Remembering Hannah Senesh, the Poet-Paratrooper Who Died for Her People

Born in Hungary a century ago, Hannah Senesh came to the Land of Israel in 1939, where she joined a kibbutz and then the Haganah. She parachuted into Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in 1944 so that she could sneak into her native country to rescue Jews, including her mother, from their looming fate. Just before crossing the border, she handed a handwritten poem to a comrade in arms, beginning with the famous words, “Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.” Meir Soloveichik describes what became of Senesh, and her poem:

Caught with a radio while crossing the border, Senesh refused, under terrible torture, to reveal the transmitter codes. . . . Senesh was, by all accounts, a beacon of inspiration to other Jewish prisoners, sustaining them with tales of the Holy Land and famously drawing a Jewish star on the window of her cell. She was executed by firing squad shortly before the Allies conquered Hungary. Though her mission was a failure, . . . she took part in the only Jewish military attempt to save Jews from the Holocaust—and thereby died for the Zionist principle that Jews should fight to defend Jews.

The Bible in Proverbs tells us that ner hashem nishmat Adam; the soul of man is a candle, or lamp, of God. It is a powerful and enduring image: the human soul is akin to a candle lit by the Creator, and even a small flame contains an extraordinary amount of power.

This is the biblical metaphor: the human being as candle. But Senesh gives us a more modern image, seizing on an invention that did not exist in the biblical era: the match. Lamps and candles are infused with fuel so that their flames sustain themselves, but a match brings forth a fiery force from within that is gone within seconds. Yet if the match successfully kindles another flame, even as it is consumed it still lives on, and its apparently transient life endowed with endurance, continuity. In Senesh’s words, the match is nisraf, burnt up, consumed, but it can ignite others in its few moments in existence. And so we can pronounce ashrei hagafrur, fortunate is the match.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Haganah, Hannah Szenes, Hebrew Bible, Hebrew poetry, Holocaust, Proverbs

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy