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August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Return’

Rylands Haggadah: Medieval Jewish Art in Context

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org)
Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, New York; (212) 535-7710
Suggested Admission; Adults $25, Seniors $17, Students $12, Children under 12 Free.
Until September 30, 2012

The Rylands Haggadah, created in Catalonia Spain sometime around 1330, is a towering masterpiece of Jewish Art. In addition to pages of piyutim surrounded by ornate decorative and figurative micrography, richly decorated Haggadah text and blessings, there is a 13 page miniature cycle depicting the Exodus story from Moses at the Burning Bush to the Crossing of the Red Sea. This breathtaking work of art has not gone unnoticed. A full-scale facsimile of the Haggadah with a scholarly introduction and translation was published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. in 1988, aspects of which were reviewed on this page in March 2001. More recently the Rylands Haggadah was extensively compared to its “Brother” British Library Haggadah in Marc Michael Epstein’s “The Medieval Haggadah (2011)” as well as Katrin Kogman-Appel’s briefer investigation in “Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain (2006).” Evidently one can even buy it as an iBook from iTunes. But most significantly for us, this diminutive gem is currently here in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until September 30 as part of a series of loans of Hebrew manuscripts funded by the David Berg Foundation. It is not to be missed.

The Met’s presentation under the supervision of curators Barbara Boehm and Melanie Holcomb has made every effort to present the miniature narrative cycle to its full advantage; “turning the page” every 4 weeks for the duration of the show. It is extremely unusual to actually show so many pages of a rare manuscript, especially since the Rylands Haggadah is very rarely shown even at home and was specially restored for this loan. Of course inherent to the exhibition of a bound manuscript is the fact that all of the images can never be physically seen at one time. While this could have been rectified by a digital and/or printed display, the Met chose to place this manuscript in the somewhat constricted space of the Medieval galleries in the effort to show “Medieval Jewish Art in Context,” here within the Christian Middle Ages. Additionally all the exhibited pages are beautifully reproduced on the Met website. The Met has programmed lectures and gallery talks to elucidate the complexities of the Rylands, the most notable of which was Marc Michael Epstein’s lecture on April 11, 2012, now available online (www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaoAOA5jQm0).

As of July 31st the miniature pages of the Plague of Locusts and Plague of Darkness will be facing the Death of the First Born and the Sack of Egyptian Treasures. Epstein comments that the Rylands Haggadah seems to express a somewhat “more literal attention to the text of scripture,” especially in relation to its model, the “Brother” British Library Haggadah. Overall the Rylands is more bloodthirsty toward the Egyptians with “more frogs, lice, wild beasts, and boils, more hideous grimacing on the part of the afflicted Egyptians; more suffering…” than its “Brother.” In the Plague of Locusts no less than 13 giant locusts swarm around Pharaoh and his advisors, one of whom grimaces in terror. Moses and Aaron are seen on the left side of the illumination calmly pointing to the destruction in the human realm (i.e. Pharaoh and his court) and how in the agricultural realm next to Aaron, i.e. Goshen, the vegetation was unaffected. So too in the panel directly below, the Plague of Darknesscompletely obscures the hapless wide-eyed Egyptians while the Israelites smile and point at their misfortune, basking in the bright light, even under a starlit sky.

Death of the First Born, (ca.1330) Tempera, gold, ink on parchment: Rylands Haggadah
Courtesy The John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester, England

On the opposite page the terrible Death of the First Born is depicted in uncompromising brutality. In the middle six panels, dead Egyptians, each mourned by two women, along with dead animals and a chained prisoner, are framed by Pharaoh on the right and Moses and Aaron on the left. Pharaoh seems to point accusingly at the death of innocents along with convicted prisoners whereas Moses and Aaron respond by pointing directly to him (and his hard heart) as the cause of so much agony. Interestingly Epstein comments that the wretched state of the dead prisoner forces us to notice that while the Egyptians (stand-ins for contemporary medieval Christians) were wicked, nonetheless they, “were to be depicted in a properly gracious and graceful manner,” much in the same tone and style as the oppressed and downtrodden Jews. It would seem that neither side was demonized.

On Academia, Politics and Survival in the Middle East

Friday, July 20th, 2012

I will begin with a disclosure: I am the head of The Israeli Academic Monitor, an organization whose goal is to expose publicly the political activities of those Israeli academics who engage in activities against the state of Israel and against its ability to stand up to the political and security pressures that it faces. These academicians call on institutions and individuals to boycott Israel, to impose sanctions upon it and to withdraw investments from it, while camouflaging and disguising these activities as if they are done in “the academic spirit.” It must be noted that there are, among Israeli academicians, some “righteous” people who call on states and academic institutions of the world to boycott Israeli academic institutions and to impose punishments on those same institutions in which they themselves are employed, and from where they receive their salaries, the source of which is the government of Israel. We, members of The Israeli Academic Monitor, out of concern for Israeli academia in particular and for the state of Israel in general, act within the boundaries of freedom of speech and expression, and publish widely the despicable deeds of these Israeli academicians.

Today I dedicate my article to a matter that has been with us for years, which is the status of the academic institution that was established 30 years ago in the city of Ariel, in Samaria; whether to have it remain as a college or “University Center” (a concept which is not clear to me), or perhaps to raise it to the level of a university. Those who are faithful to the land of Israel support promoting it to become a university, while those who object to Israeli rule in Judea and Samaria – they call it “occupation” – oppose it. Each side of the argument brings economic, budgetary and academic justifications to support its view, but it is clear that the basis for one’s position is primarily political, and that this position dictates which of the justifications are emphasized.

The fact that there is a political argument engenders the perception among the Israeli public that all of the other seven universities are “not political,” and only the institution in Ariel is “political” because it is “in the territories” and therefore its establishment in Ariel has a “political” meaning. My claim is that all of the universities in Israel are political, and moreover, all of the colleges, schools, yeshivas, hospitals, prisons, factories, places of residence, roads, trees – everything that we have established, built, and planted in Israel – everything, but everything, is political. The whole Zionist enterprise is a political project because it is the political and nationalistic manifestation of the desire of the Jewish people to return to its land and to renew within it its national life, its independence and its sovereignty. Everything that we have done here since the students of the Gaon of Vilna arrived in Israel two hundred years ago until today, everything is aimed at renewing our political life as of old, indeed, the whole Zionist enterprise – including universities – has a political, as well as national connotation, and there are also those who see a religious component in this matter, connected in some way to the final redemption.

Jews the world over have joined this great political enterprise of the Jewish people, whether with their bodies or with their wealth. Those who joined bodily came, fought, built, paved, planted, seeded, reaped, learned, taught and did research, all in order to establish the political enterprise of the Jewish people – the State of Israel. Those who joined with their wealth remained in the Diaspora and donated their money to the establishment of schools, hospitals, yeshivas for men, yeshivas for women, colleges and universities, all in order to take part in the political, national and collective endeavor of the people of Israel.

The cornerstone of the first academic institution in Israel was laid exactly 100 years ago. This was the Technion in Haifa. Dr. Paul Natan, was behind the idea to establish “the Technikum” (the original name), enlisted the aid of David Wissotzky (the Tea producer) to donate the required funds, and they established the institution specifically in Israel, and not in the Diaspora, for the same nationalistic and political reason that influenced others to establish other institutions in Israel. Their motivation was to promote the “return to Zion” and the fact that the government of the land was then in the hands of the Muslim Ottoman Empire didn’t bother them. When they founded the first academic institution, their connection was to the Land, not the state, and to establish the life of the people in its land was their top priority.

The Gordis Not

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Daniel Gordis said “no” to the Levy Report in signing on to the far-left “Open Letter” (and the full text is below) released this week which has been fisked a bit here. At Haaretz, rather than his usual Jerusalem Post base, he defends his co-joining the left-of-center American Jews who decided to become very publicly upset at the publication of the Levy Report on Israel’s rights in, and to, Judea and Samaria.  He published this piece, Choose hope: Don’t adopt the Levy report.

In short, he thinks that:

To state publicly that what we have in Judea and Samaria is not an occupation might be a legally justifiable claim. But it would also signal that it is time to give up even thinking about how a different reality in the Middle East might be achieved. That, we must not do.

Might be?  And why is that “different reality” abhorrent enough for Gordis to join the left-of-center crowd, lend them his name, and that of the Shalem Center?  Is the issue that important for him to decide to run with this group of Israeli critics?

Well, we need to review his thinking and so here are some extracts from his defense:

The letter did not argue that Justice Levy’s legal argument was legally incorrect; it also took no stand on settlement issue writ large…The letter simply asserts that if the Prime Minister adopts the Levy Commission report, he will do Israel serious damage.

And how much damage does the letter cause, and I am not arguing that Gordis, et al., do not have the legal right to publish their thinking, but need it have been such a public shaming?  Here’s how AP had it in an analysis:

Jewish settlements are at the heart of a 3-year-old deadlock in Mideast peace efforts.

Is that the portrayal that Gordis is comfortable with?  He cannot offset that?  The “heart”?  Not the 90-year old Arab total rejection of Jewish nationalism and a Jewish presence anywhere inEretz-Yisrael?

The letter caused no damage or is it only the damage Netanyahu could possibly cause that is a problem?

He then outlines the damage to Pals. are doing to themselves:

Sadly, Israel has no partner with which to make peace. Today’s Palestinian leadership insists on the refugees’ right of return, something Israel cannot permit if it is to remain a Jewish State. The Palestinians have also rejected Netanyahu’s demand that they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, something that Israel must insist on if precluding the refugees’ return is to be defensible. Neither of those will change anytime soon.

He skips over a bit of terror, some incitement, the corrupt regime that is the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis its own people and other aspects of a horrific reality but that is ignored.  Given, though, those two problematic demands, what is Israel to do?

…A wise Israeli leadership would do everything in its power to communicate to the world that beyond those two existential issues [Israel as a Jewish state and the no return of refugees - YM], which are not negotiable, Israel will discuss virtually anything. There are matters on which Israel will compromise, and others on which it will not…

What “anything” is “virtual”? What issues can be compromised?

Jerusalem?

True Arab democracy?

Demilitarization?

IDF presence, long- or short-term on the Jordan River?

Educational curriculum change?

What about Rabin’s formula?  From his October 5,1995 Knesset speech, where he summarized his

…vision of the permanent solution. It will include united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, the country’s security border will be on the River Jordan, there will be no return to the 4 June 1967 lines and new blocs of settlements will be built in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. He spoke of the coming elections to the Palestinian Council, the IDF’s re-deployment and the creation of three zones in the territories.

Or that isn’t left or liberal enough for Gordis’ fellow-signers?

Israel should not establish itself on principles of law?

…While the Levy Commission insisted that its findings were legal and not political, that distinction would be utterly lost on the international community.

Really?  And here we all thought that the most incriminating charge against Israel’s presence beyond the Green Line, what justifies the BDS movement, was the illegality of it all.  That charge the world does understand but Israel proving that its presence in not illegal is incomprehensible?  “Illegality” subverts Israel’s legitimacy but to disprove that is somehow no good?

Clinton Meets Morsi, Urges Egyptian Control over Hamas

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met President Mohamed Morsi on Saturday, marking the latter’s highest level meeting to date with a U.S. government official.

Clinton restated Washington’s support for Egypt, which has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy since 1978. She said the U.S. favors democratic rule in Egypt and urged the return of Egypt’s military to its defense role

Al Ahram on Saturday quoted an anonymous U.S. official who said that, in addition to stable relations with Israel, “the U.S. is expecting Egypt to use the good ties that link the Muslim Brotherhood with the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip to curtail any plans that Hamas might have towards escalation with Israel.”

The U.S. is also expecting President Morsi’s Egypt to remain committed to its traditional policy of limited engagement with Iran, according to Al Ahram.

Also on the list of U.S. expectations is a clear cut commitment from the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president on ensuring respect for the rights of women, Copts, and other minorities in Egypt.

On Sunday Clinton will meet with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the council of generals supervising the transition from the old regime.

“The United States supports the full transition to civilian rule with all that entails,” Clinton said at a news conference after her meeting with Morsi. “But there is more work ahead. And I think the issues around the parliament, the constitution, have to be resolved between and among Egyptians. I will look forward to discussing these issues tomorrow with Field Marshall Tantawi and in working to support the military’s return to a purely national security role.”

Return to Sender: Knesset Speaker Rivlin’s New Years Greeting ‘Biased,’ ‘Political’

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Tahar Al-Massri, Jordan’s Speaker of Parliament, returned a New Year’s greeting from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Sunday, claiming that it is “biased and political,” and racist for calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Rivlin had sent a letter to parliamentary speakers around the globe honoring the 2012 New Year. The letter began with Rivlin stating that he was writing from “the Holy City of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

Remembering Hanan Porat

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

In May 1967 Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook spoke to his former Mercaz HaRav students at their annual Independence Day reunion in Jerusalem. Usually a festive day of celebration, this year was different. Rabbi Kook sorrowfully recalled his feeling of despair nineteen years earlier, when the State of Israel was born: “I was torn to pieces. I could not celebrate.” Suddenly he cried out: “They have divided my land. Where is our Hebron? Have we forgotten it? And where is our Shechem? And our Jericho – will we forget them?”

Rabbi Kook’s outburst, his former student Hanan Porat remembered, “echoed in us, as if the spirit of prophecy had descended upon him.” Three weeks later, during the Six-Day War, that prophecy was fulfilled. Porat fought in the Paratroopers Brigade that swept across the Temple Mount, reclaimed the Western Wall for the Jewish people, and liberated the Old City of Jerusalem. As biblical Judea and Samaria fell to the Israel Defense Forces, the State of Israel and the Land of Israel had finally converged.

For Porat, the stunning Israeli victory offered the opportunity for return, restoration and redemption. Until 1948 he had lived with his family in Kfar Etzion, the Orthodox kibbutz a few miles south of Jerusalem. He was among the dozens of children who were evacuated not long before the Arab Legion annihilated their community on the eve of Israel’s proclamation of independence.

Defended to the tragic end, with more than 150 fighters killed in battle and slaughtered after surrendering, Kfar Etzion became an enduring symbol of heroic Zionist resistance. For nineteen years young Porat was among the Gush Etzion survivors who nurtured memories of the tragic disruption and destruction they had endured. “We felt that we’d been torn away,” he remembered. “They cut our roots brutally.”

Every year, on Israel’s annual Day of Remembrance, they gathered in Ramat Rachel at the southern edge of Jerusalem to gaze longingly at the “Lone Tree” in the distance that marked the site of their destroyed community. “Almost all the children became orphans,” Porat would recall sadly, but they were determined to “return and rebuild.”

With Israel triumphant in the Six-Day War, Porat knew the time had come “to return home.” He persistently lobbied government ministers to restore his lost boyhood community. News of his efforts reached Moshe Levinger, another Mercaz HaRav graduate, who was the rabbi at an Orthodox moshav near Petach Tikva. After meeting in Jerusalem they enlarged their group to include Elyakim Haetzni, a brilliant maverick lawyer who had arrived in Palestine from Germany in 1938. Like Rabbi Kook, he had declined to celebrate independence because “we gained a state but lost the Land of Israel.”

The three men planned their strategy for the return of Jews to Gush Etzion and nearby Hebron (“part of our genetic code,” Haetzni insisted), whose Jewish community had been destroyed during the Arab rioting in 1929. But neither Prime Minister Eshkol nor Defense Minister Dayan, who hoped to exchange land for peace with their Arab enemies, would meet with them.

Porat was not deterred. Just before Rosh Hashanah a convoy of cars, led by an armored bus from the 1948 exodus, returned to Gush Etzion. He viewed the restored community as only “the spearhead of the struggle for the Greater Land Of Israel.”

The following spring Porat joined dozens of Israelis to celebrate Passover at the Park Hotel in Hebron, rented for the week by Rabbi Levinger. Marking the birth of the restored Jewish community of Hebron, it was an extraordinary gathering of the future leaders of the Jewish settlement movement. Five years later Hanan Porat’s restored home in Gush Etzion became the launching pad for the return of Jews to biblical Samaria.

After the disastrous Yom Kippur War caught Israel unprepared, shattering illusions of its invulnerability, Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”) emerged to revitalize Zionism. Its founding convention was held in Gush Etzion. Porat wrote its manifesto, stressing “the sacred duty of every Jew to inhabit and repossess every portion of the ancestral inheritance.”

Sharply critical of the yearning for normalization that had come to characterize mainstream secular Zionism, it called for “a great awakening of the Jewish people towards full implementation of the Zionist vision.” Committed to “restoring the pioneering and sacrificial spirit of the past,” it asserted that “there is no Zionism without Judaism, and no Judaism without Zionism.”

Return to Dachau: A Unique Gathering (Part II)

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
The last living link to the Holocaust is quite a responsibility.”  
Remarkably, a number of sensitive young Germans and a few others from beyond Germany’s borders have taken on the responsibility and the challenge.
An outstanding example is Eva Gruberova from Slovakia.  Eva has devoted her professional life to researching and documenting the Shoa, so that mankind, learning of its unprecedented horrors, will not allow them to recur. Together with her husband, Helmut Zeller, whom she met at the Süddeutsche Zeitung (South-German Newspaper) where they both work as journalists, she explores the history of the Third Reich and its persecution of the Jews. “One of our first dates was the exhibit in Munich that dealt with crimes of the Wehrmacht in World War II,” she recalls. “We are bound to each other not only by deep love and friendship, but by our mutual interest in the Holocaust.”
Eva was born and raised in Kosice, Czechoslovakia, where she completed her studies, earning her first degree in philosophy. Receiving a stipend to continue her studies at a German university she enrolled at the Institute of Higher Studies in Frankfurt an Main for political science and ethics and later at the Institute for Philosophy in Munich.
            And it was here that she got in contact with the Süddeutsche Zeitung and her childhood dream of becoming a journalist reawakened. She made a dramatic shift, terminated her studies and plunged into writing for various newspapers.
“I still remember my first article I wrote from Germany for a Czech newspaper. It was a review of Daniel Goldhagen’s provocative book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which claims that the Nazis were but ordinary, middle-class Germans who willingly cooperated in killing Jews.”  She seemed to agree with the thesis which then prompted her to search for signs of German recognition of collective guilt.
            “That’s the reason I came to Germany: I was curious, how do the Germans cope with this history, do they feel shame? I must admit I hated the Germans then. For me every German was a Nazi. Today, however, I believe the Germans have made in the last 20 years great strides in educating about their past. As a journalist I often accompany German pupils to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site, and this 4th generation is so open and interested that I, despite the sad contents, enjoy the tour,” Eva Gruberova confesses, and adds that she wishes that in other countries, especially in her home, Slovakia, there would be such openness and interest.
“About five years ago,” she continues, “I started to research and write a book about the ‘forgotten Jews,’ of Eastern Europe. I have visited an old age home in Bratislava where the residents are Holocaust survivors. There are women there who went with the very first transport in March 1942 to Auschwitz-Birkenau Many of them have never spoken of their experiences and they were very surprised with my interest. Some are even today afraid to admit that they are Jews. This disturbed me very deeply.”

            In Dachau Eva Gruberova had come across the picture of the seven young mothers with their babies born in the concentration camp. She could not believe her eyes. Her astonishment motivated her passionate search for sources and the discovery of the incredible story resulted in the deeply moving film, “Geboren im KZ” (Born in the CC) co-produced by Eva Gruberova and a colleague, Martina Gawaz, and the magnificent reunion of the “babies” from the world over, organized by her and team-mates at the Dachau Memorial site.

           I left Dachau with a sense of liberation. Here I met the new Germans, heard their voices, looked into their eyes and sensed genuine concern. Here a Holocaust cannot happen again.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/impact-women-history/return-to-dachau-a-unique-gathering-part-ii-2/2010/07/21/

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