the traditional reference to the “wicked Greek government” is quietly changed to the “wicked government.”

More remarkably, in the popular Hanukkah song Maoz Tsur (“Rock of Ages”), the reference to the enemy as Y’vanim (“Greeks”) is replaced by Suriyim (“Syrians”). . . . The Seleucid empire, the Hellenistic state in control of Judea at the time of the Maccabees, was indeed culturally Greek, but was geographically based in Syria. Hence the Salonican Jewish leaders could transform the “Syrians” into the Hanukkah enemies and thereby more easily embrace Greece as their beloved homeland.

Despite this sense of Greek patriotism cultivated by Salonican Jewish leaders, when the deportations to Auschwitz began in March 1943, local Greek officials and Orthodox Christian neighbors neither intervened nor objected. On the contrary, the local population participated in the dispossession of the city’s Jews, taking over thousands of homes and businesses. The university and the municipality—not the Nazis—initiated the destruction of the Jewish cemetery that stretched over a terrain the size of 80 football fields and housed more than 300,000 graves.

Read more at Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

More about: Greece, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Prayer, Sephardim, Thessaloniki

Despite the Toll of War at Home and Rising Hostility Abroad, Investors Are Still Choosing Israel

When I first saw news that Google wasn’t going through with its acquisition of the tech startup Wiz, I was afraid hesitancy over its Israeli founders and close ties with the Jewish state might have something to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong: the deal is off not because of Google’s hesitancy, but because Wiz feared the FTC would slow down the process with uncertain results. The company is instead planning an initial public offering. In the wake of the CrowdStrike debacle, companies like Wiz have every reason to be optimistic, as Sophie Shulman explains:

For the Israeli cyber sector, CrowdStrike’s troubles are an opportunity. CrowdStrike is a major competitor to Palo Alto Networks, and both companies aim to provide comprehensive cyber defense platforms. The specific issue that caused the global Windows computer shutdown is related to their endpoint protection product, an area where they compete with Palo Alto’s Cortex products developed in Israel and the SentinelOne platform.

Friday’s drop in CrowdStrike shares reflects investor frustration and the expectation that potential customers will now turn to competitors, strengthening the position of Israeli companies. This situation may renew interest in smaller startups and local procurement in Israel, given how many institutions were affected by the CrowdStrike debacle.

Indeed, it seems that votes of confidence in Israeli technology are coming from many directions, despite the drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the attack from Yemen, and despite the fact that some 46,000 Israeli businesses have closed their doors since October 7. Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, which creates software that identifies fake news, plans a $70 million IPO on Nasdaq. The American firm Applied Systems announced that it will be buying a different Israeli tech startup and opening a research-and-development center in Israel. And yet another cybersecurity startup, founded by veterans of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit, came on the scene with $33 million in funding. And those are the stories from this week alone.

But it’s not only the high-tech sector that’s attracting foreign investment. The UK-based firm Energean plans to put approximately $1.2 billion into developing a so-far untapped natural-gas field in Israel’s coastal waters. Money speaks much louder than words, and it seems Western businesses don’t expect Israel to become a global pariah, or to collapse in the face of its enemies, anytime soon.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: cybersecurity, Israeli economy, Israeli gas, Israeli technology, Start-up nation