How Jerusalem Rabbis Used Kabbalistic Magic to Try to Defeat Hitler

In the 1930s, Jerusalem had become a major center for the study of Kabbalah, bringing together scholars from throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East. As news of Adolf Hitler’s designs on the Jews arrived in the Land of Israel, some of these rabbis began to consider esoteric rituals and incantations to thwart those plans. Taking action began to seem all the more urgent in the summer of 1940, when German forces were moving across Egypt toward Palestine. Drawing on scattered evidence and sources, Yuval Harari describes these attempts, including the most dramatic and controversial, which took place in 1942:

The plan of the kabbalists, which may indeed have awakened reservations even at this time of great distress, [involved one] Rabbi Shimon Tsvi Horowitz, among the founders of the kabbalistic yeshiva Sha’ar ha-Shamayim in Jerusalem. [Two of the main sources] describe an attack against Horowitz at the synagogue accusing him of witchcraft and idolatry. . . .

Sent on the mission were Rabbi Horowitz and Ḥakham Tsaddok Yihiyah Cohen, who boarded a military airplane with four cocks “white as snow” as the plane circled over the borders of the Land Israel—north, south, east, and west. They read special prayers [composed by the great 18th-century Yemenite-Jerusalemite sage] Shalom Sharabi, slaughtered one cock at each point of the compass, spraying its blood from the air over the land. . . .

The planned circular route included a flight along the coast of Israel and Egypt up to Alexandria, southward along the Suez Canal, landing for refueling, onward to Aqaba, and northward to the Dead Sea along the Jordan River up to Jerusalem. Since the blood was meant to be sprayed along the route, the door of one of the plane’s loading docks was removed, a net was set in place to prevent falls, and the flight departed. The rabbis, who were covered in the fowls’ blood because of the air sucked into the plane, . . . recited psalms and prayers the entire time. . . . At the end of the flight, the rabbis gave the crew some money “for beer,” and that was the end.

By contrast, the distinguished Iraqi kabbalist Rabbi Salman Mutzafi stated that he had been approached by fellow Jerusalemites to pronounce a curse against Hitler, but decided against it after being warned in a dream against doing so. The German-born historian of Jewish mysticism Gershom Scholem, who also lived in Jerusalem during World War II, was likewise visited by local sages interested in learning magical secrets to use against the Nazis, but he demurred. In the fall of 1942, German forces in Egypt were defeated at the battle of el-Alamein, and Palestine was no longer in immediate danger.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Adolf Hitler, Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, Magic, World War II

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf