The History of the Citron, and Its Many Boxes

One of the key practices of the holiday of Sukkot—the week-long festival that began last Sunday night—is the waving of a palm frond and myrtle and willow branches (collectively known as the lulav) together with the citron (in Hebrew, etrog). Reviewing a recent book about the history of the etrog, a fruit that resembles a large lemon, Jenna Weissman Joselit writes:

Readers will learn that the etrog was used as a weapon with which to pelt one’s enemies, as an amulet to soften the pains of childbirth, and as the source of political clout and economic mobility. The stuff of artistic and visual expression—all those etrog boxes!—as well as scientific exchange, the fruit appears on the face of coins in the ancient Near East; on the walls of a 1st-century BCE catacomb in Rome; on carvings of Byzantine-era synagogues throughout the diaspora; and in 15th-century Italian manuscripts where tiny figures hold an etrog in their left hand and a lulav in their right.

Joselit finds the containers for the etrog of particular interest:

Some were made of olive wood, others of silver, and still others were fashioned out of sturdy paper stock. They might echo the shape of the etrog, or assume a rectangular form, be sleek and modern in appearance, or hark back to an imagined biblical model. Some receptacles hailed from Jerusalem, where craftsmen associated with the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts left their mark, while others were the handiwork of skilled German Jewish silversmiths. And some, like the paper containers with which American Jews are most familiar—the ones with muddy-colored illustrations of an etrog and a lulav or of Jerusalem on each of their four sides—represented a canny mixture of consumerism and constancy, a stand-in for the real thing.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Jewish art, Sukkot

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy