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

Aug. 10 2022

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?”

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Read more at JNS

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

 

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam