Remembering Tel Aviv’s Religious Past, and Its Possible Religious Future

The popular Israeli imagination contrasts “secular” Tel Aviv with “religious” Jerusalem. But it was not as ever thus, as Yitzḥak Bar Ze’ev, the rabbi of the former city’s Great Synagogue, writes:

Between the 1950s and the 1970s, Tel Aviv had around 700 active synagogues, many located on the most important streets in the city, like the Allenby, Rothschild, and Dizengoff synagogues. . . . In the early days of the city, dozens of famous rabbis, yeshiva heads, and religious judges were active in Tel Aviv. Five of Israel’s chief rabbis were first chief rabbis of the city. . . . During those years, dozens of religious educational institutions for girls and boys were founded, [along with] a few famous yeshivas, some still active today. [In addition], more than twenty rebbes (spiritual leaders of the ḥasidic movement) have lived in Tel Aviv at some point. During the 1950s, there were as many if not more rebbes in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem.

The religious neighborhoods of Tel Aviv are older than the city itself. Whoever wanders the streets of Neveh Tzedek, Shabazi, or the Yemenite Quarter today sees dozens of old synagogues, most of them more than 100 years old. These neighborhoods were built as suburbs of Jaffa more than twenty years before Tel Aviv was established, and were later attached to the new city.

And although the city has indeed secularized greatly since then, that process is far from total, although much religious life is concentrated in the southern part of the city, which is less affluent and more diverse than the north. Moreover, Bar Ze’ev sees signs of a religious revival, spurred by, among other things, an influx of French Jews:

A new “traditional” lifestyle has developed in Tel Aviv: young men and women from all across the country, who grew up in religious families and moved to the city to live alongside Diaspora immigrants who sought to preserve communal life, particularly on Shabbat and holidays. Some members do not strictly observe the Shabbat; after shul, some may go to the beach. But they still want to belong to a religious community. These are the people who are renewing the synagogues of Tel Aviv.

Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

More about: Israeli history, Judaism in Israel, Synagogues, Tel Aviv


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