The Lost Library of the Jews of Singapore

While living in Singapore, an Israeli student named Mordy Miller made a surprising discovery perusing the shelves of the synagogue library. Shalem College reports:

The book he had picked up, he realized, was more than a hundred years old: printed in Baghdad—to which most Singaporean Jews, who arrived from their then-home in Calcutta in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, trace their lineage—it told the history of Singapore’s Jewish community, but from a religious standpoint.

“There’s lots of research about this community, but almost exclusively from an economic, political, or sociological point of view,” explains Miller, who is pursuing his doctoral thesis on Kabbalah and Israeli politics . . . at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “This book, though, described the community’s unique religious traditions; so far as I knew, there was nothing else like it. I asked the synagogue’s rabbi if there might be any more, and when he said yes—I couldn’t resist.”

What happened next was a months-long “real” treasure hunt, Miller says, to boxes underneath stairwells and in the synagogue’s basement. The search—since titled the Singapore Genizah Project—eventually extended to the city’s other synagogue, too. In the end, Mordy and a team of community volunteers managed to unearth nearly 700 volumes—the world’s most authoritative collection on the city’s Jewish history.

Many of the oldest volumes are in Arabic written with Hebrew letters, or—more unusually—in Hebrew written with Arabic letters. One of the most popular books seems to have been the Zohar, reflecting the mystical text’s importance to Iraqi Jewry.

Read more at Shalem College

More about: Baghdad, East Asian Jewry, Indian Jewry, Rare books, Zohar

 

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy