The Terrible Jewish Irony at the Heart of “Chariots of Fire”

March 1 2021

The film Chariots of Fire, released 40 years ago this month, tells the story of two real-life British athletes, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, with Olympic aspirations. Abrahams—a Jew—faces often subtle but ever-present anti-Semitism, while Liddell—a devout Protestant—faces disapproval for his ultimate decision not to run on the Christian Sabbath. Meir Soloveichik comments on the movie, and the story behind it:

In the film, Abrahams’s response to anti-Semitism is not Jewish pride but assimilation. . . . When he is confronted at Cambridge by anti-Semitic dons who accuse him of interest only in his own glory, Abrahams indignantly insists: “I am a Cambridge man first and last, I am an Englishman first and last; what I have achieved, and what I intend to achieve, is for my family, for my university, and for my country.”

All this accords with the real life of Harold Abrahams. . . . In the 1920s, the precise moment in which the film is set, Abrahams wrote an article in an Anglo-Jewish publication encouraging English Jews to ignore Jewish Sabbath restrictions in order to compete.

Though Abrahams ultimately took in two Jewish refugee children during the war, he is remembered today as one of the most prominent British voices against a boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Despite pleas in Anglo-Jewry, Abrahams, whose concern was whether it was “ultimately in the best interest of world sport” to withdraw, served as a British broadcaster at Hitler’s games.

Here, then, is a terrible irony. Chariots of Fire . . . is a tale not only of one Jewish runner but of Jews throughout our age who ran away from who they were. . . . Jews watching the film today must draw spiritual inspiration from the Christian Liddell rather than Harold Abrahams.

Read more at Commentary

More about: 1936 Olympics, Anti-Semitism, British Jewry, Film, Sabbath


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy