Martin Buber’s Thought Is Not Likely to Experience a Resurgence

Sept. 15 2020

Reviewing a recent biography of the German Jewish theologian Martin Buber, composed by the distinguished scholar Paul Mendes-Flohr, Allan Arkush writes:

Martin Buber, one of the leading Jewish philosophers of the 20th century, was a very unorthodox thinker, anathema to most traditionalists yet deeply religious in his own way. Born in 1878, Buber was an ardent Zionist from the earliest days of the movement in the 1890s to his death in 1965. Yet he consistently opposed the creation of a Jewish state and was in the end barely able to make his peace with it. Once a world-famous and highly controversial figure, he is now well remembered only by small crews of modern Jewish thinkers and Zionist historians and not much larger groups of other Jews and non-Jews outside the academy who still derive inspiration from his works and life.

Mendes-Flohr has . . . written a book whose objectivity is unimpeachable. It ought to be greatly appreciated even by readers who do not share all of Buber’s—or the author’s—ideals.

It’s hard to imagine a resurgence of interest in Buber that would inspire new readers to follow in either the religious or the political path that he marked out. It’s also hard, I would say, to regret that this is the case. Buber’s understanding of revelation was too nebulous to be of enduring value; his politics were too idealistic to be effective. It is, however, easy to believe that Mendes-Flohr’s superbly written, deeply sensitive, and far-reaching biography of this seminal and semi-forgotten figure will stimulate new interest in him among students of 20th-century religious thought and politics.

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Read more at Modern Age

More about: History of Zionism, Jewish Thought, Martin Buber

 

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas