Reading Jonah with Israel’s Leading Female Religious Educator

Sept. 25 2020

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


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria