Archive for the ‘Research’ category

Book on Einstein and Zionism

June 10, 2009

The Jewish Week reviews Fred Jerome’s Einstein on Israel and Zionism: His Provocative Ideas about the Middle East (St. Martin’s Press). Jerome’s thesis is that the portrayal of Einstein as an ardent Zionist is a myth and that in fact he was extremely critical of the State of Israel in its early days.

In Einstein’s speeches and letters collected in About Zionism (p.25), he explains his views on Zionism:

I am a national Jew in the sense that I demand the preservation of the Jewish nationality as every other. I look upon Jewish nationality as a fact, and I think that every Jew ought to come to definite conclusions on Jewish questions on the basis of this fact. I regard the growth of Jewish self-assertion as being in the interests of non-Jews as well as Jews. That was the main motive of my joining the Zionist movement. For me Zionism is not merely a question of colonisation. The Jewish nation is a living thing, and the sentiment of Jewish must be developed both in Palestine and everywhere else. To deny the Jews’ nationality in the Diaspora is, indeed, deplorable. If one adopts the point of view of confining Jewish ethnic nationalism to Palestine, then to all intents and purposes one denies the existence of a Jewish people. In that case one should have the courage to carry through assimilation as quickly and as completely as possible.

This passage clearly indicates that Einstein saw himself as a Zionist. He may not have fit into the classic mold; he may have believed in the continuation of Diaspora Jewry; he may have thought that the Jewish nation was more critical than a Jewish homeland; but bottom-line, he considered himself a Zionist.

Newly Discovered Antiquities

May 20, 2009

Two announcements of archaeological discoveries were made yesterday. The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a seal bearing the name Shaul.

Seal of Shaul

Seal of Shaul

The seal dates to the eighth century BCE (the First Temple period). According to the IAA press release:

The name of the seal’s owner was completely preserved and it is written in the shortened form of the name שאול (Shaul). The name is known from both the Bible (Genesis 36:37; 1 Samuel 9:2; 1 Chronicles 4:24 and 6:9) and from other Hebrew seals.

More details about the seal are on the COJS website and on Jim West’s blog.

The second archaeological discovery is a jug handle with the name Menachem or Nachum inscribed on it. The dating of the jug is uncertain as well. Scholars speculate that the jug handle originates from as early as the Canaanite period up until the First Temple period. It was discovered inRas al-Amud, a Jerusalem neighborhood.

Jug Handle

Jug Handle

Scholarly comments on this discovery are at Jim West’s blog.

Documenting Israel’s History

May 19, 2009

The NY Times reports on a project called Toldot Yisrael, whose mission is to film eyewitness accounts of the establishment of the State of Israel. The goal is to interview as many people as possible who lived through the days leading up to Israel’s independence. So far over 80 interviews have been conducted. Plans are underway to post clips from some of the videos online. The inspiration for the project comes from Steven Spielberg’s interviews of Holocaust survivors.

Oral histories are quite different from written histories and eyewitness accounts have a different perspective than researched works. These interviews can’t provide an objective history of the period, but, once made available to the public, will provide an important window into the history of twentieth century Israel.

The Story of the Dead Sea Scrolls

May 3, 2009

Geza Vermes tells his story and the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls in an article in Standpoint. He describes at length the slow and inefficient process of editing the scrolls and touches briefly on their significance to Judaism and Christianity. He also mentions the debate surrounding the identity of the sect which wrote some of the scrolls and compiled the rest.

Vermes has included a lot of information about his personal experiences in the field of Dead Sea Scrolls. For instance:

My book, Les Manuscrits du Désert de Juda (The Manuscripts of the Judaean Desert), published at the end of 1953, was warmly acclaimed in the French press. I was floating in the clouds, but was soon catapulted down to earth by Father de Vaux, the top man in the field. On receiving the copy of the book I sent him and reading in the foreword my thanks to the school and himself, he bitterly reproached me for publishing “friendly” information that was not for release. He even added that simply by mentioning my visit to the school, I gave undue authority to my statements, some of which were inexact. Totally shattered, I asked him to point out my errors as the second edition of the book was shortly due to appear, but he declined to do so as it would have taken up too much of his time. This reaction of de Vaux gave a foretaste of things to come during his dictatorial tenure as chief editor of the Scrolls. Nothing was ethical or correct unless it bore his seal of approval.

Aftermath of the Holocaust

April 26, 2009

Faith and Fate has posted a video clip from its movie, “The Miracle of Israel.” The clip is not easy to watch as it includes footage of the liberation of  Auschwitz, but it is an extremely important film. It shows Eisenhower visiting the camp and describes how he invited photographers and journalists to document the horrors in order to prevent Holocaust denial. It also includes interviews with American soldiers who took part in the liberation and shows footage from the Nuremberg trials. Worth watching and sharing the link.

One State, Two States: A Review

April 26, 2009

The Jerusalem Post reviews Benny Morris’ new book about the history of the bi-national movement. His main thesis is that although the concept of two states in the Land of Israel has been endorsed by many Israelis and the international community, the Arabs have consistently objected to this solution. That was certainly true in 1948 when the Jews accepted the partition plan and the Arabs immediately attacked them. Morris quotes the leadership of the PLO, Fatah and Hamas to show that the Arabs are still unwilling to settle for a two-state solution. Morris proposes a solution of his own; the reader can judge for him/herself whether it is any better than any of the solutions currently on the table.

Controversy over Hassidic Rabbis’ Behavior During the Holocaust

April 20, 2009

A number of Hassidic rabbis escaped from Europe during the Holocaust via escape routes organized by the Zionists. Yitzhak Hershkowitz has written a doctoral thesis which tells the story of these rabbis and the reaction of European Jewry to their escape. At the time there were other rabbis who felt that those who had escaped – including the Satmer and Belz rabbis –  had abandoned their flock in its time of need in order to save their own skins. This claim is still made today and emphasizes the irony of the use of Zionist escape channels by rabbis who were ardent anti-Zionists. Others defend the actions of the rabbis, claiming that by the time the rabbis left most of their Hassidim had been murdered and that it was important for the morale of the Hassidim that they knew their rebbe had been saved.

Hershkowitz says this was not a political issue between religious and non-religious but rather an ethical and halakhic argument within the religious Jewish community which touched on the controversy surrounding Zionist ideology.