A New Read on Jewish Life
Updated: 3 weeks 3 days ago
After weeks of grim tidings, one small piece of happy news has hit the wires, fluttering into our hearts like Hope emerging from the depths of Pandora’s Box. Larry David has written a play and it’s coming to Broadway. Scott Rudin will produce.
The play is called Fish in the Dark, and it’s about sitting shiva.
Over at the Atlantic, Tablet contributor and Jewish feminist activist Elana Sztokman discusses how gender dynamics have played out during the recent Gaza conflict in an essay pointedly titled, “Gaza: It’s a Man’s War.” Sztokman points out, rightfully, that the images we’ve seen during the month-long conflict have largely featured men.
“When women did appear,” Sztokman writes, “they were often seen eulogizing, mourning, or struggling to reconcile with their reality.”
Jerry Seinfeld has a problem. Talking to Grub Street about Single Shots (get it), the new compilation of outtakes from his confusingly popular web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, the New York-based comedian admits he hasn’t found a replacement bagel shop since H&H bagels shuttered its Upper West Side location. In fact, he’s barely found a bagel he likes as much as theirs in New York City.
Asked where he liked to eat right now (SoHo’s Charlie Bird when he’s not out in the Hamptons, duh), Seinfeld told Grub Street:
As the end of the 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip looms closer, mediators in Cairo scramble to negotiate a continued agreement between the two sides. The ceasefire, the eighth and most successful of the month-long conflict, expires tomorrow morning at 8 a.m.
Israel has agreed to an extension of the three-day detente, while Hamas has threatened to renew rocket attacks from Gaza if its demands aren’t met by tomorrow morning, the AP reports. The militant group’s main condition is that the blockade on Gaza be lifted.
Five teens were arrested in Sydney, Australia, for boarding a bus carrying students from three Jewish private schools and yelling “Heil Hitler” and “Kill the Jews” before reportedly threatening to cut the children’s throats. JTA reports that all of the suspects in Tuesday’s incident were minors, who were drunk at the time of the incident, and not drunk men, as we reported yesterday.
The teens were able to board the bus, which was picking up students from from Mount Sinai, Moriah College Primary School, and the Emanuel School in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, because they were also wearing school uniforms.
Among my most pro-Israel friends on Facebook, the most-shared piece of the past week has surely been “In Defense of Zionism,” the Wall Street Journal essay by Michael B. Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States and now a professor at IDC Herzliya. It’s a stirring piece, filled with useful (and true) information about the remarkable success of a fringe 19th-century ideology in giving birth to the successful, growing, economically powerful nation-state that is also a homeland for the Jews.
But it’s clearly a work of propaganda, the kind of thing written by an ambassador (Oren’s former job) not a professor (his current one). The author of a highly regarded history of the 1967 war, Oren has intellectual chops. But in this piece of wartime agitprop, he has chosen not to use them. Yes, he’s writing in a limited space, and for a popular audience. But that’s no excuse. And the failures of his Wall Street Journal essay are object lessons of the pitfalls of a world where so many move between academic and government work, or government work and lobbying, or scholarship and opinion writing. Oren is a perfectly competent polemicist, but it’s a shame that he’s so willing to betray the obligations of a scholar.
The Czech capital has elected a new chief rabbi. JTA reports that Rabbi David Peter, 38, was voted into the position by the Prague Jewish community. The Prague native currently serves as the rabbi of the city’s Jerusalem Synagogue. He previously lived in Jerusalem, where he was ordained at the Straus-Amiel seminary, and returned to Prague in 2011.
Fun fact about Peter: he’s a trained dancer.
Amal Abu Aisha is the director of Women’s Affairs Center in Gaza City, where she works to raise awareness among Palestinian women about their social, economic, and political rights. I spoke to her in the quiet of the 72-hour cease fire, a respite from the 29 days of Israeli bombardment. Gaza City is now in its seventh day without electricity after an Israeli missile bombed the power plant. Though the Israeli Electric Corporation has begun work fixing cables that bring power from Israel into Gaza, power has still not been restored to Gaza City and other areas supplied by the plant, which means that water—which must be electronically processed—is still scarce.
People in Gaza City are angry, and sad. “We are suffering, we are suffering, we are suffering,” Abu Aisha said. “If you see your city destroyed, if you see your friends, homeless, wandering the streets. No water, no electricity, no medicine.” Abu Aisha is angry about the schools that were bombed, and the high civilian casualty rate, and the neighborhoods—like Shejaiya and Khuza’a that have been nearly obliterated.
Yesterday, Israeli security officials claimed the funding and instructions for the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in June came from two top leaders of Hamas in Gaza: Fathi Hammad, the former Hamas interior minister, who lives in Gaza, and Saleh al-Arouri, a close associate of Khaled Mashaal, who masterminds terror operations from a safe haven in Turkey. Ordinarily, the news that a terrorist organization funds terrorism wouldn’t qualify as much of a news item. But as those paying attention to the coverage of the recent conflict in Gaza know, the question of who was behind the kidnapping has bloomed into a persistent conspiracy theory. Israel, wailed its critics, had known all along that the kidnappers were members of a breakaway sect of the terror organization, yet had blamed Hamas anyway in order to justify its bloody pre-planned assault on Gaza.
This theory, such as it was, was supported largely by the reporting of Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel. “If there was an order, from any of the senior Hamas leadership in Gaza or abroad, this would be an easier case to investigate,” Frenkel quotes an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer “intimately involved in investigating the case” as saying. “We would have that intelligence data. But there is no data, so we have come to conclude that these men were acting on their own.”
Eli Halili is a New York jewelry designer hoping to extend his impact beyond sparkling accessories. Realizing that the location of his Mott Street boutique in New York City’s trendy NoLiTa neighborhood provided the opportunity to reach a wide audience of passersby, the Israeli designer decided last week to bring attention to the war in Gaza by painting the shop’s front window with a list of the names of the Israeli soldiers killed in the conflict. The names, which by now cover the bulk of the storefront, are accompanied by the message, “We pray for peace in the Middle East!”
Halili, who was born and raised in Israel and moved to the U.S. after completing his IDF service, hopes the display, which he created with co-designer Gary Samuelian, offers the respect the fallen soldiers deserve. “Each and every single one of them represents a name, a person, a human being that I know personally did not want to go into war and did not want to get killed or kill others,” he said of the list.
It takes chutzpah for a Jewish-style deli to distribute a recipe for red braided pork belly that starts with the ingredients “two tablespoons of kosher salt.” Maybe it’s the same type of chutzpah it takes to start a book on business organization by quoting the American-Jewish Anarchist Emma Goldman. Yet somehow, Ari Weinzweig, who together with Paul Saginaw founded Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Deli in 1982, is able to manage both. Today, the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has expanded well beyond the original deli to include a diverse range of high quality eateries and food producers, as well as a business-training institute (ZingTrain) and an independent press. Weinzweig’s own business philosophy and personal biography draw from two of the most paradigmatic Jewish philosophies of the last century—Zionism and Anarchism.
Weinzweig was brought up in a family of ardent Zionists—Avrum “Izzy” Weinzweig, the stepfather who formally adopted Ari as a child, helped smuggle anti-aircraft weaponry to the nascent State of Israel and fought in Israel’s War of Independence as a “Volunteer from Outside the Land.” Ari’s mother, Lila Weinzweig, lived on a kibbutz in 1949 and shared her husband’s passion for Israel.
A school bus driving children home from three Jewish private schools in Sydney, Australia today was boarded by eight drunk teens who proceeded to yell “Heil Hitler” and “Kill the Jews,” threatening to cut the children’s throats before disembarking, Australia’s Daily Telegraph reports. The disturbing incident was reported by Jacqui Blackburn, whose three children, ages 8, 10, and 12, were on the bus.
She described the panicked call made to her by one of her children. “She said: ‘Hey Mummy, please help us, there are eight strange men who have been let on to a school bus and they are screaming ‘Heil Hitler! Kill the Jews!’ they want to cut out our throats’.”
Rula Salameh lives in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem and works for Just Vision, an NGO committed to finding and disseminating non-violent ways of ending the Israeli-Palesinian conflict in both communities. She is also a television presenter for Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian television channel, and is active in a number of women’s groups in East Jerusalem.
“What happened in Gaza recently really effected most Palestinian lives in Israel and the West Bank,” Salameh told me on the phone last week. “I felt that we had to do something to support people in Gaza, to tell them we are thinking of them and supporting them and we can’t live a normal life while Gaza is under Israeli attack.”
Released on June 20, 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is commonly seen as the original summer blockbuster. It’s also considered one of Hollywood’s first “high concept” films. You can describe it in just three words: Shark menaces town.
Despite this surface simplicity, or perhaps because of it, Jaws has given rise to countless—sometimes conflicting—interpretations. The shark has been seen as a stand-in for everything from Watergate to infidelity to immigration. While some have argued that the predator represents the evils of communism, Fidel Castro called the movie a Marxist masterpiece, in which the shark represents the capitalism that brutalizes ordinary Americans. Next year, when the movie turns 40, there’ll no doubt be commentators who will see it as a predictor of global warming—or of 9/11.
Israel has confirmed that the funding for the June kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah—which set off a chain of events that led to the current war in Gaza—was provided by Hamas.
Hassam Qawasameh, a Palestinian man arrested on July 11 in connection with the abduction, admitted that the orders and financing of the kidnapping came from Gaza. Paul Hirschson, deputy spokesperson for international media at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted the news this afternoon after an Israeli gag order was lifted.
Indian news site NDTV has published a video of their news team in Gaza filming the assembly of a Hamas rocket next to their hotel, in a heavily populated residential zone. The video also captures the rocket being fired the following morning, just before the latest ceasefire began.
The video, which NDTV explains they waited to post online until the team was out of Gaza, offers some of the first public footage corroborating Israel’s argument that Hamas launches rockets from civilian areas, knowingly endangering the lives of Palestinians in retaliatory Israeli air strikes.
A 72-hour ceasefire went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, the 29th day of Operation Protective Edge, bringing a tentative end for now to the fighting that has killed 67 Israelis, including three civilians, and more than 1,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.
On Monday night, Egypt announced that Hamas had agreed to the ceasefire with no preconditions, three weeks after Israel agreed to a previous Egyptian ceasefire.
Last month, we published an article by Richard Landes in which the historian and author argued that together with the nakba, or catastrophe, that befell Palestinians in 1948 was an additional, perhaps more acute, psychological blow: an emotional nakba that cut to the core of millennia of a Muslim honor-shame discourse.
Paul Scham, professor of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Maryland, where he is executive director of its Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, submitted a response, which we’ve published a condensed version of below. Landes replied to Scham; the text of his reply is published below Scham’s.
Over the weekend, a custom-tailored-for-Facebook story started making the rounds, claiming that Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was blasting Israel for refusing to share the Iron Dome missile defense system with Hamas. It was just the kind of hilariously delicious absurdity that could be expected of the same organization that will soon welcome Chad—where slavery is still a rollicking tradition—into its Security Council, but the ever zealous guardians of Israel’s minor infractions and little else soon declared that Pillay was being slandered: she never called on Israel to share its defensive bounties, but rather criticized the United States for helping to fund the advanced system and noted that “no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.”
Which, in a way, is an even more deplorable statement to make. It refrains—as the recent U.N. Human Rights Council, presided over by Pillay, has—from ever mentioning Hamas, or the fact that it is a terrorist organization engaged in a campaign of indiscriminate attacks against a civilian population, a war crime by any measure.
Issa Amro is the director of Youth Against Settlements, a non-partisan NGO based in the West Bank city of Hebron that seeks to end the Israeli occupation through non-violence. The organization’s activities include presentations, screenings, and tours intended for Israelis, Palestinians, and the international community. They also take advantage of social media and YouTube to disseminate information about what’s happening in Hebron, and how to use non-violent means to oppose it.
On Friday, Amro organized a non-violent protest in support of Gaza, which 30,000 people attended, many of them women, children, and the elderly. Amro said the protest was non-violent, and video footage seems to support his claim. Israeli soldiers began shooting at the protestors with live fire, which is illegal under international law. According to one report, 90 people were wounded, 72 from live ammunition. An IDF spokesperson reported 140 injuries, 15 caused by live fire. But Amro said this is par for the course, telling me that at every non-violent protest he’s organized, soldiers have started shooting, which then causes protestors to respond violently.