The Great Rabbi-Poet of Gaza

One of the most beloved songs traditionally sung at Shabbat dinner tables is Yah Ribbon (“O Lord of the World”), written in Aramaic by Israel ben Moses Najara (ca. 1555—1625), likely the most prolific and talented paytan, or author of liturgical poems, of his era. Israel was born to a scholarly Sephardi family in the Galilean city of Safed (also Tsfat or Tsfas), which was then a center of kabbalah, and for much of his life served as a rabbi in Gaza, writing hundreds of religious poems and bakkashot (Sephardi liturgical songs) as well as scholarly treatises. In conversation with Nachi Weinstein, Edwin Seroussi discusses Israel’s life and work, the influence of Spanish folk songs and Turkish classical music on his stylings, and what may be a vicious attack on Israel Najara by the great mystic Ḥayyim Vital (1542–1620).

Israel’s grave in Gaza was known until 1948, when the cemetery where he was buried was destroyed by the Egyptians.

Read more at Seforim Chatter

More about: Gaza Strip, Hebrew poetry, Jewish music, Kabbalah, Piyyut


Iran’s President May Be Dead. What Next?

At the moment, Hizballah’s superiors in Tehran probably aren’t giving much thought to the militia’s next move. More likely, they are focused on the fact that their country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, along with the foreign minister, may have been killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Iranians set off fireworks to celebrate the possible death of this man known as “butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing dissidents. Shay Khatiri explains what will happen next:

If the president is dead or unable to perform his duties for longer than two months, the first vice-president, the speaker of the parliament, and the chief justice, with the consent of the supreme leader, form a council to choose the succession mechanism. In effect, this means that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will decide [how to proceed]. Either a new election is called, or Khamenei will dictate that the council chooses a single person to avoid an election in time of crisis.

Whatever happens next, however, Raisi’s “hard landing” will mark the first chapter in a game of musical chairs that will consume the Islamic Republic for months and will set the stage not only for the post-Raisi era, but the post-Khamenei one as well.

As for the inevitable speculation that Raisi’s death wasn’t an accident: everything I have read so far suggests that it was. Still, that its foremost enemy will be distracted by a succession struggle is good news for Israel. And it wouldn’t be terrible if Iran’s leaders suspect that the Mossad just might have taken out Raisi. For all their rhetoric about martyrdom, I doubt they relish the prospect of becoming martyrs themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Mossad