Is the Land or the Torah the Basis for Jewish Peoplehood?

According to the Talmud, the covenant at Sinai not only bound the people Israel to God, but also to one another, so that “all Jews are responsible for [more literally, are guarantors of] one another.” Some rabbinic texts understand that a negotiation took place, whereby God agreed that He would hold the Israelites responsible for the public transgressions of their coreligionists, but not private ones. To yet other sages, this condition was removed when Joshua led the people into the Land of Israel.

After carefully piecing this story together from various ancient texts, Tzvi Novick writes:

[W]e may better appreciate the rabbis’ thinking by reference to a different tradition associated with Joshua, that of the “conditions under which Joshua bequeathed the Land to Israel.” According to this tradition, Joshua conditioned the Israelites’ inheritance of the land on their willingness to accept certain rules, most of which set limits on private property rights. One condition, for example, gives individuals the right to gather grains from anywhere, even another person’s field; another allows someone who is lost amidst vineyards to cut a path forward.

Both the institution of private property and the notion that mutual responsibility extends only to overt sins rest on the same assumption: individuals are entitled to their own space, physical or religious, within which they may do as they choose—without interference from, or implications for, the community. In both cases, Joshua, the foundational figure for collective Israelite existence in the land, qualifies this assumption. The community has a limited right to infringe on private property, and it has the obligation to ensure that individuals behave properly, even when concealed from the public.

Digging further into the relevant rabbinic texts, Novick notes a “polemical tension” between those who emphasize the covenant of Sinai and those who emphasize the covenant the Jews entered into while arriving in the Land of Israel. The underlying question is this: is it the Torah, given at Sinai, that “constitutes the people Israel as a nation,” or is it the land? To Novick, the holiday of Shavuot, which begins this evening and celebrates both “the bringing of the first fruits of the land and the giving of the Torah” makes clear that there is no need to “decide between these alternatives.”


More about: Covenant, Hebrew Bible, Joshua, Land of Israel, Shavuot

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