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.

Read more at Times of Israel

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


Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada