A 17th-Century Rabbi Arrives in Jerusalem

In 1621, the famed talmudist and mystic Isaiah Horowitz left his native Prague, where he had served as rabbi to what was then the world’s largest Jewish community, to settle in Jerusalem. Two of his letters home remain extant and provide a rare window into contemporary Jewish life in the land of Israel. Ora recounts some of Horowitz’s experiences:

He traveled to Israel via Syria. The two main Jewish communities in Israel in those days were in Safed and Jerusalem. Both communities sent emissaries to convince [Horowitz] to accept a position as their leader. The emissaries from Safed made it first and met [him] in Damascus, where he told them that he intended to stay in Safed anyway for a few days and that they could talk further there.

The Jerusalemite emissary met the rabbi on his way out of Damascus. The people of Jerusalem were generous in their offer as they were concerned that Safed would bait the rabbi before they even got there. And so they offered [him the position of] head of both the rabbinical court . . . and the yeshiva in the Holy City. They were willing to pay him any salary he wished.

But [Horowitz] didn’t need convincing: he was simply overjoyed that he could realize his dream and live in Jerusalem. He even refused to accept a salary, because he knew that the Jerusalem community was sunk in debt, and instead he asked for a furnished apartment and for the community to cover his tax bill. An apartment, because “there is not much room in Jerusalem, because the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem is twice as large as that of Safed, and it’s growing daily.”

Read more at Muqata

More about: Isaiah Horowitz, Jerusalem, Jewish history, Ottoman Empire, Rabbis, Safed

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7