What Does Holiness Mean in a Secularizing World?

An economist and the son of a Southern Baptist preacher, Robin Hanson has tried to study the idea of the sacred by examining what characteristics people use to describe it. He then decided to ask David Wolpe, a rabbi, to help him define sanctity. Together the two examine how ideas of holiness shape human behavior, the sometimes-dangerous persistence of ideas of sanctity among those who have abandoned religion, and the role of the clergy in a society skeptical of authority. (Video, 62 minutes.)

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More about: Holiness, Judaism, Religion, Secularization


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.”

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria