World War I and the Origins of Israel’s Most Famous Song

By April 1918—as the final year of the First World War ground on—Jerusalemites had, in the words of Lenny Ben-David, suffered “starvation, locust plagues, and diseases spread by Ottoman soldiers, such as cholera, typhoid, [and] malaria.” Yet that baleful year was also one of joy because of the British liberation of Jerusalem from Ottoman rule, and the promise of the November 1917 Balfour Declaration. That joy inspired one Jew, as Ben-David writes:

In 1918, a music teacher and cantor in Jerusalem, Avraham Zvi Idelsohn, transcribed an old tune (nigun) of the Sadigorer Ḥasidim (from today’s Ukraine) and composed a song to celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem and the Balfour Declaration in 1917. It was called “Havah Nagilah”—“Let Us Rejoice!”

The song, with phrases from Psalms, caught on among all Jewish residents of Eretz Yisrael, from the ultra-Orthodox to the socialist kibbutzniks. But the music did not stop at the Mediterranean shores. It became an anthem at Jewish celebrations around the world. Its versions included orchestral, ḥasidic, rap, klezmer, and rock. It was recorded by stars such as Ray Charles, Drake, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, Josephine Baker, [and] various orchestras and choirs, and even played at sporting events such as hockey games, baseball’s seventh-inning-stretch, and the Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s floor routine in 2012.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Israeli music, Mandate Palestine, World War I


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy