The Library of Congress’s Hebrew Treasures

Established in its current form in 1812, with Thomas Jefferson’s donation of his personal library, the Library of Congress has since acquired a vast collection of Hebrew books, which Gabby Deutsch describes:

The Hebraic section was established in 1912, when the financier and philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff, a German Jewish immigrant, donated nearly 10,000 books and pamphlets; . . . the items had been collected by a prominent bookseller named Ephraim Deinard. “He went wandering into the marketplaces of Iraq,” [explained the library’s Hebraic expert Ann Brener]. “He went to people’s basements. That’s how you collected manuscripts and books in those old days. It’s all different now.”

The library’s collection spans geographies and time periods, with massive 15th-century tomes of biblical commentary, religious texts from places like Bologna and Safed, and illustrated Hebrew children’s books from the early days of the Russian Revolution. What unites the books in the collection is their use of Hebrew.

One 15th-century book at the library is a medical textbook, printed in Hebrew and translated from Arabic, into which language it had first been translated from Greek. The heavy volume is bound in leather that folds shut in the front, a style known as “envelope binding” that was common with Arabic books. “This is the only one we have in Hebrew,” Brener remarked.

It is one of the earliest Hebrew printed books, one of just 175 or so known to be printed before 1500. Jews had read books and other documents before the advent of the printing press in the 15th century, but they were previously written by hand, an onerous process that made procuring books more difficult and expensive.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Books, Hebrew, Italian Jewry, Libraries, Thomas Jefferson


What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security