Hoping for Latkes, an Amateur Photojournalist Found Himself in the Maelstrom of Romania’s Revolution

Shortly after hearing in December 1989 that the notorious Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was on the run from enraged demonstrators, Edward Serotta—who was working as a photojournalist in the Eastern bloc at the time—realized that Hanukkah would begin that evening. And then he got an idea:

I could just drive down to the Romanian city of Timisoara and photograph the Hanukkah party in the kosher kitchen run by the aptly named Mr. Pichel, [pronounced “pickle”]. And since there would surely be celebrations on the streets, just as I had seen and shot in Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, and Budapest [as their Communist regimes collapsed], I could take some pictures, sell them to newspapers, and earn a little cash.

On that day, December 22, 1989, I had no idea that the dreaded Romanian secret police, the Securitate, were locked and loaded and only minutes away from launching a massive counterattack across the country. They were out to find Ceausescu and reinstate him. I was heading right into their gunsights, looking for latkes.

So off Serotta set, joined by a Hungarian journalist:

We passed the city limits of [Timisoara] and all was silent as a tomb. Not a soul around. Not a car on the streets. We drove on and on, kilometer after kilometer, and everything was shuttered tight, the traffic lights were all on blinking mode.

As we drove closer and closer to the center, we began to hear what sounded like thunder. But it wasn’t. It was gunfire. Lots of gunfire. And as if to postpone arriving at our destination, I kept driving slower and slower until an army roadblock stood before us, complete with tanks and armed soldiers running into the city center and out of it.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Communism, East European Jewry, Hanukkah, Romania

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy