Why the “Digital Shabbat” Trend Is Doomed to Fail

April 28 2022

In recent years, a variety of pundits and self-help gurus have touted the idea of observing “digital Shabbat” as a way to recover from social media’s ills. But attempts to “invent a Shabbat outside the religious paradigm” will almost certainly fail, argues Kelsey Osgood. The shallow understanding of Shabbat as merely “screen-free time,” she contends, overlooks the immersive experience of the day and the real source of its restorative power.

First, the observant Jewish community has successfully maintained Shabbat over thousands of years precisely because it’s practiced in a community, one that operates with particular norms and expectations. On any given Shabbat, my family will attend synagogue, take naps, read, and engage in religious study. We have friends over for long, leisurely meals or are welcomed as guests ourselves. During this time, we can be confident that because our neighbors are largely [Sabbath observant] as well, no conversation will be interrupted by persistent beeps signaling the arrival of a text message, and no one will be forced to sit like a bored schoolchild as their companions take a moment to scroll through Facebook updates.

There is a serendipitous nature to the day, when you can bump into someone en route to another location and decide to stroll together, be spontaneously invited over for a meal, or lounge around drinking coffee with friends, agenda-less, as the afternoon light wanes. But as a freelance Shabbat practitioner, you would likely experience only a pale imitation of this. The first few years of my Shabbat observance, I lived in a secular Brooklyn neighborhood and spent a great deal of time explaining to my largely nonreligious peers what they should do if they couldn’t find me at the designated meeting spot at the park on Saturday afternoon, or trying to suppress eye rolls when a friend held an iPhone aloft because I just had to see a recent meme that was making the rounds. And trust me, such an adulterated repose is simply not the same. Many Jews refer to Shabbat as an “island in time,” a riff on an idea in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s love letter of a book, The Sabbath. But if you do Shabbat alone, your island is a deserted one.

Perhaps you don’t really mind this isolation, as it’s better than the alternative, which is all doomscrolling, all the time. Perhaps you’ve read somewhere that Shabbat is a “day of rest,” and so the only thing that really matters to you is that your eyes get a vacation from brain-deadening blue light. But a shallow knowledge of the practice will likely lead to its ultimate collapse because you’ll be aiming for the wrong thing, the rest itself.

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Read more at Wired

More about: Shabbat, Technology

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela