Today on Tablet

Israel divided unites America, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, our High Holiday coverage continues. Historian Jonathan D. Sarna argues that the Rotem Bill controversy in Israel served to highlight interdenominational unity among American Jews. Novelist Darin Strauss discusses a memoir on a Yom Kippur-themed Vox Tablet podcast. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Nextbook Press’s forthcoming Hillel: If Not Now, When?, explains the great rabbi’s continued relevance. The Scroll is on a half-day schedule today, and wishes you a shana tova.

Eid Gives U.N. Jews Rosh Hashanah Off

When they work in Turtle Bay

The United Nations headquarters.(Wikipedia)

It was brought to our attention that United Nations employees in New York, that most Jewish of cities where the international organization is headquartered, will have the second day of Rosh Hashanah (Friday) off, but not the first (Thursday). Why? Because Friday happens also to be Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic celebration of the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which is one of the ten official holidays for U.N. employees in New York. I looked into the matter a little bit further—driven, to be perfectly honest, in part by the U.N.’s less-than-stellar record on Jewish issues in recent years. But turns out this is kosher.

U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq explained to me that, in each country, U.N. employees get ten paid holidays, with the ten days left up to the host countries (so in Russia, for example, they get Eastern Orthodox Christmas, or January 7, off). In New York, though, holidays have been decided by the votes of all member countries—in other words, of the General Assembly—and the ten holidays they have come up with are: New Year’s Day (January 1), President’s Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adha (which commemorates Abraham’s refusal to sacrifice Ishmael—yes, to them it’s Ishmael, not Isaac), Thanksgiving, and Christmas (Western). No Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, though—and this in New York, where even the schools (though not the city) have the day off!

Honestly, though, while the small number of explicitly Jewish nations (one) in the General Assembly has at various times led to some pretty nasty things, this clear is not driven by animosity. Anyway, Jewish employees will get one day of Rosh Hashanah off to spend in observance, and, like most other Jews, can take the other one off themselves. Muslim employees (like Haq, as he noted to me) get Eid to observe. And Christian employees? They just get the day off. But we’re used to them catching the breaks.

Daybreak: A De Facto Freeze

Plus Rauf speaks up, and more in the news


• Palestinian President Abbas will reportedy continue peace talks after the settlement moratorium ends as long as there is no more actual building in contested areas. [Haaretz]

• Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf confirms that his Park51 Islamic center is meant for peaceful purposes and pledges it will get built. [NYT]

• President Obama told a group of American rabbis that he was “stunned” at how well the direct talks went and noted that Israel is “negotiating from a place of strength because the U.S. is absolutely committed to Israel’s security.” [Laura Rozen]

• Thomas Friedman proposes that the parties dust off the 2002 Saudi peace proposal (which, coincidentally, the Saudis initially revealed in a Friedman column!). [NYT]

• Interesting profile of an American (and, naturally, Jewish) psychologist from Georgetown whose Center for Mind-Body Medicine helps trauma victims in Gaza, among other global hotspots. [NYT]

• It turns out that “rape-by-deception” case, in which an Arab was accused of passing himself off as a Jew, is really more of a just plain rape case. [JTA]

Sundown: Our Man in Havana

Plus ground control to Mayor Rahm? and more

Goldberg. In Cuba. With Castro.(AP)

• Not even going to attempt to summarize contributing editor Jeff Goldberg’s report of meeting Fidel Castro in Cuba. Must-read. [Atlantic]

• Chicago Mayor Richard Daley surprisingly announced he won’t run for re-election. White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel, long rumored to be on his way out after the midterms, has said he would like the job someday. You do the math. [The Caucus]

• Credit where it’s due: The Anti-Defamation League initiated and is sponsoring the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques to provide support to Muslim communities facing local opposition to proposed mosques. [ADL]

• As 5771 dawns, Israel’s population grew to more than 7.6 million—nearly 5.8 million of which are Jews. [JTA]

• Where are the Great Rabbis of old? [Slate]

• Our very own Liel Leibovitz and Todd Gitlin—co-writers of the forthcoming The Chosen Peoples—argue that Israelis and Palestinians should seek to understand each other’s religious and historical investments in the land they share. [LAT]

An Obama shana tova.

Jacobson’s ‘Finkler’ Makes Man Booker Shortlist

‘British Philip Roth’ is the 8:1 underdog

Howard Jacobson.(Guardian)

Congratulations to novelist Howard Jacobson, who after several appearances on Britain’s prestigious Man Booker Prize longlist made his first appearance on the shortlist today, along with five other novels. His The Finkler Question joins novels by Peter Carey (who could be the first three-time Man Booker winner), Emma Donoghue, Damon Galgut, Tom McCarthy, and Andrea Levy. Levy, who was nominated for The Long Song, is of Jamaican-Scots-Jewish descent (whence her last name). While we wish her the best, since Jacobson has been a Vox Tablet guest, he is Tablet Magazine’s official Man Booker candidate.

And he’s the shortlist longshot! British bookies, for whom the Man Booker is basically the Super Bowl, have fixed him at 8:1 odds, as opposed McCarthy, the favorite at 2:1; Donoghue and Galgut at 3:1; Carey at 5:1; and Levy at 7:1. Winner is announced October 12. You know you don’t want to miss that octupled payday.

Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announced [Independent]
Related: The Solipsist [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Jacobson’s Novel Longlisted

‘Some Things I Wanted To Atone For’

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

This time of year is heavy on reflection and repentance. For Darin Strauss, the guest on this week’s Vox Tablet podcast (which will run tomorrow), these are familiar emotions.

Twenty years ago, he was in a terrible car accident in which a high school classmate died. In his forthcoming memoir, Half a Life, he forces himself to look back at what happened in greater detail, and with greater honesty, than he’d ever done before. The act of writing the book was, for him, a kind of ritualized repentance—not unlike Yom Kippur, as he explains here:

Does Israel Really Not Care About Peace?

‘Time’ cover doesn’t match article inside

The ‘Time’ cover.(Time)

If you read only the cover of this week’s Time, you would think “Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” The actual cover story, though, paints a strikingly different picture. For one thing, it distinguishes between the largely secular and progressive “bubble” of Tel Aviv, “a beach city,” and the rest of Israel, particularly Jerusalem, “where more and more of life is so serious—all that stone.”

For another, as the article correctly reports, if Israelis don’t care about peace, it is because they are realistically pessimistic about the peace process—if you don’t know the causes for pessimism, you haven’t been paying attention—and because Israel’s security strategies, such as the barrier, have been mostly successful at physically shielding Israelis (at least the ones who don’t live in the West Bank) from violence. And so these people in the meantime have built lives of quiet leisure and pleasure and commerce, as anyone would. So, yes, “Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace”—in the sense that many Israelis have figured out ways to be happy in the absence of peace. But to suggest that “Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace”—in the sense that it is indifferent to peace—is, given that the place has universal conscription, and everyone is or was a soldier, and every parent’s children are or were soldiers, self-evidently ludicrous.

So how did Time, maybe the most influential American magazine, get from this scrupulously reported article (which is worth reading, though you need to be a subscriber or purchase the print edition—or the iPad one!) to that sensationalist, inaccurate headline? The cover art—a Star of David made out of white flowers symbolizing peace—tells an interesting story if you think about it enough. It could imply that the Jews of Israel already have a sort of peace—have the ability to live post-historical lives on the beaches and in the cafes and throughout the neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. Which is not to minimize the suffering of the Palestinians in the territories, nor the culpability of some Jews, and the Israeli government, in that suffering. But if many Israelis “don’t care” about peace because in their lives they already have a sort of peace, then who the hell are we to judge them? Anyway, Israelis aren’t about to let their emotional lives be run by Time magazine.

Why Israelis Don’t Care About Peace with Palestinians [Time]

Wieseltier on Park51

The best thing you will read, the last thing you should

A rally near the proposed site last month. Woolworth Building in the background.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Though wishing probably won’t make it so, contributing editor Leon Wieseltier’s brief essay in The New Republic on the Park51 controversy really should be the final word on the subject—both because there have been way, way too many words already and because (and I say this as one who has read most of those words, since it’s my job) this is the finest treatment of the subject you will find.

Incidentally, J.J. Goldberg thinks he has found a secret battle royale between Wieseltier and TNR editor Martin Peretz. I think he has found two people who write for the same venue saying somewhat different things on a common topic. But you be the judge, I guess: As long as you read Wieseltier’s piece, one part of which is excerpted after the jump. (And if it is behind a subscription wall, you can maybe cough cough cough find it elsewhere.) (more…)

Giants Trade for Jewish QB

Rosenfels to play for New York squad

Sage Rosenfels on his former team.(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In the Vox Tablet podcast I hosted, Ray Gustini and I made it clear that while we were selecting the Washington Redskins as Tablet Magazine’s official team (and that honorable mention goes to the New England Patriots), it was clear that if the Minnesota Vikings—whose owner, Zygi Wilf, is the German-born son of two Polish Holocaust survivors—did not face yet another year of Brett Favre as their starter and an idiotic head coach, Brad Childress, who insists on thinking of second-stringer Tarvaris Jackson as something resembling a professional QB, then the Vikings would be our obvious choice due to the presence on the team of (nominally) Jewish quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

Well, folks, huge news this weekend, as one team’s trash is another team’s treasure—or at least, back-up QB. The New York Giants, faced with the prospect of the abysmal and injured Jim Sorgi or no-name (if very interestingly-named) Rhett Bomar backing up their starter, Eli Manning, traded for Rosenfels. So, ladies and gentlement, please welcome him to the Tristate Area. (Meanwhile, Vikings Coach Brad Childress continues to defend Jackson as Favre’s back-up, despite Rosenfels’s stellar preseason play. Enjoy your 8-and-8 season, coach.)

So what does this mean? Recall further that the Giants are 50 percent-owned by Jewish movie producer Steve Tisch, and they of course play for the most Jewish city in the world. I think Tablet Magazine has a new official team. Just know that I will recuse myself from blogging about them after they play the Redskins, and that you’re all going to regret this when their aging offensive and defensive lines succumb to injuries and they go 6-10.

With Backup Quarterback a Question Mark, Giants Trade for Rosenfels [NYT]
Related: Kosher Pigskin [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

A High Holidays of inclusion, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, our High Holiday coverage hits its stride (Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown tomorrow): Editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse introduces our coverage with a call for inclusion; Rabbi James Ponet explains how he evolved to feeling comfortable officiating at interfaith weddings, such as the Clinton-Mezvinsky nuptials he presided over this summer; parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall gleans parenting lessons from the Jewish new year; and Rabbi Avi Shafran, of Agudath Israel, argues that some Jews think of the ultra-Orthodox as a distasteful ‘other’ rather than a fully legitimate part of the Jewish community. Plus, consult our Rosh Hashanah FAQ if you have any questions, and consult Josh Lambert’s compilation of forthcoming books of interest if you need any reading suggestions. And if you’re still not satisfied, there’s always The Scroll.

The Two Mahmouds Snipe Over Direct Talks

Why Iran fears the peace process

President Ahmadinejad addresses the rally Friday.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

The new round of Israeli-Palestinian direct peace talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas are “death,” said one other leader last Friday. “Who does Abbas represent? Who gave him the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians? What will they talk about—Palestine? Who has the right to surrender parts of Palestine to the enemy?” Leaving aside the substance of the argument, more notable is who made it: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the annual “Quds Day” rally—a massive pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli gathering. (To be sure, the Iranian president also offered the usual charming exhortations to prepare for the “final and decisive battle” against Israel.)

Abbas did not take this lying down. “He who does not represent the Iranian people, suppresses the Iranian people, and took power by fraud, has no right to talk about Palestine, its chairman or his representatives.”

We know Ahmadinejad is against Israel. But beyond the pure ideology behind the talks (the fact that talking to Israel acknowledges its existence and, implicitly, legitimacy), why is Ahmadinejad so down on them? Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, backing up Abbas’s line, hit the nail on the head: “The Iranians have been taking this aggressive line against the Palestinian Authority all along,” he said over the weekend, “and they have been supporting Hamas, the opponent of the Palestinian Authority.” (more…)

Daybreak: Report Says Iran Still Stonewalling

Plus Israel and Russia ink historic deal, and more in the news

An Iranian reactor at Bushehr.(IIPA via Getty Images)

• Official nuclear inspectors report Iran still does not cooperate with them, meaning the latest sanctions, thought to bite more than previous ones, have not yet altered its behavior. The country has enriched over 6,000 pounds of uranium, enough for two bombs. [NYT]

• Mideast leaders expressed hope concerning what will follow last week’s direct peace talks. (Except for Avigdor Lieberman.) [NYT]

• A detailed look into who is funding both sides of the Park51 debate. [Politico]

• Palestinian Authority security forces face their toughest challenge yet—you can expect a continued uptick in West Bank violence as direct talks proceed apace. [LAT]

• Israel and Russia signed their first military deal, pledging cooperation in fighting nuclear proliferation and terrorism and leaving the door open to Russia’s buying further Israeli-made drones. (Defense Minister Barak had also sought to prevent missile sales to Syria.) [LAT]

• An interview with a Reform rabbi who has taken the lead in trying to force Israeli courts to grant greater accomodations to Progressive Jews. [LAT]

Sundown: That Was the Week That Was

Plus anti-anti-Semitism at Yale, and more

(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

• “Netanyahu cannot offer the ‘Clinton parameters’ of a decade ago, and Abbas cannot accept less. It’s that simple. Tragic, but simple.” And six more direct talks takeaways. [Laura Rozen]

• Do we really need that second day of Rosh Hashanah? [JTA]

• President Obama, as seen through the eyes of President Ahmadinejad’s supporters. (Eerily similar to President Obama as seen through the eyes of Tea Partiers.) [Guardian]

• The PLO Envoy complained that Yale’s recent conference on anti-Semitism was “racist propaganda.” [JTA]

• Our condolences go out to parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall on the loss of her grandmother. [Marjorie Ingall]

• Tel Aviv has been nominated for Sexiest Place on Earth for gay travelers. It is going up against Toronto (really?), Barcelona, Vegas (really??), and Rio. [Ynet]

Three-day weekend. How does it feel?

Kahane’s Kosher Triumph

And a reminder to read our story on his death


Apropos Peter Lance’s investigation into the prosecution of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s killers, Tablet Magazine contributor David E. Y. Sarna writes in,

When Kahane was incarcerated, the Bureau of Prisons refused him kosher food. He sued, and the case came before Judge Jack Weinstein. The issue was whether kosher was an essential part of Judaism. Judge Weinstein, in his decision, quoted from my late father’s Understanding Genesis that following Jacob’s battle with the Angel, from that day forth Jews do not eat from the sciatic nerve, and that this was the origin of the laws of Kashrut, a fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith.

Ever since that decision the BOP has been required to provide kosher food for all Jewish inmates who request it.

Interesting fact. Also, it gives me an excuse to point out that Lance’s article is truly must-read, establishing as it does that the ultra-nationalist Kahane’s 1990 murder in Manhattan was not some small provincial story, but rather an absolute hinge moment in the United States’s war with al-Qaida; and that, in fact, you can trace the success of several al-Qaida operations, including 9/11, to the mishandling of the prosecution of Kahane’s killers. It’s a long piece, but you have a three-day weekend coming up, so print the damn thing out and give it a read.

First Blood [Tablet Magazine]
Related: Understanding Genesis [Amazon]

Turkish Franchise Revs Up Flotilla Flick

No word on whether Busey is in this one

Gary Busey in Valley of the Wolves: Iraq.(Available Images)

Coming soon to a theater near you (assuming you live in Turkey): Valley of the Wolves: Palestine, an action thriller about a Turkish spy sent to kill the Israeli commander who ordered the boarding of the Mavi Marmara, the boat on which nine armed pro-Palestinian activists were killed last Memorial Day weekend. It’s actually merely the latest installment in the Valley of the Wolves franchise, which has included a 24-like TV show as well as the 2006 blockbuster Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, at the time the most expensive Turkish movie ever made. It features a U.S. Special Forces leader, played by Billy Zane, who calls himself a “peacekeeper of God”; a fictional U.S. military massacre of Iraqi civilians; and a Jewish-American doctor who does a Mengele impersonation, shipping human hearts to London and Tel Aviv. (Did I mention this doctor is played by Gary Busey?!?!?!)

Tellingly, the one Turkish person whom the Times quotes as being against the franchise is a film critic: “It’s sacrificing cinema to politics,” complains Mehmet Acar. The debate over the role politics should (and shouldn’t) play in art is a fascinating one, but most of the worthwhile participants were Jews, so I doubt it will be of much interest. Anyway, if this new film (scheduled for an October release) is anything like the Iraq one, expect yet another thorn in the side of the tattered Israeli-Turkish relationship.

Turkish Action Film Depicts Israeli Raid [NYT]
Related: What Turks Are Watching [Slate]
Israel Bites The Bait [Tablet Magazine]

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.