Tolkien, Agnon, and the Power of Imagination

The Israeli novelist S. Y. Agnon and J.R R. Tolkien, the English author of Lord of the Rings, do not appear to have much in common. Yet, aside from being near-contemporaries, both were religiously devout, allowed religion to inform their work, and were profoundly influenced (both personally and in their fiction) by the trauma of World War I. Do the similarities end there? Jeffrey Saks writes:

It is precisely in regard to what he called Mythopoeia (a term he coined, meaning “mythos-making”) that Tolkien draws our attention and invites comparison to the greatest modern Hebrew author, S.Y. Agnon—the only Nobel winner for Hebrew literature. . . . [T]here are various ways Tolkien and Agnon resemble each other—a love of nature and the outdoors, appreciation for a good drink, a bookish reclusiveness mixed with a gregarious wit—indeed, there was something quite “Hobbitish” about both men as they moved into later life. Isn’t the Shire [the bucolic Eden of Tolkien’s novels] itself something like a Middle Earth version of the [East European] shtetl? Both are principally closed societies whose residents exist, to varying degrees, in naïve isolation from and in suspicion of the larger, outside world.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien, Literature, S. Y. Agnon, Shtetl

Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship