The Korean War Haggadah

April 25 2019

Among the National Library of Israel’s vast collection of Haggadahs, only one was printed in Korea. Compiled by two Jewish chaplains in 1952, it was distributed to soldiers participating in a seder in Seoul in the midst of the war—complete with gefilte fish, kosher wine, and matzah-ball soup. Channa Lockshin Bob writes:

The U.S. Army granted Jewish soldiers time off for the celebration, moved army operations out of the abandoned schoolhouse in Seoul that the chaplains chose as the location for their seder, and transported soldiers from all over Korea to that location. But they also showed their encouragement in other ways: the Haggadah begins with two pages of Passover greetings from the top military brass stationed in Korea. Many high-ranking officers also attended. . . .

The highest-ranking officer [present] was General Frank F. Everest, the commanding general of the U.S. Fifth Air Force, who delivered an address to the soldiers as part of the festivities. We have no record of what he said at the seder, but in his greetings inside the Haggadah he wrote, “Even as the ancient Hebrew people answered the call of freedom symbolized by Passover, we too must heed its voice and stand fast in preserving freedom’s principles for the world of our time.” . . .

The Haggadah’s cover is decorated with hand-drawn insignias of the main military units involved in the seder, with the insignia of the Jewish chaplaincy in the middle. . . . Preparing a Haggadah in Korea must not have been simple: a page in which the Hebrew text appears upside-down illustrates the challenges of working with local printers who were not familiar with [the language].

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More about: American Jewish History, Haggadah, Jews in the military, Passover, South Korea

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy