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 Most went unpublished, but not all, although Bernard often signed them with a pseudonym.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.

Read more at Sandbox

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

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy