A Piece of 11th-Century Technology Displays Muslim-Jewish Scientific Collaboration

Whatever Hamas believes, Muslim-Jewish conflict is neither timeless nor inevitable. One piece of evidence of vibrant cultural and intellectual interactions between devotees of these two faiths is an 11th-century astrolabe—a gizmo used for making complex geographic and astronomic calculations that was popular with medieval scientists. Examining this particular astrolabe at a museum in Verona, Italy, the historian Frederica Gigante recently detected Arabic and Hebrew inscriptions. Cambridge University reports:

“This isn’t just an incredibly rare object. It’s a powerful record of scientific exchange between Arabs, Jews, and Christians over hundreds of years,” said Dr. Gigante. “The Verona astrolabe underwent many modifications, additions, and adaptations as it changed hands. At least three separate users felt the need to add translations and corrections to this object, two using Hebrew and one using a Western language.”

The [Arabic] signature inscribed on the astrolabe reads, “for Isḥāq [. . .]/ the work of Yūnus.” This was engraved sometime after the astrolabe was made, probably for a later owner. The two names, Isḥāq and Yūnus (Isaac and Jonah in English), could be Jewish names written in the Arabic script, a detail that suggests that the object was at a certain point circulating within a Jewish community in Spain, where Arabic was the spoken language.

Hebrew inscriptions were added to the astrolabe by more than one hand. . . . Gigante said, “These Hebrew additions and translations suggest that at a certain point, the object left Spain or North Africa and circulated among the Jewish diaspora community in Italy, where Arabic was not understood, and Hebrew was used instead.”

Gigante points out that these translations reflect the recommendations prescribed by the Spanish Jewish polymath Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089–1167) in the earliest surviving treatise on the astrolabe in the Hebrew language written in 1146 in Verona, exactly where the astrolabe is found today.

Read more at Phys.org

More about: Italian Jewry, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Medieval Spain, Science

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship