The Homeland of the People of the Book

Dec. 23 2014

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.

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

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror