The world’s Jewish population, notes Josef Joffe, is about the same as that of Kazakhstan, yet while most people would be hard-pressed to name a single Kazakh, they could easily name a number of famous Jews. In his recent book Genius and Anxiety, the music critic and novelist Norman Lebrecht joins the long list of those who have written on this topic. To Joffe, Lebrecht is “a storyteller par excellence” and, when it comes to explaining “how Jews transformed Western ways of thinking and doing,” the book “is intellectual history at its best.” But when it comes to trying to answer the question at the book’s heart—why the Jews?—Joffe finds Lebrecht’s frequent invocations of the Talmud unsatisfying:
Does Talmud Study Really Explain Jews’ Remarkable Contributions to Modern Civilization?
Israeli Sovereignty Would Free Residents of the West Bank from Ottoman Law
To its opponents, the change in the legal status of certain areas of Judea and Samaria is “annexation;” to its proponents, it is the “extension of sovereignty” or the “application of Israeli law.” Naomi Khan argues that the last term best captures the practical implications of the measures in question. Since the Six-Day War, the Jewish state has continued to uphold the Ottoman legal system in areas of the West Bank under its jurisdiction—despite the fact that the Ottoman empire ceased to exist in 1922; “annexation” would end this situation. Setting aside the usual questions of foreign policy, security, and the possibility of Palestinian statehood, Khan argues that this change would be the one most felt by those who live there: