New Software Promises to Break Down the Barriers to Studying Jewish Texts

As anyone who’s had a bar or bat mitzvah knows, Hebrew is generally written without the diacritics that indicate vowels and distinguish between various consonant sounds. Even though prayer books, printed Bibles, and some other texts are generally found with these markings, the accompanying commentaries lack them, as do many other rabbinic texts. The computer scientist and Mosaic contributor Moshe Koppel has helped to create software called Dicta Maiven—the second word is Hebrew or Yiddish for “expert”—to help the uninitiated surmount these difficulties and others. Zvika Klein writes:

Koppel gave the example of a book that can be scanned by Dicta Maivin in order to allow a larger audience to access the text.

“Let’s say you have a book that is written in this old Rashi script”—a typeface for Hebrew letters based on 15th-century Sephardi handwriting, very popular with Jewish books that were published in the past several hundred years—“it doesn’t have any n’kudot (diacritical markings), it doesn’t have punctuation, and it probably even has mistakes, because the printers back then were a bit choppy,” he explained.

Regarding references, “it has a million of [them], but it doesn’t tell you where the references are.” Koppel said that many times, in Jewish texts, one of the rabbis will write, “as the Ramban, [i.e., Moses Naḥmanides, a 13th-century Spanish sage], said,” but it won’t say exactly where he said or wrote it. “Rabbis could be quoting Talmud in their books without even telling you” [the exact source].

Koppel picked up his cell phone and displayed exactly how the technology works. “What we’ve done is make it so that you can take your phone and take a picture of the page, and you’ll get the page back with the text that has already been digitized,” he said enthusiastically. “It’s not a picture anymore; it’s gone through optical character recognition [OCR]; the text has been corrected for mistakes and it has become more accessible in so many ways. You could punctuate this text; you could put in the n’kudot. Anyone of the [Hebrew abbreviations] can be explained. You just put your cursor on top of it and it’ll just show you what it stands for.”

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Artifical Intelligence, Hebrew, Talmud, Technology

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security