What Really Happened at Chabad Headquarters in Brooklyn

In the 17th century, the Zohar became the focus of study for a group of Jewish mystics who gathered in the Galilean city of Safed (Tzfat). Their innovative teachings about this text would, in turn, inspire the founders of Hasidism in 18th-century Poland. One of the most important treatises the Hasidim produced was the Tanya, an extended mystical discourse—deeply rooted in the Zohar and the teachings of the Safed school—composed by Shneur Zalman of Lyady, founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Fast-forward to last week, when pictures and videos circulated on the Internet of a tumult taking place at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, where the last of Shneur Zalman’s successors had a synagogue and office, and which remains a central and sacred site for his followers. The images of chaos—eventually diffused by the arrival of the police—and reports of subterranean tunnels played into the febrile imaginations of social-media anti-Semites. The fact that Hamas too has used tunnels, the QAnon-inspired obsession with (imaginary) secret child-sex-trafficking rings, and the age-old blood libel quickly fused into predictably deranged fantasies.

Chananya Groner lays out what actually happened, and the underlying religious dispute—which is far more benign and far more theologically interesting than an outsider might expect:

The incident involved an unauthorized and haphazard attempt by a group of students to expand the main Chabad synagogue, commonly referred to as “770.” . . . The tunnels, [perhaps better described as holes in basement walls], were access points to an area the students had been excavating. In subsequent statements, synagogue officials referred to the students as “young agitators” and “extremists.” Several well-placed sources within the Crown Heights Chabad community, however, have identified the tunnel-diggers as having a more distinct identity: the “Tzfatim.”

Named after the city of Tzfat—or Safed, Israel—from which many of these students hail, the group, and some others aligned with it, have a three-decade reputation for numerous incidents of violence and mayhem in and around the Chabad headquarters at 770. In the parlance of Chabad factionalism, they are said to be the most extremist among the meshikhist—or messianist—faction, believing that their late leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is the messiah, and despite his death in 1994, is still meant to reappear as the long-awaited redeemer of the Jews. In fact, some deny his very death.

The underground excavations, it now appears, are the latest in a long string of incidents of anarchy and lawlessness by this group.

They are, needless to say, rejected by the group’s mainstream leadership, which has only partial control over the building itself.

Read more at Shtetl

More about: American Jewry, Brooklyn, Chabad, Kabbalah, Messianism

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