Around the World, Jews Are Showing New Enthusiasm for Religious Observance

In Israel, hundreds of religious men and women have taken to tying tsitsit—knotted ritual tassels worn on special undershirts, per Numbers 15:37–40—to satisfy the demand from otherwise secular soldiers who have recently taken up the practice. This is just one example of an apparent surge in religious observance in both Israel and in the Diaspora since October 7. Melissa Langsam Braunstein considers the evidence:

Of 211 Chabad rabbis who responded to a poll of its U.S. emissaries three weeks ago, 98 percent saw their communities increasing religious observance, 86 percent reported increased attendance at prayers and events, and 93 percent noticed more communal interest in connecting with fellow Jews. In 86 percent of Chabad communities, people felt more strongly connected to their Jewish identity.

Much of the other information Braunstein has assembled is, naturally anecdotal, but it comes from all precincts. For instance:

At Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, New Jersey—a more than 170-year-old synagogue that doesn’t associate with a Jewish denomination—the cantor Jessica Fox has noticed a “definite uptick” in Friday-night attendance and at services on Shabbat morning when there is not a bar or bat mitzvah. “Not huge numbers, but noticeably more attending,” she told JNS.  “Several people said they’re lighting candles again to show the kids a positive aspect,” Fox said of her congregants.

Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewry, Gaza War 2023, Judaism

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security