Historic Texts Bear the Centuries-Old Marks of Past Mourners for Jerusalem

On the fast day of Tisha b’Av, which began last night and ends this evening, many synagogues have the custom of dimming the lights for the evening reading of the book of Lamentations; others adhere to an older custom of lighting candles. Menachem Wecker notes how this practice has left stains on historic books:

Chaim Louis Meiselman, [a Judaica librarian at the University of Pennsylvania, described] a holiday prayer book, a maḥzor, in the unique Roman rite that dates to 1718 or 1719 from the northern Italian city of Mantua. On the opening page of Lamentations in the book, which is part of the collection of University of Pennsylvania, one can see a stain from wax that dripped on the page from a candle, which a reader must have used to follow along with the text.

Reading by candlelight was associated with reading Lamentations on Tisha B’Av, Meiselman told JNS. “The synagogue lights are darkened at that point in the liturgy, and the reader or user then takes a candle and sits close to the book,” he said. “The room is otherwise dark.” Meiselman cited an illustration from a German book, belonging to a mohel, which dates to 1740 and is part of the Jewish Theological Seminary collection. In the drawing, three men sit on a synagogue floor. The candles have been removed from the chandelier above, and one of the men holds a candle.

The Penn librarian also has a maḥzor, which dates to 1734 and comes from Sulzbach am Main, Germany, in his personal collection. The book has many wax drippings on the page for Lamentations.

Read more at JNS

More about: Prayer books, Rare books, Tisha b'Av

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority