Exploring the Jewish Past along the Danube

Lisa Schwartzbaum describes a recent Jewish “heritage tour” in Central Europe that visited various cities along the Danube River and explored their Jewish past and present. On her stay in the cities of Bratislava and Vienna, she writes:

[Bratislava’s] mournful Jewish centerpiece is the underground mausoleum of the rabbi and sage Moshe Schreiber (1762-1839), known as Hatam Sofer. The cemetery in which he was buried—itself built atop a 17th-century Jewish graveyard—was upended during and after World War II. But the rabbi’s tomb survived, along with the graves of some twenty other rabbis, albeit shut away under a concrete tunnel.

The site was reconstructed and rededicated in 2002, in all its gloomy, claustrophobic, end-of-the-line pathos. The old Jewish neighborhood, meanwhile, was smashed decades ago by Communist construction—ugly in intention and result. There are very few Jews and an army of shadows in this exhausted Slovakian city. . . .

[The next day], we were in Vienna, as rigorously stately and aloof in its elegance as Bratislava is exasperated and down at the heel. Ah, Vienna, where vanished Jewish life leaves a uniquely conflicted legacy, a mixture of pride and humiliation, sophistication and hurt.

At the bright, modern Jewish Museum Vienna, visitors’ bags and passports were examined with grim concentration. But then, at Vienna’s main synagogue, . . . our crowd had the great luck to arrive in time for a Thursday bar mitzvah. The young man was from a Bukharan family—immigrants from Eastern Europe, Russia, and former Soviet republics are the last best hope for restocking Jewish places of worship in the region—and we were thrilled to join in the traditional pelting of the bar-mitzvah boy with a volley of little candies. Later, the clan’s granny broke away from a family celebration in the synagogue vestibule to offer us slices of sweet melon.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Bukharan Jews, East European Jewry, Jewish history, Jewish World, Slovakia, Vienna

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas