A New History of Judaism and Its Lessons for Today’s Intra-Jewish Conflicts

In A History of Judaism, the British scholar Martin Goodman traces the religion’s development from the 1st century CE to the present day. Praising the book, Elliot Jager describes it as a “clear, skillfully synthesized one-volume work” that tells its story with “just the right amount of razzle-dazzle.” One theme that emerges from Goodman’s book, Jager writes, is Judaism’s emphasis on the covenant:

For Goodman, there can be no Judaism without the covenant, and his history grapples with how Jewish civilization has interpreted the covenant over time. Judaism has never been static, yet it has a core. He writes: “At root, certain religious ideas percolate through the history of Judaism and render contemporary notions such as secular Judaism, an affiliation divorced from any belief in God, problematic.”

This claim reminds me of how the eminent psychologist Carl Jung put it: “Bidden or not bidden, God is Present.” For Goodman, the covenant binds God “specifically to the Jewish people and lays special duties on them in return.” For me, the covenant is broader: the contractual relationship between the God of Israel, the people of Israel, and the land of Israel. It is a triad that expresses the foundational myth of Judaism. . . .

Another theme Jager detects is the emphasis on mentshlikhkayt—a Yiddish term Jager renders as “human decency”—in so many traditional Jewish texts. On this note, the book also conveys some lessons that might be helpful in today’s era of Jewish disunity:

Can today’s progressive and traditionalist Jews show mentshlikhkayt toward each other? It seems that [various] streams of Judaism coexisted during the Second Temple era. Pharisees emphasized an oral tradition and introduced . . . the idea of reward and punishment of souls in an afterlife. The probably more marginal Sadducees rejected the legitimacy of non-written traditions and believed that God did not directly intercede in human events. These camps shared space in the Temple, Goodman writes.

Read more at Jager File

More about: Covenant, History & Ideas, Judaism

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security