Reading Jonah with Israel’s Leading Female Religious Educator

While few in America may have heard of her, the religious educator Yemima Mizrachi has a large and diverse following in Israel, with thousands (in pre-coronavirus times) attending or watching online her weekly sermons and reading her newsletters. Thanks to the recently published translation of her writings about Yom Kippur, titled Yearning to Return, some of her output is now available to an English-speaking audience. In her review, Sarah Rindner delves into Mizrachi’s analysis of the book of Jonah, which is read in its entirety during the holiday’s afternoon service.

Several chapters of Yearning to Return analyze the prophet Jonah and his reluctance to speak to the people of Nineveh. For Mizrachi, Jonah is an elitist intellectual whose response to finding himself in the belly of a whale is to construct an exquisite prayer-poem. The people of Nineveh are deeply flawed, yet their simplicity and human vulnerability redeem them.

Although Mizrachi herself has a more sophisticated intellectual background than might meet the eye (in addition to her Jewish learning, her father, a Rothschild scion, taught her Latin, French, and Arabic as a child, and she is a Hebrew University-trained attorney), she is on the side of the people. As she writes, “God tells Jonah that even beasts and even people who do not know their right hand from their left are great in His eyes,” which is one reason the story is read on Yom Kippur.

Yearning to Return is ultimately a tribute to ordinary Jews whose religious commitments may or may not be motivated by the loftiest religious principles, but who nevertheless seek God during the High Holy Days.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Jonah, Judaism in Israel, Rothschilds, Yom Kippur

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria