‘A Naked King Lear’

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(Liana Finck/Tablet Magazine)

Liana Finck’s graphic exploration of a nudist’s Purim quandary—what could he possibly dress up as?—was published last Friday, before the holiday, but remains charming. Today in Tablet Magazine, Liana would like to hear from you on the following subject: Have we reached the end of reading as we know it? What’s different for you about reading on a screen? Leave your response in the comments, or email her at

Emperor’s New Costume

Hamas Launches Barrage, and Signs Its Name

Out of the blue attack likely meant to provoke, distract

An Israeli man (and dog) Saturday morning in the Klsufim kibbutz.(David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)

In violation of a two-year ceasefire that had mostly been enforced, Hamas launched (and took credit for) dozens of mortars from Gaza into southern Israel Saturday morning, injuring two civilians. Another rocket from Gaza—this one not like the mortars fired Saturday, and not yet claimed by any group—landed in the coastal Israeli town of Ashkelon Sunday. Israel responded Saturday with tanks and helicopters, reportedly injuring five and killing two. Israel also moved to lodge a formal complaint with the United Nations, which has lately become a battleground for Palestinian statehood.

The New York Times accurately described the attack as “unusually intense,” and Hamas’s taking credit for it as “uncommon.” Hamas asserted it was a response to an Israeli airstrike Wednesday that killed two of its members. The technical term for this explanation is bullshit: Israel struck Wednesday in response to a rocket fired earlier; Hamas knows that whenever it fires into Israel, Israel fires back. So what prompted it?

The best guess is that Hamas is trying to distract Gaza Palestinians from the current grassroots campaign for unity between Hamas and Fatah, the less extreme Palestinian group that rules the West Bank. Over the past week, in the Palestinian territories’ version of the upheavals that have gripped most of the Arab world, people in both Gaza and the West Bank have taken to the streets to demand that the rivals (indeed, foes—they fought in armed conflict a few years ago) unify for the larger cause of Palestinian nationalism. In turn, both groups, and especially Hamas, have cracked down on these protests.

“Is there any other way to interpret Hamas’ claim of responsibility than an attempt to divert attention from #Mar15?” tweeted George Hale, the English editor of the West Bank-based Ma’an News Agency, referring to the pro-unification movement. Hamas, this theory goes, is trying to change the subject from its conflict with Fatah by picking a fight with Israel in order to create a rally ‘round the flag effect. Which would be solely its own business, if that tactic did not involve the reckless, provocative launching of dozens of notoriously inaccurate weapons at civilian areas. The attack, in other words, was unusual and uncommon, but, sadly, it was not out of charater.

Mortar Fire From Hamas, and Israeli Tanks Respond [NYT]
Palestinian Rocket Slams into Ashkelon [JPost]
Earlier: Hamas, P.A. Reportedly Crack Down on Unity Protests

Daybreak: Egypt Votes MB-Backed Reforms

Plus Israel admits it has Palestinian engineer, and more in the news

The head of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Church votes Saturday.(-/AFP/Getty Images)

• A significant majority of more than 18 million Egyptians voted in constitutional reforms supported by the ruling military and the Muslim Brotherhood, paving the way to September parliamentary elections. [NYT]

• Hamas shellacked Israel Saturday with mortar rounds from Gaza, breaking the two-year ceasefire and prompting a response from Israeli tanks and helicopters. More at 10 am. [NYT]

• Israel claims it has custody of a Palestinian engineer who went missing in Ukraine in February. Mossad is suspected. [JPost]

• Syria continues to experience a strong taste of the popular upheavals that have seized most other Arab states. [AP/WP]

• Arab League head Amr Moussa, who also wants to be president of Egypt, objected to airstrikes on Libya one day after they began with Arab League backing. [AP/WP]

• Sarah Palin is wheels-down in the Holy Land. [Reuters/Haaretz]

Sundown: Syria Faces Upheaval

Plus Mrs. God, and more

Pro-regime protesters in Syria. Cool dudes.(-/AFP/Getty Images)

• Unrest in Syria. [WP]

• God had a wife. Yes, that God. [Discovery News]

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Eddy Portnoy has a children’s treasury of Yiddish fight terms. [Shtetl Montreal]

• Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is interested in a New York City satellite campus. [NYT]

• iGrogger [iTunes]

• Contributing editor Vanessa Davis’s workspace is at least as wonderful as you’d suspect. [From the desk of …]

• The doll that got a bar mitzvah. [The Daily]

According to contributor Jody Rosen, 100 years ago today Irving Berlin—one of the heroes of David Lehman’s A Fine Romance—received a copyright for “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

An Original Haggadah

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

In 1966, Cokie Boggs, now National Public Radio’s senior news analyst, married Steve Roberts, now a journalist and public affairs professor. As the religious one in the partnership (she was raised and remains a devout Roman Catholic; he comes from a secular Jewish family), Cokie took it upon herself to study up on Jewish faith and practices. She also persuaded Steve’s parents to host their first ever Passover Seder. Now, Steve and Cokie have published the DIY Haggadah that they pulled together roughly 40 years ago.

On Monday’s podcast, Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry talks to Steve and Cokie Roberts about Passover’s unique ability to bridge the divide between Jews and Christians, past and present, and secular and religious—though when it comes to the question of Passover victuals, Cokie concedes that there remains much division and strife:


Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, see our complete Purim coverage. And have a happy, merry Purim Saturday night!

Purim 2011

The Martians Are One-Staters

Raëlian Church gives left-wing historian its weird cult-y prize

The requested Elohim Embassy a.k.a. Third Temple. That appears to be a flying saucer in the background.(The Raelian Movement)

The Raëlian Church—which believes, briefly, that humanity was created by extraterrestrials called Elohim (wonder where they got that?), and agrees with Judaism and Christianity that the Messiah will appear in modern-day Israel; there’s also lots of sex stuff—awarded Ilan Pappé, a prominent left-wing Israeli “New Historian” who now teaches in Britain, its Honorary Guide of Humanity title. “Pappé’s views about the situation in Palestine are in full agreement with those expressed by Raël,” said a Church spokeswoman (oh right, Raël, he’s like the leader, and is also a “racing-car driver” and a “singer-songwriter”). “They include the solution of a one-Palestine state where Jewish and Palestinian people would live together peacefully; the need to grant Right to Return to Palestinians; asking for recognition by the international community of racist crimes committed by the state of Israel.”

She added, “The world has been manipulated far too long by the Jewish community. It uses guilt and fear to paralyze the public so people don’t denounce the obvious genocide Israel is perpetrating.” She did not, however, also blame the Jews for manipulating the public so as not to accept the obvious creation of mankind by extraterrestrials, so we’ve got that going for us. “There was only one reason to create the state of Israel,” she concluded. “To gather around the Messiah people who have the mission of peacefully welcoming those who created us.”

I reached Professor Pappé for comment. He declined. Which was probably the smart thing to do.

Rael Awards Ilan Pappe Honorary Guide Title [PR Newswire/Yahoo!]

The Modern Age

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Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Etgar Keret has two words for you: Prenatal yoga.


Our Bodies, Ourselves

Comment of the week

(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Winner gets a free Nextbook Press book appropriate to his or her comment (provided he or she emails me at with his or her mailing address).

This week’s winner is “Judith,” who wrote, in response to Michelle Goldberg’s fascinating column on Israel’s unusually high rates of in-vitro fertilization and general pro-natalist policies and culture—and I quote—”EWWWWWWWW.”

“Judith” will receive a copy of Melvin Konner’s The Jewish Body, which teaches that there is nothing EWWWWWWWW about it.

The Jewish Body [Nextbook Press]
Made in Heaven

E=Lawsuit Squared

You don’t have to be Einstein to smell a rat

Albert Einstein (left, with David Ben-Gurion).(Wikipedia)

Last month, a man walked in to a copy shop in Petach Tikvah, a midsize town in central Israel, and told the proprietor he wanted to print 40 T-shirts with Albert Einstein’s face emblazoned on the front. Not a problem, said the proprietor, Ben Farag. At the customer’s request, he printed out a sample T-shirt and handed it over. Which is where the story begins.

This week, Farag received a letter from a law firm representing Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which owns the intellectual property rights to Einstein’s estate. “Our client,” it read, “was astounded to discover that at your store—you are printing shirts and other products with the late Prof. Albert Einstein’s image. The use that you made is public and commercial use which constitutes damage to the brand and blatant damage to the rights of our client under the law.” It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this was all a sting; the law firm’s letter included a snapshot taken by the ostensible customer, showing Farag holding the sample T-shirt. Hebrew U., the letter continued, demanded 20,000 NIS (approximately $5,600) in compensation.

After the newspaper contacted the university, a spokesperson called the copy shop owner to apologize. The university, he said, had outsourced matters pertaining to Einstein’s intellectual property to a private company, which, in turn, hired an investigator to identify unauthorized usage. The sting was the private eye’s bright idea.

Einstein, who was instrumental in helping raise funds for the university’s founding in 1925, delivered the institution’s first scientific lecture, a talk on relativity. The rights to his intellectual property, according to some estimates, net the university approximately $1 million per year—and more, presumably, in legal action, given that, inthe last three years alone, the university has sued the Israeli cellular giant Pelephone, General Motors, and Google for using the wild-haired genius’s name or likeness without permission.

Hebrew U. Rep Resorts to Relatively Dirty Tricks To Protect Einstein’s Image [Haaretz]
Related: Relatively Speaking, a Zionist

Sacred Entertainment

Today on Tablet


Are video games the new religion? Maybe not exactly, but today in Tablet Magazine, in his weekly parasha column, Liel Leibovitz expounds on his theory that “video games are played not so much with the mind as with the thumbs. In other words, they are a ritual.”

Thumbs Up

Hamantashen Have Poppy Seeds

Just to clear that up

Hamantaschen. Which is to say, poppy hamantaschen.(Chef Elf/Flickr)

Purim is Saturday night, and before the merrymaking is underway, let’s get one thing clear. As we learned in Wednesday’s New York Times—from Tablet Magazine contributing editor Joan Nathan—no matter what you are eating in your hamantashen (or what you think is your hamantashen), be it more typical prune or apricot or, if you find yourself at Tel Aviv’s Lehamim Bakery (which Nathan reports on), marzipan, halvah, pistachio, or marshmallows (!), let’s be clear about one thing: You’re only eating hamantashen if it is filled with poppy seeds.

People, this is science. Or at least language. Nathan quotes an Israeli food historian: “The meaning in German was mohn—poppy seeds—and tash—pocket.” “Poppy seed pockets,” folks.

Modern Flavors Transform a Purim Tradition [NYT]

Daybreak: Bibi Opposes Palestinian Unity

Plus U.S. plots talks with Hezbollah, and more in the news


• Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that Palestinian moderates had to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas. [AP/Newser]

• A forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate that portrays Hezbollah in several different ways is prompting discussion in Washington, D.C., about engaging the Lebanese group, much as Britain engaged Sinn Fein. [WP]

• How the Shiite uprising in Bahrain has pitted the U.S. against Saudi Arabia and strenghtened Iran. [NYT]

• President Obama has a track record of not calling bullies’ bluffs, Aluf Benn argues. And both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas have taken note. [Haaretz]

• The U.N. Security Council approved airstrikes against Muammar Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. [NYT]

• And the Libyan rebels are already being armed by the Egyptian army, with U.S. knowledge. [WSJ]

Sundown: Helen Thomas in the Centerfold

Plus Hamas clamps down, Schnabel on Schnabel, and more

One of these things is not like the other.(Playboy)

• In a new interview, Helen Thomas apologizes and recants. Kidding! Did I mention it’s in Playboy? [Playboy]

• Hamas put down another pro-unity protest. [AP/Haaretz]

• Ron Kaplan obviously has a fuller list of Jews competing in the NCAA men’s tournament. [Kaplan’s Korner]

• This parody article about Natalie Portman wins on the basis of the name Abe Bitmeshugah alone. [NY Jewish Week]

• Julian Schnabel talks Israel-Palestine and Miral, his new film. [Deadline]

• In New York City? Go see Eli Valley at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope tonight! [Young Manhattanite]

Seriously, though, happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Where the Rabbi Gets His Money

Exposé turns up sketchiness in Rabbi Pinto’s operations

LeBron James (L) and Rabbi Pinto (R).(TMZ)

Josh Nathan-Kazis at the Forward has done some digging into the finances of revered Rabbi Yoshiyayu Yosef Pinto, and, turns out, the heir to a prominent line of Moroccan rabbis who was weirdly associated with a weird death and who gives LeBron James “spiritual guidance” on how to make more money is—shockingly, I know!—kind of sketchy about money himself. It certainly seems odd that someone paid a “minimum” salary lives in a very nice house and flies first class to Israel and back. Not sure whether Kabbalah is supposed to help you with that sort of thing.

Revered as Business Guru, Rabbi Faces Questions About His Organization’s Finances [Forward]
Earlier: LeBron Consults Shady Kabbalist Rabbi
Celebrity Rabbi Maybe Related to Death

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