Even When They Are Apart, Jews Are Never Alone

April 22 2020

As of March 14, New York City’s Shearith Israel synagogue—America’s oldest Jewish congregation—suspended Sabbath services due to the pandemic. This is the first time that services have been canceled since 1776, when the congregants fled Manhattan ahead of the advancing British army. Its rabbi, Meir Soloveichik, contemplates the current situation and what it means for Jews’ religious and communal life:

The Hebrew term for synagogue is Beit Knesset, a house of gathering, and it is called so because, in the rabbinic tradition, the phrase Knesset Yisrael refers to the mysterious bonds that connect Jews to one another. A synagogue is not merely a physical gathering of individuals, but rather, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik explained, it reflects “an invisible Knesset Yisrael, which embraces not only contemporaries, but every Jew who has ever lived.” The synagogue is meant to embody this bond, this connection to all Jews past and present. But there are other ways to experience it.

Loneliness and aloneness [according to Joseph Soloveitchik], are different phenomena. Contemporary Western man, [when not in the midst of a pandemic], is physically surrounded by people. But that does not mean that he has covenantal communion with people. Contemporary man goes to parties, bars, coffee shops, stores; he tweets with likeminded political partisans or communicates on Facebook with his many thousands of “friends.” He is not alone. But he lacks true spiritual communion. And so, lonely he remains.

Human beings have an innate need to be among others, but now we are seeing a kind of antisocial social mixing, when we are constantly [connected to] people with whom we have no bond. The only true remedy to loneliness is in a covenant, not only the covenant of marriage, but the larger covenant of faith. There, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik writes, “not only hands are joined, but experiences as well; . . . one lonely soul finds another soul tormented by loneliness and solitude yet unqualifiedly committed.”

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Coronavirus, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Shearith Israel, Synagogue

 

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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Read more at Tablet

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