Rafah’s Jewish History

According to reports in Arabic media, IDF units in Rafah reached the Mediterranean coast this weekend, having made their way through this strategically crucial border city. The Jerusalem Post considers Rafah’s long Jewish history:

The Jewish presence in Rafah dates back to the Hasmonean era (167–63 BCE) when King Alexander Yannai of Judea conquered the town. Rafah remained under Jewish control until the Roman general Pompey the Great captured it in 63 BCE. . . . Rafah was noted in significant works such as Strabo’s Geographica and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri during the Roman period, highlighting its prominence in the region.

The Jewish community of Rafah probably reached a high point during the Islamic era, and especially during the 9th and 10th centuries.

Despite facing declines around 1080, when many Jews migrated to Ashkelon, the community experienced a resurgence in the 12th century. Liturgical poems from this time reference the Jewish community in Rafah, although scholarly debates continue regarding the extent and continuity of this presence.

During the medieval period, the Jewish community in Rafah was part of a broader network of Jewish settlements in the region. Notable medieval rabbis, such as Rabbi Tsedakah Halevi, contributed to the community’s spiritual and intellectual life. Historical records from the Cairo Geniza, a trove of Jewish manuscript fragments, provide evidence of correspondence and legal disputes involving the Jewish community in Rafah. Under Ottoman rule, Rafah’s Jewish community engaged in various economic activities, including agriculture and trade.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Gaza Strip, Hasmoneans, Land of Israel


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy