The Hebrew Language Marks the Greatest Divide between Israel and the Diaspora

In 1950, when it had become apparent that there would be no mass immigration of American Jews to the new state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion voiced the conviction that the Hebrew language, along with Jewish scripture and support for the Zionist cause, would serve to maintain the connection between Israelis and their American co-religionists. Alas, writes James Loeffler, this has not come to pass, creating a gap between the two communities that is more profound than attitudes toward religion or politics:

In Operation Shylock, Philip Roth points out the radical nature of American Jewish monolingualism. American Jews, Roth writes, chose “to be Jews in a way no one had ever dared to be a Jew in our 3,000-year history: speaking and thinking American English, only American English, with all the apostasy that was bound to beget.” Roth is right that monolingualism itself is something of a modern American Jewish heresy. Multilingualism was ever a fact of Jewish life through history. But whatever language Jews spoke—Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, Yiddish, Ladino—Hebrew remained at the core of their spiritual and cultural lives, especially for educated elites. In modern America, by contrast, Jews rejected multilingualism. Instead, they elevated the embrace of English to the level of an exclusive, ideological choice.

There is, however, an exception, to be found in the diaspora within a diaspora that Israeli expatriates constitute in America:

Estimates of the number of Israelis now settled in the United States range between 200,000 and 500,000 people. . . . What . . . will these Israeli Americans look like 20 or 30 years from now? It is not hard to imagine that we will see Israeli Americans split into two groups on the basis of their choices vis-à-vis Hebrew. One portion will treat Israeliness like an old-world identity and Hebrew like the language that went with it. Securing themselves with single citizenship, they will dissolve into the broader mass of American Jews with real but thinning ties to Israeli society.

The other Israeli Americans will place Hebrew at the core of their lives, cultivating a strong bilingualism. This Hebrew-speaking cohort, I suspect, will continue to identify closely with Israel and at the same time build themselves their own place within diasporic Jewish communal life. Frequent family travel to Israel and summer camps will keep them and their children rooted in Israeli society.

In short, these Jews will be set apart from the rest of American Jewry because they speak Hebrew.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewry, Hebrew, Israel and the Diaspora, Jewish language, Philip Roth

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela