Tisha b’Av in Catalonia, and a Torrent of Emotion

July 30 2020

According to tradition, today—the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av—marks not only the destruction of the First and Second Temples, but also the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The late Frank Talmage, a scholar of Jewish history, recounts spending Tisha b’Av (as the day is known) in northern Spain: the scene of centuries of Jewish hopes, achievement, and catastrophe. Visiting the cathedral of Tortosa, he is overcome by emotion (1981):

There would be no crowds in the cathedral. . . . There was only silence and solitude and a baptismal font. I fixated on the baptismal font. How many Jews had been dragged to this font and how many had just given up the struggle and gone of their own accord? Hebrew writers of the period referred to the waters of baptism as “the iniquitous waters” (Psalm 124:5), and many were the Jews who had been inundated by them.

Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, I too was inundated by a flood of water, not from the font, but from my own eyes. Clearly . . . a torrent of emotion of which I was not consciously aware had been welling up within me waiting to burst forth at this moment. No memorial to the destruction of Jewry, however theatrical and however pretentious, could have the effect on me that that simple understated baptismal font had.

Traditionally, Anglo-Saxon males do not know how to cry—with the result that, on the odd occasion that they do, they may not know how to stop. I wept a b’khiyyah l’dorot, a weeping of generations—not so much a wail of lamentation as a cry of frustration at having been hounded and importuned and cajoled for decade after decade and century after century by those who shrieked, “Do not be what you are but be what we want you to be!” or, indeed, “Do not be at all.”

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Catalonia, Spanish Expulsion, Tisha b'Av

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