The Etrog’s Magical—and Literary—Power

One of the four species of plant that are ritually waved on the holiday of Sukkot, the etrog (citron) often has a small protrusion, known in Hebrew as a pitom, on the side opposite the stem. Some rabbinic authorities prize an etrog with a pitom; others maintain that an etrog without one is preferable. Among East European Jews, the feature was bound up with various folkways and superstitions, which in turn became fodder for Yiddish writers, as Rokhl Kafrissen explains:

Ashkenazi folk magic attached great significance to the power of the pitom. A woman could ensure that she would have a son if she bit off the pitom. The pitom placed under a pillow ensured an easy labor. That labor could also be eased by a special etrog preserve.

The power of the pitom nearly tears two brothers apart in [the popular early-20th-century Yiddish and Hebrew writer] Zalman Shneur’s short story “Opgebisn dem pitom” (With the Pitom Bitten Off). The brothers jointly own an etrog that gets passed between the households. But this year, each brother has a pregnant woman in his house and each is demanding the rights to the etrog. The women believe the pitom even has the power to change a baby girl to a baby boy in the womb. The stakes are high.

One of the women is desperate for a son and cannot wait. She bites off the pitom before any kind of agreement can be reached. This causes great strife, and comedy, between the two families. The other pregnant woman, Reyzl, then takes possession of the pitom-less etrog. Her mother-in-law consoles her, and begins preparations for turning it into preserves. At this point, the dignified etrog becomes the much more [quaint and domesticated] esregl. The males of the household crowd around, [yearning] for a taste of its golden jam. But once transformed in the service of feminine magic, the etrog is strictly off limits to men.

Read more at Tablet

More about: East European Jewry, Etrog, Sukkot, Yiddish literature

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