Two Hanukkahs or One?

Dec. 31 2019

According to the available statistics. two-thirds of American Jews light candles at least once over the course of the Festival of Lights. Yet Cole Aronson suggests that the story of the Hasmoneans’ victory over an imperial power that wanted to enforce religious conformity—and also over those Jews who wanted to compromise with it—is remembered in very different ways:

If my back-of-the-envelope sociology is correct, two groups of American Jews celebrate Hanukkah for almost entirely different reasons. Orthodox Jews mostly know the full story of Hanukkah. . . . They’re under no illusions about its radically anti-assimilationist character. They find joy in Hanukkah in large part because of what a revered teacher of mine calls Hanukkah’s religious maximalism.

Many non-Orthodox American Jews, in my experience, mostly find joy in Hanukkah because the Jews defeated a mighty oppressor. Victimhood is a prized status. Hanukkah is a weeklong reprieve from the awkwardness of humanity’s oldest national victim occupying the West Bank while running the world’s most advanced military. Like Passover—the other most celebrated Jewish holiday in America—Hanukkah is about the weak winning freedom and justice from the strong.

But this special Jewish burning for justice will die out if decoupled from Jewish particularism. . . . That is, unless we Orthodox choose to leave our comfortable insularity, and persuade our brothers and sisters all over the country that the Lord has not forgotten about them, and still hopes for great things from all of us. Or unless anti-Semitism exiles Jews from the right universities, firms, banks, clubs, schools, and neighborhoods—and the answer to “Why do we remain Jews?” suddenly becomes, “because we have no choice.”

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Read more at First Things

More about: American Jewry, Hanukkah, Hasmoneans, Orthodoxy

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela