Tisha b’Av in Catalonia, and a Torrent of Emotion

According to tradition the fast of Tisha b’Av—which this year falls on Saturday night and Sunday—marks not only the destruction of the First and Second Temples, but also the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The late Frank Talmage, a scholar of Jewish history, recounts spending this day in northern Spain: the scene of centuries of Jewish hopes, achievement, and catastrophe. Visiting the cathedral of Tortosa, he is overcome by emotion (1981):

There would be no crowds in the cathedral. . . . There was only silence and solitude and a baptismal font. I fixated on the baptismal font. How many Jews had been dragged to this font and how many had just given up the struggle and gone of their own accord? Hebrew writers of the period referred to the waters of baptism as “the iniquitous waters” (Psalm 124:5), and many were the Jews who had been inundated by them.

Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, I too was inundated by a flood of water, not from the font, but from my own eyes. Clearly . . . a torrent of emotion of which I was not consciously aware had been welling up within me waiting to burst forth at this moment. No memorial to the destruction of Jewry, however theatrical and however pretentious, could have the effect on me that that simple understated baptismal font had.

Traditionally, Anglo-Saxon males do not know how to cry—with the result that, on the odd occasion that they do, they may not know how to stop. I wept a b’khiyyah l’dorot, a weeping of generations—not so much a wail of lamentation as a cry of frustration at having been hounded and importuned and cajoled for decade after decade and century after century by those who shrieked, “Do not be what you are but be what we want you to be!” or, indeed, “Do not be at all.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Spanish Inquisition, Tisha b'Av

 

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood