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

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion