French Resistance Hero, Notorious Kidnapper, and Orthodox Extremist

While most Ḥaredim, including fiercely anti-Zionist ḥasidic groups, have since 1948 come to terms with Israel’s existence, Neturei Karta (Aramaic for “guardians of the city”) has remained steadfast, sometimes even perverse, in its opposition. One of the group’s two founders, Amram Blau, died in 1974, and was survived by his wife, the former Ruth Ben David, née Lucette Ferraille (1920–2000). Amy Spiro discusses her remarkable life, which began in a French Catholic family, with her biographer Motti Inbari:

In her 80 years on earth, Blau lived more lifetimes than would seem possible. Her stranger-than-fiction story winds its way from a stint in the French Resistance during World War II to serving as a spy in Morocco, going to prison for tax evasion, converting to Judaism twice, playing a key role in the kidnapping of a boy in Israel, a wildly controversial marriage to the founder of Neturei Karta, and at least one meeting with the Iranian ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

As a young divorced single mother in the 1940s, Blau infiltrated the ranks of the Gestapo on orders of the French Resistance by forming a romantic relationship with a senior Nazi officer. “She penetrated into the Nazi headquarters pretending to be a Nazi, a Gestapo officer, and reported to the resistance all the time about what was happening in the headquarters,” Inbari recounted. Her clandestine work did not stop there, as she later traveled to Morocco on behalf of the French secret service to engage in a number of espionage activities.

Inbari documents a range of mysterious travels to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iran and her ultimately unsuccessful attempts to negotiate the release of Jewish hostages—banking, perhaps, on her anti-Zionist bona fides—including the Iranian Jew Albert Danielpour and the IDF soldiers Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman.

“In Israel, she is viewed as a villain, and I came from this mindset, but the more I started to learn about her, the more I had sympathies toward her,” Inbari said, adding that he believed she was also “not mentally stable.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Zionism, Haredim, Israeli history, Resistance

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