One of the Greatest Contemporary Scholars of Islam Was a Lover of Hebrew

Known for his mastery of Arabic, Turkish, and Persian, which enabled the extraordinary depth and breadth of his scholarship, the late historian Bernard Lewis—who would have celebrated his 102nd birthday yesterday—held a special place in his heart for Hebrew. Lewis was laid to rest in Tel Aviv’s Trumpeldor cemetery last week. Herewith, Martin Kramer’s eulogy at the burial:

Trumpeldor cemetery is, to Tel Aviv, what the Père Lachaise cemetery is to Paris. Here, mostly in the southwestern corner, are the graves of the great lights of Hebrew letters: Ahad Ha’am, Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik, Shaul Tchernichovsky, Ḥayyim Yosef Brenner. Alongside them are Zionist luminaries: Max Nordau, Haim Arlosoroff, Moshe Sharett, Meir Dizengoff. Here also lie Israel’s two most renowned artists, Reuven Rubin and Naḥum Gutman, as well as the singer Shoshana Damari and the satirist [and filmmaker] Ephraim Kishon. And many more. . . .

Bernard famously would say that he became enamored of Hebrew while preparing for his bar mitzvah. When it was over, he insisted on continuing his Hebrew study, and his father obliged by finding him a tutor. Thus did Bernard become a budding Hebraist. As a teenager, he translated into English “quite an immense quantity” of modern Hebrew poems. “I think there must have been hundreds of them,” including Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik’s “In the City of Slaughter” and “The Dead of the Desert.” Most went unpublished, but not all, although Bernard often signed them with a pseudonym. . . .

Bialik [has] lain in this cemetery, right over there, for the last 84 years. I never asked Bernard why he wanted to be buried here, although it’s a wish that goes back a good while. The obvious explanation is that it’s close to his apartment by the sea, where he felt so at peace. But I wonder whether it’s also because it’s near to the resting place of Bialik and the other Hebrew greats, and that here he would be reunited with his first love: ivrit, Hebrew. He mastered many languages. But Hebrew he loved, and from it stemmed the love for his people and this land.

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Read more at Sandbox

More about: Bernard Lewis, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Hebrew, Hebrew literature, History & Ideas, Israeli culture, Tel Aviv

 

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