The Kiev of Sholem Aleichem

In the fictional works of Sholem Aleichem, the Ukrainian city where he lived for much of his adult life appears frequently under the name Yehupets. Allan Arkush, reflecting on his grandparents’ occasional reminiscences of life in Kiev’s environs, sums up the history of the city’s Jewish community:

There had been a small Jewish community in Kiev in the early 19th century, . . . but it had been exiled in 1835 when the city was officially excluded from the Pale of Settlement. Reforms introduced by Tsar Alexander II reopened the city to limited Jewish settlement in 1859, and from then on Jews from all over the Pale strove incessantly to make their way, legally or not, into the newly burgeoning economic center. Some, like the famous sugar magnate Lazar Brodsky, prospered mightily; others just managed to hang on.

The community’s leaders constructed hospitals, synagogues, and schools, and they acculturated quite rapidly. The Jews’ increasingly visible presence in the city led to accusations that they were attempting to dominate it, which fed into the pogroms of 1881 and 1905. Just how many Jews lived in Kiev by 1914 is difficult to say since so many of them were there illegally, but there may have been as many as 75,000, a number that would have made them one-sixth of the total population.

But the city was not exactly a literary capital. “[I]n 1890, it had only 38 bookstores compared to Moscow’s 205, Warsaw’s 137, and Odessa’s 68. Even [the shtetl of] Saratov had more bookshops than Kiev!” [states one history]. In a letter to the Yiddish and Hebrew writer Mendele Mokher Sforim, Sholem Aleichem sought to explain the obliviousness of the city’s Jews to the latter’s works: “You have forgotten that Yehupets is not Odessa. In Yehupets, even if someone bursts, he will die a cruel death trying to find a copy of [your novels] Fishke the Lame and The Nag—they are not to be found. This hole which is Yehupets, may it go up in flames!”

Three years after Sholem Aleichem wrote this letter, in the revolutionary year of 1905, things did indeed go up in flames, and he himself fled to New York. But bad as 1905 was, it was nothing compared with what was yet to come.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Kiev, Mendele Mokher Seforim, Russian Jewry, Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish literature


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