Lag ba-Omer’s Zionist Rebirth

Today the minor holiday of Lag ba-Omer is being celebrated in Israel with picnics, bonfires, and pilgrimages to Mount Meron in the Galilee, the purported burial place of the 2nd-century sage Simon bar Yoḥai. While this holiday, which marks the 33rd day between Passover and Shavuot, is ancient, its exact origins remain something of a mystery to historians and rabbinic scholars alike. One possible interpretation, which gained prominence only in the wake of the Jews’ return to Israel, connects it to the failed anti-Roman rebellion of Simon bar Kokhba in 132-35 BCE, which was the last credible attempt to restore Jewish sovereignty by force of arms prior to 1948. Eli Kavon writes:

With the founding of the state of Israel, it is fascinating how Simon bar Kokhba has become the epitome of heroism. Rabbinic views of bar Kokhba are critical of this military leader, [seen by some rabbis as] a failed messiah [and] the source of great suffering. That negative assessment of bar Kokhba endured for 1,800 years.

While messianic activism has many dangers, of which bar Kokhba should be a reminder, the Zionist movement has actually done history a great service by rehabilitating this military leader. Indeed, while his revolt was eventually crushed, it was a success for two years and caused great loss and suffering to the Roman empire’s best legions.

Bonfires and field days are the perfect antidote to a malignant understanding of that rebellion solely as a failed messianic adventure that was doomed from the start.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Bar-Kokhba, Israel & Zionism, Jewish holidays, Lag ba'Omer, Religion & Holidays

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada