The Homeland of the People of the Book

Jews have a reputation for taking books seriously, so it should come as no surprise that Israel is an interesting place for librarians. Where else can you find a national monument called “The Shrine of the Book”? The novelist Anne Roiphe reflects on her visit to Israel with a group sponsored by the Jewish Theological Seminary:

We were shown into a small room where under glass there was a brown-lined notebook with Kafka’s writing. He was learning Hebrew verbs. Nearby was a page of text from an S.Y. Agnon novel, a poem in his own handwriting by Yehuda Amichai, an original page from a Maimonides tract, and a page of notes from the novelist Ka-Tzetnik (whose testimony at the Eichmann trial was so crucial). The room was dark, the display cases lit with soft light, and I felt like a simple peasant girl viewing a saint’s bones. I had come close to some sacred place where writers write and the thoughts of man fall onto paper and we can reach each other over the centuries. Our story becomes communal through the work of individual minds. In the National Library I see the link between the prayer and the poem, through the codex, the historian, the map maker, the novelist, the holy and the profane united in an attempt to understand the fall of man.

To see the original pages is to believe in the existence of the writer as a biological fact. Be careful, I remind myself, don’t worship writers as if they were golden calves. Don’t worship golden calves as if they were writers. In the National Library of Israel I am tempted to worship everything I saw, including wooden chairs and research rooms.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Dead Sea Scrolls, Franz Kafka, Jewish archives, National Library of Israel, Rare books, Yad Vashem

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