The Earliest Memorial to the Zionist Movement’s Fallen Soldiers

April 14 2021

Today is Israel’s Day of Remembrance for those who died to protect to the Jewish state, which at sunset gives way to Yom Ha-Atsma’ut, the day of independence. Allan Arkush tells the story of how some early Zionists sought to memorialize a group of Jewish guards who were killed by Arab raiders in 1909:

The earliest literary commemoration of Zionism’s fallen heroes was a book titled Yizkor, published in Palestine in 1911 by members of Po’alei Zion (Workers of Zion). . . . The Yizkor book echoes the traditional memorial prayer [of the same name], but it doesn’t repeat it. Instead of calling on God, it begins, “Let the people of Israel remember.” As [the historian Anita] Shapira writes, “This is a collective memorial service of the people, and the people is supposed to derive conclusions from the death of its heroes and apply them to its new life.”

While Yizkor doesn’t seem to have had a significant impact in the Yishuv, a couple of rank-and-file members of Po’alei Zion found it very useful a few years later. Expelled by the Turks from Palestine at the beginning of World War I, David Ben-Gurion and Yitzḥak Ben-Zvi had made their way to the United States, where they were struggling to put their party on the map. With this aim in mind, they initiated in 1915 the publication of a Yiddish translation (for who in America could understand Hebrew?) of Yizkor. As Tom Segev writes in his recent biography of Ben-Gurion, it was “a huge success. Memorial evenings were held all across America, and Ben-Gurion became a sought-after guest.”

More remarkable is the story of how the book came to be translated into German, which can be found at the link below.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: David Ben-Gurion, History of Zionism, Yom Ha-Zikaron

 

The End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the Rise of the Arab-Israeli Coalition

Nov. 30 2022

After analyzing the struggle between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors since 1949, Dan Schueftan explains the current geopolitical alignment and what it means for Jerusalem:

Using an outdated vocabulary of Middle Eastern affairs, recent relations between Israel and most Arab states are often discussed in terms of peace and normalization. What is happening recently is far more significant than the willingness to live together and overshadow old grievances and animosities. It is about strategic interdependence with a senior Israeli partner. The historic all-Arab coalition against Israel has been replaced by a de-facto Arab-Israeli coalition against the radical forces that threaten them both. Iran is the immediate and outstanding among those radicals, but Erdogan’s Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, Syria—and, in a different way, its allies in the Muslim Brotherhood—are not very far behind.

For Israel, the result of these new alignments is a transformational change in its regional standing, as well as a major upgrade of its position on the global stage. In the Middle East, Israel can, for the first time, act as a full-fledged regional power. . . . On the international scene, global powers and other states no longer have to weigh the advantages of cooperation with Israel against its prohibitive costs in “the Arab World. . . . By far the most significant effect of this transformation is on the American strategic calculus of its relations with Israel.

In some important ways, then, the “New Middle East” has arrived. Not, of course, in the surreal Shimon Peres vision of regional democracy, peace, and prosperity, but in terms of a balance of power and hard strategic realities that can guardrail a somewhat less unstable and dangerous region, where the radicals are isolated and the others cooperate to keep them at bay.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel-Arab relations, Middle East, Shimon Peres, U.S.-Israel relationship