Medieval Spain’s Great Jewish Historian

I’ll end on a less dire note with this introduction to the life and work of Abraham Ibn Daud (1110–1180), a Cordovan rabbi who spent most of his adult life in Toledo, and could be considered the Diaspora’s first Jewish historian. Tamar Marvin explains his most famous work, Sefer ha-Kabbalah, or the Book of the Tradition:

Sefer ha-Kabbalah is, to our modern eyes, largely unsourced and at times clearly fabricated, for example, lifting tropes from well-known aggadot [rabbinic tales] of the Babylonian Talmud. It is also a masterpiece of premodern historiography that serves as one of our best and only sources for many events, especially those occurring in medieval Spain. In its partial truths, as we would identify them today, it also records kernels we know to reflect historical realities, as well as informing us about the communal-historical beliefs of Jewish elites in 12th-century Spain.

Read more at Stories from Jewish History

More about: Jewish history, Medieval Jewry, Medieval Spain

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict