How Did Artichokes Become a Jewish Vegetable?

According to a recent ruling by Israel’s chief rabbinate, a pious Jew who wishes to eat an artichoke must first remove the leaves and inspect them for insects; any other preparation is a violation of kashrut. Italian Jews, however, have been eating artichokes without such precautions for centuries, and deep-fried whole artichokes are so associated with the Roman Jewish community that they are known simply as carciofi alla giudia. Dan Rabinowitz comments on the earliest Jewish texts that mention the vegetable:

The history of how the fried artichoke became associated with Jews is somewhat murky but likely dates at least to the 16th century. But we have even earlier manuscript evidence that artichokes were eaten by Jews. Indeed, they were eaten at a time when Jews were especially punctilious regarding food: Passover. A number of medieval haggadahs contain illustrations of maror [the bitter herb consumed as part of the seder]; most include a leafy green of some type. Two haggadot, the Rylands and the Brother, composed in the mid-to-late-14th century, depict maror as an artichoke. . . .

Students of history will recall that this is not the first time the norms and traditions of the Italian Jews came into conflict with different prevailing norms among other groups of Jews. [The most notable such incident was] the controversy engendered by the publication of the pamphlet Divrei Shalom v’Emet [“Words of Peace and Truth”] by Naftali Herz Wessely in [1782], which called for educational reform among [Jews in the Hapsburg lands]. After his pamphlet was found objectionable and insulting by leading rabbis, Wessely wrote to rabbis in Italy, believing that many of the ideas he was advocating, like a graded curriculum, a non-exclusive emphasis on Talmud, and use of the [Gentile] vernacular, were well within the norms of their tradition. In fact, with [one] exception, all [of these Italian rabbis] agreed [with Wessely] and supported him.

Read more at Seforim

More about: Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Italian Jewry, Jewish food, Kashrut, Naftali Herz Wessely, Religion & Holidays

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security