A 16th-Century Look at the Mystery of Jewish Endurance

Reflecting on the endurance of the Jewish people, Daniel B. Schwartz turns to a 16th-century work of Jewish history called Shevet Yehudah (“The Scepter of Judah”), written by Solomon ibn Verga, a Portuguese converso who returned to Judaism and settled in the Ottoman empire. One section recounts the story of a “Job-like” Jewish exile who finds himself shipwrecked and alone in a remote wilderness, his family dead. The man offers a defiant prayer:

Lord of the universe! Although you are doing much to make me abandon my religion, know for certain that, despite the heavenly hosts, a Jew I am, and a Jew will I remain, and nothing you have brought or will yet bring upon me will help you!

Schwartz concludes:

The steadfastness of this unnamed Spanish Jewish exile is rooted in a blunt facticity. “A Jew I am, and a Jew I will remain.” It is something visceral, instinctive; something that stems not from reason, not even from faith, but from the kishkes. It is as though, for this man, to be a Jew is to survive, and there is no survival if not as a Jew. Perhaps it is this core intuition, a preconceptual understanding that lies beyond the reach of explanation or justification, preceding any talk of flexibility and adaptability, and that ultimately cannot be taught, built, or cultivated — “a Jew I am, and a Jew I will remain” — that brings us nearest to the nucleus of resilience in Jewish history. And those of us who carry this embodied spirit are its atoms.

Read more at Sapir

More about: Jewish history, Spanish Expulsion

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security