The Grandfather of Israeli Ultra-Orthodoxy and His Complex Attitude toward Zionism

No figure is more associated with the non-ḥasidic ḥaredi community in Israel than Rabbi Avraham Yeshayah Karelitz, better known by his pen name, the Ḥazon Ish. Born in Russia in 1878 to a rabbinic family, he pursued an ascetic life of study and shunned the spotlight, never assuming any official position. Yet after he left Eastern Europe for the Land of Israel, he became a highly influential figure, whose legendary 1952 meeting with David Ben-Gurion had a lasting impact on religion and government in the Jewish state. Allan Arkush argues that, despite his reputation as a hardliner, Karelitz sought, in his own way, to be a moderate:

Anything but a Zionist, [Karelitz] was nonetheless stirred by the changes wrought by the Balfour Declaration and felt obliged to move to the Holy Land now that it would be feasible for him to devote himself to Torah study there. . . . [When he and his wife did emigrate], they didn’t choose a new home to be near potential customers or to live in proximity to other pious Jews in Jerusalem, since he wanted to settle in the midst of the “wilderness” of the “new yishuv” where he could plant seeds of Torah. . . .

The Ḥaredim with whom the Ḥazon Ish affiliated himself took a very different path from the isolationists who regarded the whole Zionist enterprise as a travesty and strove to minimize their interaction with it. Even though they themselves weren’t Zionists, they lived amicably enough alongside them, participated in the development of the Jewish economy, and even established their own kibbutzim. [Karelitz] slowly became a leader in this community, a favored legal guide. He worked hard to establish and solidify the yeshivas of Bnei Brak and other parts of the country and offered stringent if compassionate advice on how to deal with the halakhic problems arising from agricultural life.

[E]ven after the establishment of the state of Israel by people whom he held in low regard, the Ḥazon Ish remained as convinced as ever that the spiritual strength of the Ḥaredim would ultimately triumph over the coercive power of the secular state.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, David Ben-Gurion, Judaism in Israel, Ultra-Orthodox

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security