From the Matzah Machine to the Kosher Switch: A Brief History of Jewish Religious Technology

Over the past years, there has been heated discussion in Orthodox circles about an electrical switch designed to circumvent the prohibition against using electricity on the Sabbath. (Rabbis are still in disagreement over whether the loophole is legitimate.) Searching through the files of the U.S. Patent Office, David Zvi Kalman has discovered that this latest gizmo is but part of a long history of American Jewish innovation connected with religious observance:

By the time the “KosherSwitch” was patented in 2007, more than 100 patent applications had been filed for devices or processes relating to Jewish ritual practice; the earliest of these patents date back to the very beginning of the 20th century. . . .

This first period of Jewish patents, born in the midst of American industrialization, is dominated by industrial machines and processes, especially for food production. There’s a substitute for beef extract “which . . . can be used also by the Orthodox Jewish population.” There’s an electrical device for plucking chicken feathers “without cutting them as it is prescribed by the rules of the Jewish religion.” There are methods of printing Hebrew text. The family-run Manischewitz company refined the crude matzah-making machines of the 19th century through innovations like better baking ovens (1916), more efficient carton-filling machines (1919), and even attractive cracker designs (1939).

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, Halakhah, Religion & Holidays, Shabbat, Technology


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security