How Studying the Bible Can Unite a Fractious People

Benny Lau, a Jerusalem-based rabbi, has created a new website aimed at making the Hebrew Bible accessible to Israelis of all political and religious persuasions, hoping to bring them together in discussion of the sacred text. To judge by the traffic—a half-million visitors in the first two weeks—it may be working. Yair Rosenberg writes:

Launched over Hanukkah, 929 is a $12-million Israeli initiative to turn the Tanakh into a national conversation. Drawing its name from the 929 chapters of the Hebrew Bible, the project aims to get hundreds of thousands of Israelis from all walks of life to complete the corpus over three-and-a-half years by covering five chapters a week. (The endeavor is akin to the daf yomi cycle, where participants finish the entire Talmud over seven-and-a-half years, but pitched to a broader and more diverse audience.) The hub of the enterprise is its state-of-the-art website, where readers can find commentary from a wide array of contributors, from celebrated secular authors like Etgar Keret and A.B. Yehoshua to spiritual leaders like ultra-Orthodox former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and progressive trailblazer Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum.

Read more at Tablet

More about: A B Yehoshua, Bible, Israeli society, Judaism, Yisrael Meir Lau

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict