When Is It Time for the Jews to Leave?

April 8 2020

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.

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Read more at American Interest

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

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror