Can a Progeny-Obsessed Religion Make Room for the Childless?

Jan. 28 2016

In his recent book, The Pater, Elliot Jager reflects on his relationship with his father, who abandoned him in childhood, and on his own experience as an adult unable to have children. David Wolpe writes in his review:

Judaism, with its first commandment to “be fruitful and multiply,” its anxiety about numbers and continuity, and its central prayer, the sh’ma, commanding us to “teach these words to our children” . . . doesn’t merely imply progeny. It is obsessed with it. . . .

Jager ultimately abandons his religious orthodoxy as a sort of “reprimand to God.” If the Jewish tradition is about children, and God refuses to cooperate, how can one maintain reverence? . . .

Jewish tradition, however, [also] has its consolations—even if they don’t always manage to soothe. . . . While Judaism instructs that teaching someone is equivalent to giving birth to him, Jager notes that many people say it is having children, more than anything else, that gives their own lives meaning.

In the end, perhaps, [this] book is the author’s stand-in creation. . . . Jager may not have a child, but he has enabled those who do have children to understand better the trials of the childless.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Children, Family, Fertility, Judaism, Religion & Holidays

How Israel Can Break the Cycle of Wars in Gaza

Last month saw yet another round of fighting between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorist groups. This time, it was Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that began the conflict; in other cases, it was Hamas, which rules the territory. Such outbreaks have been numerous in the years since 2009, and although the details have varied somewhat, Israel has not yet found a way to stop them, or to save the residents of the southwestern part of the country from the constant threat of rocket fire. Yossi Kuperwasser argues that a combination of military, economic, and diplomatic pressure might present an alternative solution:

In Gaza, Jerusalem plays a key role in developing the rules that determine what the parties can and cannot do. Such rules are designed to give the Israelis the ability to deter attacks, defend territory, maintain intelligence dominance, and win decisively. These rules assure Hamas that its rule over Gaza will not be challenged and that, in between the rounds of escalation, it will be allowed to continue its military buildup, as the Israelis seldom strike first, and the government’s responses to Hamas’s limited attacks are always measured and proportionate.

The flaws in such an approach are clear: it grants Hamas the ability to develop its offensive capabilities, increase its political power, and condemn Israelis—especially those living within range of the Gaza Strip—to persistent threats from Hamas terrorists.

A far more effective [goal] would be to rid Israel of Hamas’s threat by disarming it, prohibiting its rearmament, and demonstrating conclusively that threatening Israel is indisputably against its interests. Achieving this goal will not be easy, but with proper preparation, it may be feasible at the appropriate time.

Revisiting the rule according to which Jerusalem remains tacitly committed to not ending Hamas rule in Gaza is key for changing the dynamics of this conflict. So long as Hamas knows that the Israelis will not attempt to uproot it from Gaza, it can continue arming itself and conducting periodic attacks knowing the price it will pay may be heavy—especially if Jerusalem changes the other rules mentioned—but not existential.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security, Palestinian Islamic Jihad