The Israel Museum Features the Recovered Manuscripts of Two Middle Eastern Space Explorers, One Modern and One Mythical

On display through November at the Israel Museum, the exhibit Through Time and Space juxtaposes the outer-space diary of Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who died in the 2003 Columbia disaster, with the oldest known text of the book of Enoch, a cosmological travelogue of a very different kind. Both manuscripts have dramatic stories of discovery and were reconstructed through painstaking work. Fragments of Ramon’s diary literally fell from the sky and were found in Florida; fragments of the book of Enoch, until then known only in translation, were collected from among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Reviewing the exhibit, Shai Secunda praises the diary’s “unadorned yet eloquent, almost literary” Hebrew, and describes the book of Enoch, one of several ancient works that take as their hero a character who receives a mere four verses in the fifth chapter of Genesis:

In the 3rd century BCE, Aramaic writings began to circulate that narrated the visions and teachings of Enoch who, although born of woman, had a place among God’s heavenly entourage and was privy to special knowledge, including the complex workings of the solar calendar. According to these texts, Enoch embarked on a number of heavenly journeys.

[In one such work], Enoch encounters a “wall built of hailstones; and tongues of fire were encircled them all around,” and then proceeds into a series of heavenly palaces, where he takes note of curious architectural features like snowy flooring and “a ceiling like shooting stars and lightning flashes.” [Then] he is treated to astounding sights, including “the place of the luminaries, and the treasuries of the stars and of the thunders, and the depths of the ether.” He sees heaven and hell, the mountain of the dead, and a gurgling paradise that recalls the Jordan River tributary where his interstellar journey began.

The Enochic writings present [their] hero as probing the cosmos in the service of humankind, not entirely unlike an astronaut testing scientific hypotheses in space for the people on earth below.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: ancient Judaism, Dead Sea Scrolls, Ilan Ramon, Jewish museums, Space exploration

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security