The Secular Zionist Who Insisted on Mourning the Destruction of the Temples—Even in the Land of Israel

As it does every year, the Fast of Tisha b’Av last Sunday sparked arguments over whether it is still necessary to spend a day weeping over the ruin of Jerusalem when Jews have returned to their homeland and reestablished sovereignty there. To the non-religious in particular, such a commemoration can seem almost like a rejection of the accomplishments of Zionism. Gil Troy notes that Berl Katznelson, a leading theorist of Labor Zionism and a committed socialist, sharply criticized his comrades who wished to turn the Ninth of Av into a day of celebration:

For socialist Zionists, he insisted, the Ninth of Av has the same significance as it has for every Jew. We all lost our land, our freedom, our hope when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE, triggering the 1.900-year-exile Zionists sought to end.

Ultimately, Katznelson forgave these young amnesiacs [who wanted to jettison the day]. But, he warned, there is no [chance for success in the] movement for national salvation for those with “no instincts for the national spirit, for historic symbols, for enduring cultural values.” . . . Katznelson soon decided to confront the intellectual rot underlying this canceling of history. The result was what may be his most memorable essay, “Revolution and Tradition.”

“A renewing and creative generation does not throw the cultural heritage of ages into the dustbin,” he preached. “It examines and scrutinizes, accepts and rejects. At times it may keep and add to an accepted tradition. At times it descends into ruined grottoes to excavate and remove the dust from that which had lain in forgetfulness, to resuscitate old traditions which have the power to stimulate the spirit of the generation of renewal. If a people possesses something old and profound, which can educate man and train him for his future tasks, is it truly revolutionary to despise it and become estranged from it?”

“The Jewish year,” he reasoned, “is studded with days which, in depth of meaning, are unparalleled among other peoples. Is it advantageous—is it a goal—for the Jewish labor movement to waste the potential value stored within them?”

Read more at JNS

More about: Berl Katznelson, Labor Zionism, Secular Judaism, Tisha b'Av

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria