The Vacationing Rabbis of the Marienbad Spa

June 10 2021

If you find a pre-World War II photograph of several European rabbis together, chances are high that they are either at a large wedding or at a resort of the kind once popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries—where people went to enjoy the putative health benefits of fresh air and “curative” waters. If the picture was taken at a resort, chances are high it was the Marienbad spa (now Mariánské Lázně in Czechoslovakia), a popular destination for Orthodox Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. David Leitner, whose ḥasidic great-grandfather founded the town’s Hotel National, has recently written a book about the spa and its role in rabbinic history. Matt Lebovic writes:

Surrounded by dozens of springs with high mineral content, Marienbad was where great Torah scholars from Poland rubbed elbows with Britain’s King Edward VII and Sigmund Freud. Festooned with elaborate fountains, promenades, and meeting halls, the town was perfect for conventions and conferences.

[W]hen Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands visited Marienbad, she witnessed thousands of people greet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Spira at the train station. Requesting a meeting with the legendary scholar, the queen planned to tell Spira—known as the Munkatsher rebbe—about her inability to produce an heir. After uttering a few blessings during their meeting, the rebbe assured the queen that her line would continue. Within months, the queen was pregnant with Princess Juliana, heir to the throne. (Years later, as Nazi Germany took over Europe, Queen Wilhemina intervened to help 80 prominent rabbis acquire entry visas to the Netherlands.)

At the Hotel National, kosher food and running water in every room were standard. The entrance was flanked by signs displaying the various amenities, including a lift to upper floors and central heating. The hotel’s religious facilities included a mikveh (ritual bath) and a synagogue whose ceiling was painted dark blue. As a point of pride, the foyer displayed a poster with the images of 50 great Torah scholars who frequented the premises.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: East European Jewry, Hasidism, Netherlands, Rabbis

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror