Tag: Aleppo Codex

AN ANTI-ZIONIST ACADEMIC, WWII HEROES & SCANDALS, AND A REVIEW OF THE ALEPPO CODEX

Steven Salaita's 'Honorable' Anti-Semitism: Asaf Romirowsky, Middle East Forum, Nov. 14, 2015 — Steven Salaita, whose anti-Zionist/Semitic tweets and uncivil rants cost him a position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), used a recent appearance in Philadelphia to portray himself as a victim of the Zionist lobby.

105-Year-Old WWII Hero Honored at KKL Italy Event in Rome: Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2015 — On November 29th, 2015, KKL Italy held a special event attended by 250 members of the Rome Jewish community, including community leader Emanuel Segre Amar.

‘HMT Dunera,’ the Scandal and the Salvation: Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 12, 2015— On Hanukka in December 1940, the Australian public was finally told the whole awful story of the HMT Dunera, the British troopship (HMT stands for Hired Military Transport) in which several hundred enemy aliens, mainly German Jewish refugees, had been deported to their country from Great Britain.

The Aleppo Codex in Israel: Perry J. Greenbaum, Book Review, Dec. 7, 2015— The Aleppo Codex, known as the keter (כֶּתֶר) or crown in Hebrew, is considered by scholars to be as accurate a copy of the Hebrew Bible as there can be…

 

On Topic Links

 

The Oldest Video Footage of Jerusalem You Will Ever See: Israel Video Network, Dec. 12, 2015

Amazon Under Fire for Allowing Sale of Nazi Paraphernalia: Rosa Marchitelli, CBC, Dec. 14, 2015

AJC Critical of New Vatican Document on Catholic-Jewish Relations: Jewish Press, Dec. 10, 2015

Pope Francis, ‘Suffering Fuels Terror’? Look at the Jews: Gheula Canarutto Nemni, Times of Israel, Dec. 2, 2015  

 

 

 

STEVEN SALAITA'S 'HONORABLE' ANTI-SEMITISM                                                                  

Asaf Romirowsky

           Middle East Forum, Nov. 14, 2015

 

Steven Salaita, whose anti-Zionist/Semitic tweets and uncivil rants cost him a position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), used a recent appearance in Philadelphia to portray himself as a victim of the Zionist lobby. The lecture was co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, which the Anti-Defamation League calls "the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group" in the U.S.

 

An audience of about forty attended the rambling lecture at the Wooden Shoe, a dingy, dirty anarchist bookstore that sported pro-Boycott/Divestment/Sanction (BDS) and other far left propaganda, including a poster of the brutal Marxist killer Che Guevara. Salaita's claim to fame rests on UIUC's 2014 decision not to install him as a professor of Native American studies. He and UIUC announced a settlement on November 12 that awards him $600,000 and legal costs; he will not seek or accept employment at the university.

 

Despite his ostensible field of specialty, the bulk of Salaita's work consists of attacks on Israel, often under the guise of comparative history. It will surprise no one familiar with Salaita's ideas that his most cited work, The Holy Land in Transit, which offers a "comparative analysis" of Native Americans and Palestinians, portrays American colonists, ancient Hebrews, and modern Israelis as brutal colonial settlers who engaged in genocide.

 

Now ensconced as the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut (AUB) for the 2015/16 academic year, Salaita told his Philadelphia fans that he is someone "who just got fired" because academe is not really about "true" academic freedom. Were this not the case, he could not have fallen prey to the "Zionist lobby." He proceeded to mock and mispronounce the names of pro-Israel philanthropists Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson. To great applause, he described as "kickassery" the efforts of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Faculty for Palestine, and other pro-BDS groups who publicly defended him and lauded Jewish Voice for Peace for their PR work on his behalf.

 

Settling into what is clearly a well-worn routine, Salaita claimed that while he won't be the last victim of the lobby, because "the Zionists have lost the argument in the public sphere – it's done," he and his groupies can win the hearts and minds of the American public. He said that his case represented the point at which all oppressed groups could unite and proclaim, "F— this! We have been put down long enough and we are not going to be afraid to utter the words Palestine."

 

Moreover, he asserted that "academic Freedom never fulfilled its inherent promise" because it doesn't allow for individuals like himself to express their views. Institutions pressured by Zionists are criminalizing his views, which he claims—against all evidence—are "scholarly" and "objective."

 

The enthusiastic audience hung on every hackneyed cliché Salaita fed them, especially his repeated attacks against Zionists, whose actions he deemed so indefensible that they must resort to the purely defensive tactic of deflection. He added, mendaciously and mockingly, "You will never find a group of people who love China and Tibet more than the Zionists." He is obsessed with Jews, and his phraseology revolves around "Zionists" as connoting an anti-Semitic trope and not merely Israel, whose legality as a nation state he persistently downplays and questions.

 

Salaita's alleged martyrdom is the subject of his newest book, Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom. Yet his repeated insistence that academic freedom does not apply to "pro-Palestinian" voices is simply absurd. Both overt hostility to Israel and anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism have for years dominated the field of Middle East studies, a fact illustrated by the standing ovation Salaita received at the 2014 annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), which also voted to affirm the right of individuals and organizations—including MESA—to support BDS resolutions.

 

Salaita's meteoric rise as a left-wing cause célèbre rests precisely on his vitriolic views, grounded as they are in anti-Semitic conspiracy mongering rather than rigorous, objective scholarship. No one has a "right" to tenure, nor to freedom from the consequences of his behavior. When professors who substitute agitprop and rank propaganda for scholarship are seen for the charlatans they are rather than the principled victims they pretend to be, academe can start down the long road to reclaiming its integrity.

 

Asaf Romirowsky is a CIJR Academic Fellow

           

                                                                       

                                            Contents                       

 

                                           105-YEAR-OLD WWII HERO HONORED AT KKL ITALY EVENT IN ROME

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2015

 

On November 29th, 2015, KKL Italy held a special event attended by 250 members of the Rome Jewish community, including community leader Emanuel Segre Amar. The guest of honor was Georges Loinger, a French Jew who has attained the remarkable age of 105 and who kept his listeners riveted with the tale of his extraordinary life.  Georges Loinger's life history is bound up with the story of the establishment of the State of Israel.

 

Mr. Loinger was born in Strasbourg in 1910. During the Second World War he was captured by the Nazis, but managed to make his escape and return to France, where he joined the French Resistance movement. Working together with his cousin, the renowned pantomime artist Marcel Marceau, he saved around one thousand Jewish children from the Nazis.

 

After the war he was recruited by the Mossad for Aliya Bet operations (clandestine immigration into Mandatory Palestine in defiance of the British White Paper restricting Jewish immigration) and was involved in the operation of the Exodus. Later Ben Gurion appointed him to be the first director of Zim Shipping Lines in France, a position he retained until his retirement.

 

President of KKL-JNF Italy Rafi Sasson opened the event by welcoming Georges Loinger and the other guests, and drew their attention to the fact that this particular date (November 29th) had been chosen especially to mark the 68th anniversary of the UN resolution for the founding of a Jewish state.

 

Those present listened attentively to the fascinating and moving story that Georges Loinger had to tell. He also spoke of the current situation in Europe – and in France especially – and remarked optimistically that after everything he had seen throughout his long life, he was not unduly concerned by the latest wave of terrorism, as he was sure that this, too, would pass. When asked the secret of his perpetual youthfulness, he explained that he spends forty-five minutes every day performing special exercises that engage all his muscles. The event was attended by Gal Shaham, CEO of Zim Italy, who congratulated Georges and presented him with a gift on behalf of the company’s board of directors.

 

The day after this memorable event the staff of KKL Italy accompanied Georges Loinger on a visit to the Jewish school in Rome, together with his youngest son, Daniel Loinger, who is himself eighty-five years old. Georges spoke to fifty senior students at the school who were thrilled with this remarkable opportunity to hear him recount his experiences first hand. The youngsters posed a great many questions, to which Georges responded very patiently.

 

                                                                       

Contents

                                   

   

 

‘HMT DUNERA,’ THE SCANDAL AND THE SALVATION                                                    

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg

           Jerusalem Post, Dec. 12, 2015

 

On Hanukka in December 1940, the Australian public was finally told the whole awful story of the HMT Dunera, the British troopship (HMT stands for Hired Military Transport) in which several hundred enemy aliens, mainly German Jewish refugees, had been deported to their country from Great Britain.

 

England in 1940 was in the grip of a great panic over the possibility of an invasion by Nazi Germany, whose troops were just across the English Channel, only 35 km. from Dover. In England, European and German foreigners were all seen by Britain as potential spies and agents provocateurs, who would join with the enemy if and when the Nazis invaded. As a result the British government ordered all adult German subjects to be rounded up and interned, even though the majority were German Jewish refugees who had recently escaped from Nazi Germany and who were implacable enemies of the Nazis.

 

The majority were sent to the Isle of Man, offshore from the mainland to the west of Liverpool, where they could do little harm, but heavy suspicion fell on those men of military age, from 18 to 65, who were seen as highly dangerous. They were sent further afield, all the way to Australia; in its nervous panic Great Britain thought them to be a real threat. It was thought that if they stayed in England they might form a fifth column if and when the Germans invaded. In its panic, the British government had even ordered the removal or obliteration of all direction signs and placenames that might have helped any German invaders.

 

Those deported to Australia had to be kept under surveillance for the journey, and the British navy was able to supply a suitable troopship, the HMS Dunera. It was a secure military vessel and had originally been designed and equipped for 1,600 troops, but now was to be filled with 2,542 refugees, besides the crew and the army warders, so everyone was cramped and hugely uncomfortable. Of the internees, over 70 percent were Jewish refugees who had managed to escape from the Nazis and had come to England via Holland and Belgium well before the outbreak of the war.

 

On board the ship, the internees were all very badly treated by their British army warders, who were under the command of Lieutenant John O’Neill, who did nothing to reduce the brutality of his men. They had all been led to consider the internees to be Nazi spies and, as the army warders searched them, they stole their watches and rings, any loose money, change and notes, as well as other valuables and precious items. They also searched and looted their personal luggage, and threw much of it overboard, to the consternation of the internees who were left with hardly anything except the dirty and skimpy clothes they were standing in.

 

Later, when the internees had been imprisoned in Australia, they were able to normalize their lives to some extent and they published a weekly magazine, which often contained their favorite song, one that they had sung regularly on board the ship, to a tune they had learned from their British warders: “My luggage went into the ocean, My luggage went into the sea, My luggage was thrown in the ocean, Oh, bring back my luggage to me!” When the internees arrived in Australia, the government kept their arrival secret and immediately sent them all off to a prison camp at Hay, a place in New South Wales. It was 750 km. west of Sydney in a treeless and arid grazing area that was both hot, rainless and above all, completely inhospitable. The internees suffered from the horrible climate and the abundance of stinging flies that had suddenly found new bodies to feed on. The internees had little or no opportunity to escape and anyway there was nothing nearby to escape to. Like the British, the Australians also considered the internees to be potential dangerous enemies.

 

They kept them imprisoned under harsh conditions, and at first kept their internment and location a secret from the public, for fear of causing alarm and panic. The internees gradually made a somewhat civilized life for themselves, organized talks, lectures and seminars; many were scholars and professors, and they applied from time to time to be allowed to emigrate to the United States and other more friendly countries. This was not unwelcome to the Australians, who were keen to reduce their numbers, and many internees eventually found their way to countries in South America, countries that were not unwilling to take them. Many who went were in the end able to apply from there for a visa to the US, the “Goldene Medina” that most of them saw as the true land of promise and the one to which they wished to emigrate.

 

The refugees retained unpleasant memories of their original deportation by troopship to Australia, on which they had been scandalously treated by the British army warders – but there was one positive and amazing thing to be thankful for, of which they only became aware much later.

 

The Dunera had been followed by a Nazi submarine, of which the crew were not aware. The U-boat was eager and ready to torpedo what it thought was a warship carrying many British soldiers. But the U-boat crew soon became aware of the considerable amount of debris that had been thrown off the boat by the warders, and picked up some of it to inspect it.

 

When they saw that it contained much in the way of German letters and literature, they concluded that the military boat was not carrying troops to Australia but rather German POWs, and the U-boat commander decided to spare the ship. Thus the boat, the lives of its crew, the warders and the internees were all saved thanks to the harsh and scandalous treatment that had been meted out to the internees by the British army warders.

                                                           

Contents

                                   

   

THE ALEPPO CODEX IN ISRAEL                                                                  

Perry J. Greenbaum

                                 Book Review, Dec. 7, 2015

 

Book Review: The Aleppo Codex, by Matti Friedman (Algonquin Books, 2013)

 

The Aleppo Codex, known as the keter (כֶּתֶר) or crown in Hebrew, is considered by scholars to be as accurate a copy of the Hebrew Bible as there can be, a bound book of approximately 500 pages that dates to the tenth century, and which was safely and securely housed in Aleppo, Syria, for six centuries before being transferred to Israel in late 1957. Tradition and modern scholarship says that Maimonides studied and used the codex in the 12th century to publish the Mishneh Torah (Hebrew: מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה), a code of Jewish religious law. His praise of it forever established its reputation and made it more valuable and venerable.

 

It is housed in the Israel Museum (at the “Shrine of the Book”), in Jerusalem, but access to it is controlled by the Ben-Zvi Institute, founded by Israel’s second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. He is an important figure in this story, as are a few others, including Asher Baghdadi, sexton of the great synagogue at Aleppo; Moshe Tawil, the chief rabbi of Aleppo who decided to send the codex to Israel; Murad Faham, the Aleppo cheese merchant who smuggled the codex to Israel; Shlomo Moussaieff, a jewelry tycoon and buyer of ancient artifacts and manuscripts; and Meir Benayahu, an aide to Ben-Zvi and the institute's first director.

 

Two months after its arrival in Israel, in February 1958, the codex was at the centre of legal proceedings, where the Aleppo Jews sued the government of Israel for the rights of ownership; the court was the Jerusalem Rabbinic Court. Matti Friedman writes: “The hearings were held before three rabbis, instead of judges, but otherwise followed the recognizable formula of a trial” (116). After a long trial, the Aleppo Jews had to concede defeat and there was, in 1962, “an out-of court settlement” (137). The trusteeship agreement, Friedman writes, “gave the community theoretical part ownership of the manuscript, while effectively ensuring that it would remain in the hands of the state and would never leave Ben-Zvi’s institute” (137-8).

 

With this agreement, the Aleppo Jews lost control of a book that they had held for centuries, but did so unwillingly. How and why this book was transferred to Israel has everything to do with events that happened shortly after November 29, 1947, when the United Nations made a historic vote. Friedman explains the story in a succinct paragraph in an article (“The Continuing Mysteries of the Aleppo Codex;” June 30, 2014) for Tablet:

 

    In 1947, in a riot that followed the United Nations vote on the partition of Palestine, the codex disappeared, surfacing 10 years later in mysterious circumstances in the new state of Israel. The codex is currently held in the Israel Museum, in the same building as the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is controlled not by the museum, however, but by a prestigious academic body, the Ben-Zvi Institute, founded by Israel’s second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. Somewhere along the way in the mid-20th century, 200 priceless pages—around 40 percent of the total—went missing. These include the most important pages: the Torah, or Five Books of Moses.

 

These form the heart of the Torah, the Hebrew Bible. What remains of the original codex is what Friedman refers to as a “mutilated codex” (143). It begins with the impending death of Moses found in the Torah’s last book, Deuteronomy, and where Moses, forbidden by G-d to enter the land, gives a farewell address to the People of Israel, which includes both blessings and curses (chapter 28). The mutilated codex does not contain the blessings, but gives warnings of what will happen to the nation of Israel should it deviate from the right path (“derech”) of G-d’s commandments:

 

    It continues with a list of curses:

 

        Cursed shall be the issue of your womb and the produce of your soil, the calving of your herd and the lambing of your flock. Cursed shall be in your comings, and cursed shall you be in your goings.

 

        The Lord will let loose against your calamity, panic and frustration in all the enterprises you undertake, so that you shall soon be utterly wiped out because of your evildoing in forsaking me.

 

One can read into this as much (or as little) as one wishes, but it is hard to deny the power of the words and how these relate to what happened to the codex. That these words are now the first words of the mutilated codex says much, perhaps too much.

 

The Aleppo Codex is part a story of historical preservation and continuity, interwoven with the re-birthing of the state of Israel; it is also a moral lesson of greed and monetary remuneration and how the two can come together when something of great value is placed in front of you. It is also a fine detective story on what might have happened to the 200 missing pages. There are possible answers, evidence pointing in a particular direction (270-71), but nothing proven, nothing conclusive. Powerful and influential political and religious figures have built a wall of silence, thus preventing the facts from leaking out (266-70) .

 

Today, there are two versions of the event (“the missing 200 pages“): the first and official version (posted on the Israel Museum site) is that the 200 pages were burned during the Aleppo riots in 1947 and that the codex was delivered to the Israeli government incomplete; the second version, which the author suggests is the more likely story, is that the book was delivered intact, except for a few pages, and that the missing pages were in fact later sold to a dealer or to many dealers who seek to buy such ancient artifacts and manuscripts. The book is as much about the murky (and sometimes deadly) world of the buying and selling of ancient artifacts as it is about the ethical ideas of why the public ownership of such documents is sacred.

 

Faith and obsession, words that can be used to describe religious feelings, can also be used to describe non-religious feelings, or secular emotion, as well. These are human emotions, human values. To possess something rare, which no one else has, is something that some people not only feel is important and necessary, but is something that they receive some pleasure in doing. Even if in the doing it is not particularly ethical or, broadly speaking, not in the public interest. In such cases, it is not too far-fetched to talk about a breach of public trust.

 

Such thoughts or ideas do not seem to take much prominence—if at all—in the minds and consciousness of such individuals when such decisions are made. The Aleppo Codex contains an inscription, Friedman writes (9), saying:

 

    Blessed be he who preserves it

    and cursed be he who steals it

    and cursed be he who sells it

    and cursed be he who pawns it.

    It might not be sold and it may not be defiled forever,

 

Until recently, this admonition was taken seriously.

 

 

CIJR Wishes all our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

 

On Topic

 

The Oldest Video Footage of Jerusalem You Will Ever See: Israel Video Network, Dec. 12, 2015—This video is a segment of the full 70 minute documentary “Jewish Life in Palestine”, filmed by Noah Sokolovsky of the East Odessa Company in 1913 to be shown at the 11th Zionist Congress.

Amazon Under Fire for Allowing Sale of Nazi Paraphernalia: Rosa Marchitelli, CBC, Dec. 14, 2015 — Nazi flags, Hitler Youth knives, and running shoes with swastikas on them are just some of the items for sale on Amazon's U.S. and Canadian websites that have a long-time customer calling for a boycott of North America's largest online retailer.

AJC Critical of New Vatican Document on Catholic-Jewish Relations: Jewish Press, Dec. 10, 2015 —Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs, was disappointed at the Vatican’s failure to recognize the value of the Land of Israel to the Jews, even as it was attempting to heal very old wounds between the two religions.

Pope Francis, ‘Suffering Fuels Terror’? Look at the Jews: Gheula Canarutto Nemni, Times of Israel, Dec. 2, 2015 —Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs, was disappointed at the Vatican’s failure to recognize the value of the Land of Israel to the Jews, even as it was attempting to heal very old wounds between the two religions.

 

 

 

 

                   

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

HAPPY TU B’AV! REMEMBER OUR HISTORY (ALEPPO CODEX), AVOID DIVISIONS, GRASP OUR FUTURE

 

Being a confident Zionist isn’t merely an expression of a political worldview or Jewish values. It’s an approach to life that can permeate and improve all aspects of our lives, especially our relationships: with our bosses, our family members—and especially our romantic partners.

 

In honor of Tu B’Av on August 3, sometimes called the Jewish Valentine’s Day, but actually the day celebrating the beginning of the grape harvest in Temple times, when the single girls of Jerusalem would dance in the vineyards at Shiloh dressed in white and meet their mates.…

(Orit Arfa: How Being A Confident Zionist Can Help You Find A Mate—see On Topic link)

 

TU B’AV. A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

Larry Domnitch

Israel National News, August 03, 2012 4:51 PM

 

Tu B’Av, the fifteenth day of the month of Av, is a day on the calendar which heralds good tidings.  The Talmudic sage Shimon Ben Gamliel states that “there were not such fortunate days for the Jewish people as much as Yom Kippur and the fifteenth of Av.” (Mishna, Taanit 4:8) Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is a day of hopeful anticipation that favorable judgment will be granted by the Almighty. Tu B’Av, which falls six days after the fast mourning the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, Tisha B’Av, signifies the theme of restoration.

 

One such event suggestive of this theme occurred during the Israelite Kingdom in Biblical times on Tu B’Av. During the reign of an ancient king of Israel, the people were offered the opportunity to reconnect with their spiritual base and the heart of the Jewish people—Jerusalem.

 

The political ambitions of Yeravam Ben Nevat who reigned over the kingdom of Israel 928-908 BCE, caused a destructive split of the ten-tribe Israelite kingdom from Judea. When Yeravam Ben Nevat participated in a failed revolt against King Solomon, he fled to Egypt and then returned upon hearing of the King’s death.

 

Solomon’s son, and heir to the throne, Rechavam, levied high taxes to support the nation’s many building projects. High taxation, whether in ancient or modern times, will most often leave a political leader with a popularity problem. The ambitious Yeravam seized upon the chance for power.

 

He approached the young king, and addressed the peoples’ grievances; “Your father made our yoke hard. Now lighten your father’s hard work and his heavy yoke which he placed upon us, and we shall serve you.” Rechavam sought out his father’s advisors, who advised that he respond in a conciliatory and respectful manner in order to win the people’s loyalty.  Rechavam unwisely disregarded their council and chose to listen to his own younger advisors who recommended that he respond with callousness and assert his authority.

 

 He harshly told the people, “I shall add to your yoke, my father flogged you with whips and I will flog you with scorpions.” As a result, the ten tribes of Northern Israel seceded from the House of David. The nation was now divided between Judea in the south and the Israelite kingdom of the ten tribes to the north.

 

As king of the newly separated kingdom of Israel, Yeravam’s true motives became clear. Well aware that the thrice annual pilgrimage to the capital city of Jerusalem located within the kingdom of Judea would sustain the people’s ties to the Judean capital of-Jerusalem, he prohibited those pilgrimages. He set up two altars; one in the city of Dan and the other in Beit El, resembling the golden calves fashioned by the Israelites at Mount Sinai. These altars would be used for idolatrous practices as those resembling the heathen practices of the Gentiles around them.

 

Along with establishing Temples in the Northern kingdom, he sought to sever the people’s ties to Jerusalem. Well aware of the people’s continued devotion to the Holy City, Yeravam closed off those roads leading to Jerusalem, and stationed guards to prevent passage.

 

For generations to come, the people of the Israelite Kingdom traveled to Dan and Beit El where they immersed themselves in the ways of the heathen. When the king of Israel Hoshea Ben Elah, (732-722 BCE) ascended the throne, he broke ranks with his predecessors and removed the guards posted on the roads, opening Jerusalem to pilgrims from the Northern kingdom. The day this was officially done was Tu B’Av.

 

That gesture had great significance. It could have sparked a national revival; a reconnection of the people to their eternal capital. It could have led to a reunion of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

 

However, it turned out to be a lost opportunity. The king offered the people the option to go to Jerusalem, but did not mandate its requirement. After generations of journeys to the Temples in the North, the people were immersed in their idolatrous ways and distanced from the spirituality of Jerusalem. The opportunity that had availed itself on that Tu B’Av did not come to fruition.

 

Hoshea would be the last king of Israel. His rule. which was subject to several invasions. would be dealt its final blow by the Assyrian, who would disperse the ten tribes, who were then lost to the Jewish people.

 

THE FUTURE OF YOUNG ISRAELIS
Manfred Gerstenfeld

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Aug. 2, 2012

 

When Israelis say, “I worry about my grandchildren’s future,” this has a radically different dimension than similar concerns expressed in many other countries. Europeans’ current anxiety about the future derives mainly from darkening social and economic prospects. A number of Europeans are also apprehensive about climate change. For Israelis, physical survival is a prime matter, often over and above their many other concerns.

 

Israeli society faces mortal risks from parts of the Muslim world, where extreme anti-Semitic hate mongering is massive. Israel is threatened with a second Holocaust, for which the ideological basis is being laid today. The Islamic world has substantial components…which promote the genocide of Israel and Jews.…

 

Current Palestinian society is permeated with sympathy for the most criminal major Muslim movement, Al Qaeda. People who see a “peace agreement” as an interim stage toward the annihilation of Israel, are unreliable partners to make concessions to. In view of future unforeseeable radical changes in the Middle East, true peace is however not totally impossible in this century.…

 

Of the Israeli generations growing up, many will serve in the army and part of them will risk their lives. Once one’s life is at stake, everything else becomes secondary. The very different past experiences of Israel and other societies indicate that Israelis live in a reality and have worldviews which differ from those of other societies.

 

Having served in the army means that one cannot live a life as fully dominated by individualism as is possible in Europe. One can understand that for instance, from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s words which he said on 2012 National Memorial Day, “When you hear the siren tonight, we will turn into one family and the citizens of Israel will be united in our remembrance.”…

 

In Israel, due to the ups and downs of the economy and the political situation, few people outside government services assume that their employment is life-long. Percentage-wise, this has helped to cultivate many more people in Israel with well-developed flexible minds and attitudes to deal with unexpected situations.…

 

Many Israeli youngsters realize—contrary to many Westerners—that they owe much to society and that what Israeli society owes to them has its limits. At the same time, Israel’s unity is threatened in very different ways by major segments of two growing parts of the population: Israeli Arabs and the Ultra-Orthodox as well by much smaller but far more vociferous groups of extreme leftists.…

 

The threat of seeing one’s country destroyed is far from theoretical in Israel. In this type of reality, what should one advise Israeli youngsters who grow up in present-day society with vulnerabilities of a very different nature than European ones? Firstly, to continue informal learning during one’s whole active life. One should invest in one’s brain as much as possible. That will be the main portable source of one’s knowledge in crisis situations.

 

Israelis should learn as many skills as possible – preferably those which can also be used abroad. Furthermore, it is necessary to learn to speak proper English, which will remain the lingua franca of this century. Spending a few years abroad in one’s youth can be extremely useful for one’s future, wherever that may be. In an uncertain Israeli environment, the important skill of improvisation will be frequently required.…

 

Murphy’s Law is not necessarily valid. Not everything which can go wrong will go wrong. If Israel continues to flourish in the remarkable way it has done so far, the same skills will come in very handy in finding a place in Israeli society.

 

In Israel as elsewhere, there will be a small number of people who are extraordinarily talented. If they have reasonable emotional intelligence, their future in increasingly complex societies will offer them unprecedented opportunities. The overall complexity of future day-to-day life and technological advances will lead to the exclusion of many more people from the mainstream in advanced countries than is the case today.

 

To cope with this complexity, one will need knowledge of far more than basic numeracy and literacy. The extremely talented and flexible few have many more chances in opaque environments than in transparent ones. They will be able to find interesting openings in Western societies no matter what may happen. The same will be true in Israel as well.

 

(Manfred Gerstenfeld is a member of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,
of which he has been Chairman for twelve years.
)

 

THE MYSTERIOUS FATE OF MAIMONIDES’ BIBLE

Matt Nesvisky

Jerusalem Report July 10/2012

 

Three cheers for Matti Friedman, a Jerusalem-based journalist who honed his reporting chops at the Associated Press, The Jerusalem Report and elsewhere, and who in his first book got his teeth into a terrific story and investigated and reported it as thoroughly as possible.…

 

This is all the more remarkable considering how hard the facts were to come by—and in view of how many sources were either circumspect, stingy, deceptive or otherwise unreliable when it came to revealing the truth. So let’s begin with what is known.

 

The so-called Aleppo Codex is nothing less than the oldest extant copy of the Jewish Bible. Created by rabbinical scholars in Tiberias around 930 C.E., the codex (which simply means a book, as opposed to a scroll) consisted of some 500 bound parchment leaves with three columns of handwritten Hebrew text on each side. The pages contained the Torah, the Writings and the Prophets, as well as important marginalia.…Some years after its creation, the codex was purchased by a wealthy Karaite and transferred from Tiberias to Jerusalem.

 

Shortly thereafter, in 1099, the Crusaders sacked Jerusalem. Subsequently, hundreds of sacred Jewish manuscripts, including the codex, were ransomed from the new masters of Jerusalem and conveyed to the prominent Jewish community of Fustat, just outside of Cairo. The most notable member of that community, none other than Maimonides, used the Tiberias text as the basis of his great legal code, the Mishna Torah.

 

Maimonides died in 1204, and during a period of turmoil in Cairo in the 14th century, his library was transferred to what was then considered one of the greatest centers of Jewish scholarship, Aleppo, Syria. (Maimonides had even dedicated his famous Guide to the Perplexed to his star pupil, Joseph ben Judah, a notable resident of Aleppo.) The Jews of Aleppo soon began referring to what we know as the Aleppo Codex as the “Crown” of its manuscript collection. It was locked away in an iron safe in a grotto of the community’s central synagogue and rarely brought to light.

 

There the Aleppo Codex remained until the riot in the city that followed the UN vote for partition of Palestine in November 1947. The synagogue and much of its contents were put to the torch. And this is where contemporary history becomes much murkier than ancient history. The venerable Aleppo Jewish community eventually fled from a now-hostile Syria and scattered—to the new Jewish state, to Latin America, to New York City, and elsewhere.

 

Somewhere along the line some Aleppo rabbis took it upon themselves to see that the revered codex, which had been zealously maintained in the central synagogue for centuries, should be spirited out of the country. The codex was duly smuggled to Turkey by a Jewish merchant, transferred to a Jewish Agency agent there, and eventually delivered to Jerusalem’s Ben-Zvi Institute, a scholarly academy headed by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who would become Israel’s second president.

 

Lengthy litigation before a Jerusalem rabbinical court then ensued over who should have custodianship of the codex—the State of Israel or the Aleppo Jews now in Israel. After four years an out-of-court compromise was worked out on that issue—but a much more contentious issue remained—the startling fact that fully 40 percent, or some 200 pages, of the priceless Aleppo Bible, including virtually all of the Five Books of Moses, were missing.

 

It is this mystery that forms the focus of Matti Friedman’s four-year investigation.…Friedman does an exemplary job of hacking his way through the various thickets that surround the Aleppo Codex.… He doggedly pursues and interviews just about everybody still alive who is connected in some manner to the codex, and he makes his own discoveries and astute observations in dusty libraries and record offices. As a good journalist, he is cautious about drawing conclusions or expressing opinions, but when he does, he makes sure he is on a firm foundation.

 

Which is not to say Friedman is a mere gatherer of facts for a good story. Consider the feeling revealed in his concluding paragraphs: “The Hebrew Bible, of which our codex was the most perfect copy, the one used by Maimonides himself, was meant to serve humans as a moral compass. Its story is a tragedy of human weakness. The book was the result of generations of scholarship in Tiberias, of the attempt to arrive at a perfect edition of the divine word. It was a singular accomplishment and a testimony to the faith of the men who created it. It was desecrated…

 

“We might file this tale between Cain and Abel and the golden calf, parables about the many ways we fail: A volume that survived one thousand years of turbulent history was betrayed in our times by the people charged with guarding it. It fell victim to the instincts it was created to temper and was devoured by the creatures it was meant to save.”