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

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy