A German Army Seder in the Midst of World War I

During World War I, Jewish soldiers in all combatant armies collectively held dozens if not hundreds of Passover seders, ranging from the ad-hoc to the officially approved and planned. Adolf Fraenkel, an Orthodox German mathematician who later became the rector of Hebrew University, described one such ritual meal in his memoirs, as Ro Oranim writes:

In 1915, Fraenkel found himself serving as a medical orderly for the army, which included such responsibilities as transcribing autopsy reports from dictation and assisting in minor surgeries. During his two years of service in the field hospitals, Fraenkel was also authorized by the Bavarian Ministry of Cultural Affairs to serve as the Jewish chaplain for his fellow soldiers. While this position did not reduce the responsibilities of his day-to-day service, it did offer him a chance to stay connected to his religion and to assist others in maintaining their traditions as well.

In 1915, Fraenkel was stationed at the military hospital in the French city of Cambrai. . . . Fraenkel took his position [as chaplain] seriously, arranging for prayer services in the field and ensuring that soldiers could celebrate their holidays to the extent possible. At the end of March 1915, Fraenkel prepared . . . a list of the local soldiers who were interested in joining the seder, . . . set to take place on the 29th and 30th days of the month. . . .

A total of nine soldiers registered for both of the seders, including men serving as medics, logistics officers, combat engineers, and one serving in the newly formed German air force who did not specify which seder he planned to attend, perhaps because he knew there was a chance he would be called away at the last minute.

Read more at The Librarians

More about: German Jewry, Hebrew University, Jews in the military, Passover, World War I

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria