How a Jewish Boxer and a Catholic Priest Celebrated Christmas at the Battle of Guadalcanal

On December 24, 1942, the Jewish boxing champion Barney Ross and Reverend Fred Gehring—a Catholic priest from Brooklyn, NY—organized an ecumenical midnight mass for Christian marines in the midst of the battle of Guadalcanal. Ross, whose European-born father had wanted him to be a talmudic scholar, had retired from boxing before the war began. Having enlisted in the Marines, he struck up a close friendship with Gehring, who was in his unit. Ron Grossman tells the story:

In mid-December, Ross found himself and other GIs trapped in a foxhole surrounded by the enemy. The only one not wounded, he held the Japanese at bay by firing his weapon and throwing grenades all night long. By morning, he and another Marine were the only ones alive. So he carried his buddy back to the American base.

But in the runup to Christmas in 1942, he was preoccupied with a favor the priest had asked of him. Gehring played the violin and found a portable organ. Ross was the only one who could play it, so Gehring asked if he would play “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve.

Ross said the only problem was he didn’t know the tune. . . . So Marines hummed it for him until he could play it by ear. At midnight Mass, the war momentarily seemed far away as Ross accompanied hundreds of Marines singing, “All is calm, all is bright.”

In the silence that followed, the priest asked Ross to do an encore. Perhaps something from his tradition? He chose “My Yiddishe Mama,” [a staple of Yiddish vaudeville], which had been his boxing theme song and had been played as he shadowboxed and danced his way from a stadium’s dressing room to the ring.

Read more at Chicago Tribune

More about: Christmas, Jewish music, Jewish-Christian relations, Sports, World War II

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy