What We Can Learn from Esther’s Failure on the Silver Screen

Feb. 26 2021

The book of Esther, which features a beautiful and heroic queen, an evil scheme, suspense, and a dramatic reversal, seems to be perfect material for a cinematic adaptation. Indeed, there have been multiple attempts to make the biblical book into a movie, from the 1960 feature film Esther and the King (starring Joan Collins) to the heavily Christian The Book of Esther of 2013. To Yosef Lindell, none are particularly impressive artistically, except perhaps a 1999 made-for-TV adaptation. Almost every one, for instance, turns Ahasuerus into a dashing figure in order to make his marriage to Esther into a romance:

But there is a cost to all this. Turning the book of Esther into a love story diminishes Esther’s agency. In the biblical account, Esther saves the day.

Yet perhaps we ought to cut the movies some slack. For all their flights of fancy and questionable storytelling choices, the Esther films are following a long tradition: interpreters have never been satisfied just to leave the story of Esther as it is.

The Septuagint translation of Esther adds over 100 verses not found in the traditional Masoretic text. Further, there are more midrashic collections on Esther than on any other biblical book, and they all embellish the story significantly.

Maybe the book of Esther has been so frequently recast because of its unusual features. Unlike other biblical stories, it lacks important religious elements like prayer, troublingly fails to mention God, and is told in a decidedly unbiblical comic voice that is full of hyperbole, repetition, caricatures, and surprising reversals. It’s likely that both Esther’s irreligiosity and its irreverence led interpreters to propose readings that made it more consistent with the rest of the biblical canon. The Septuagint’s additions, for example, comprising largely of prayers and declarations of piety, fill this religious lacuna.

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Read more at Moment

More about: Esther, Midrash, Movies

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia