YIVO’s New Digital Archive Helps Bring Prewar Vilna to Life

Seven years ago, the YIVO Institute launched the Edward Blank Vilna Online Collections project, an attempt to digitize an enormous number of photographs, pamphlets, poems, and other precious artifacts that were rescued from Lithuania following World War II. It is now complete and will soon be available online. Writing about her experiences working on the collection, Alyssa Quint notes that “radical access” to these artifacts stands to transform our understanding of “what East European Jewry was, and . . . our sense of the past.”

This will not be an overnight affair. There is no smoking gun, for instance, no star document that will shine a light on utterly undiscovered worlds. But there are many missing chapters in the story of Ashkenazi Jewry and many more chapters that lack detail and relatability. With instantaneous access to these collections, the energy of scholars, translators, performers, composers, artists, and genealogists will tell these stories with unprecedented ease. It provides an opportunity, not so much to rewrite history, but to write it in a way in which the energy of its historians is finally matched by the availability of primary sources.

And with shifts in history will come shifts in collective memory. In fact, if anything could do this, the digitization of the Vilna Collections might decisively shift Jewish memory away from its center of gravity in the six-year period of World War II, toward and throughout the hundreds of years of creativity that preceded it.

Read more at Tablet

More about: East European Jewry, Jewish archives, Vilna

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