Lost in Translation

Modern Hebrew is blessed with an abundance of literary translators. But can the allusive and often strange language of its greatest masters really be rendered into English? Take, for instance, Jeffrey Green’s struggles to translate the work of acclaimed Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld:

Mainly Aharon and I disagreed about time and memory. The rigidity of an Indo-European language like English, with its complex structure of tenses, forces the translator from Hebrew to make distinctions that the author did not make and may not want to make. I put the novel in the past tense, as though written retrospectively after all the action that it describes has taken place. However, Appelfeld used a mixture of present and past (which is easily done in Hebrew). He wanted me to put the whole narrative in the present, and I maintained that it would sound unnatural in English, given the way the novel is structured. . . . In this battle of Aharon Appelfeld versus English grammar, he loses.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Aharon Appelfeld, Israeli literature, Modern Hebrew literature, S. Y. Agnon, Translation

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas