When Is It Time for the Jews to Leave?

In Exile: Portraits of the Jewish Diaspora, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein draws on her travels to some of the world’s more obscure Jewish communities, from Finland to Cuba to Iran, to paint loving but not uncritical portraits of Jews who are often fiercely committed to preserving their local heritage, despite varied but grave roadblocks. Devorah Goldman, in her review, explores the question at the heart of the book:

In 1925, the Hebrew writer and [future] Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon published “The Fable of the Goat,” a short story that asks a simple question: when is it time to leave? In the story, a young man and his father own a goat that repeatedly disappears for days at a time, returning with “milk whose taste was as the taste of Eden.” To figure out where she kept going, the youth tied a long rope to the goat’s tail so that he could follow her the next time she left. He ultimately accompanies the goat through a cave to the Land of Israel, and gets stuck there on the Sabbath when he cannot travel. He sends the goat back to his father with a note in the goat’s ear, urging him to join his son in the beautiful new country.

Tragically, the father assumes the worst when he sees the goat return without his son. In a fit of grief, he slaughters the goat, and only afterwards finds the note. He and his son spend the rest of their days apart. The story concludes that, “Since that time the mouth of the cave has been hidden from the eye, and there is no longer a short way. And that youth, if he has not died, shall bear fruit in his old age, full of sap and richness, calm and peaceful in the country of life.”

The animating question in Annika Hernroth-Rothstein’s first book, Exile: Portraits of the Jewish Diaspora, is nearly identical to Agnon’s: should Jews stay or should they go?

Hernroth-Rothstein saw great beauty in many of the places she visited—ornate synagogues, warm homes—but was almost always left with the question of whether these communities would flourish again or simply continue to hang on. As in the Agnon story, there is a poignant sense of missed opportunity.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Cuba, Diaspora, Persian Jewry, S. Y. Agnon


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict