Harvard’s Jewish Slaveholder

Last week, Harvard University released a report titled “Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery,” part of a wide-ranging initiative aimed at redressing past wrongs. In examining the report, Ira Stoll discovered that “the first Jew at Harvard was a slaveholder.” Examining the life and scholarship of Judah Monis—a Hebrew instructor who converted to Christianity shortly before joining Harvard’s faculty—Stoll concludes that some of the lessons Monis taught helped “create, in America, a story of freedom that surely ranks with the Bible as one of the great slavery-toppling narratives of all time.” (Subscription required)

Doubtless some will see this as additional evidence that the whole enterprise—18th-century Harvard, the American Revolution, the Bible—was rotten to the core. But there is an alternative reading.

If the future American revolutionaries were diligent students of the Hebrew Monis taught, they would have been able to parse with some care the text of Exodus. At Sinai, after God identifies Himself as having “brought you out of Egypt, the house of slavery,” He issues the commandment that the children of Israel obey the Sabbath in part by not having their own slaves work on the seventh day.

In experiencing the irreconcilable contradiction between the reality of slave ownership and the ideal of freedom, in other words, the American revolutionaries weren’t unlike the children of Israel. They were following in their footsteps.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: American Jewish History, Harvard, Slavery

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem