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Goldberg Goes To Cuba

Photo of the day

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Oh hi, Jeff! Looks like Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg (glasses, on the right) took a Caribbean vacation.

New Photo Shows Fidel Castro With Jewish Leaders of Cuba [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

Four West Bank Settlers Killed

Israeli Embassy ties attack to direct talks

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After the attack.(Haaretz/Lior Mizrachi)

Four Israeli residents of the southern West Bank settlement of Beit Hagai—two men and two women, two couples (one woman was pregnant)—were killed today (tonight in Israel) by gunfire as they drove near the entrance of nearby settlement Kiryat Arba. The two settlements are near Hebron, well inside the security barrier that surrounds most of the West Bank.

Though the IDF is unsure about the attack’s specifics—how organized it was, whether the murderers were roadside or in another car—it’s obviously impossible not to see it in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian direct talks scheduled to kick off tomorrow night in Washington, D.C.

An Israeli Embassy spokesperson there told reporters, “The timing of this is deliberate—to try and derail the Palestinians and all those who seek peace in the region from coming and sitting down at the negotiating table with Israel.” He also pointed to the incident as evidence that Israel would require considerable security guarantees before acceding to a Palestinian state.

Four Killed as Terrorists Open Fire Near Kiryat Arba [JPost]
Four Israelis Killed in Shooting Attack Near Hebron [Haaretz]
Before Talks, An Attack [Ben Smith]

Early Prep for Early Yom Tovs

Getting ready for the High Holidays

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Yes, we know we say that Rosh Hashanah is “so early” or “so late” every year, but … Rosh Hashanah is really early this year! (Though actually, if you think September 8 is bad, just wait for 2013, when the new Jewish year will begin on September 5—the earliest that it can begin.) While Tablet Magazine’s High Holiday coverage won’t completely envelop you until next week, we are publishing our food-related content early, because cooking—and planning to cook—takes time! Hence today’s locavore guide to a late-summer Rosh Hashanah; and hence articles tomorrow on holiday-appropriate wine and on holiday cooking in mixed marriages (the latter by contributing editor Joan Nathan). So be ready, is what we’re saying.

To further get you into the holiday spirit, the guys behind God & Co. put together an advice-rap. Enjoy.

Rosh Hashana Rap from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

Rabbi Speaks at Glenn Beck Gathering

Tells us Bible Belt is ‘Judaism’s safety belt’

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Rabbi Daniel Lapin.(WP)

Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” mega-rally Saturday, billed as a Christian religious revival, drew a crowd of between 50,000 and 600,000 (depending on who is counting). On Friday, however, the Fox News host gathered closer to 5000 of his closest friends at the Kennedy Center for a quieter event, “America’s Divine Destiny,” which featured all-stars like the Rev. John Hagee, Chuck Norris, and … Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

Lapin, who has notoriously been tied to Jack Abramoff, echoed the larger themes of the night: “When you sever a flower from its roots, it dies,” he reportedly told the crowd. “I think what is happening in America is we’re being severed from our Biblical roots.” According to one of the event’s hosts, he urged the crowd to “study the Bible, make more money and say extra prayers for America.”

Of course, it was Shabbat, and so a microphone was a no-no. The audience, however, could apparently hear him fine, and even greeted him with a “Shabbat Shalom.”

The rally, Lapin told Tablet Magazine yesterday, demonstrated that “America is a country that is rooted in Christianity, and that this is one of the factors that have made America one of the most tranquil and prosperous homes that Jews have enjoyed for 2000 years.” He added, “I think of the Bible Belt as Judaism’s safety belt.”

At Lincoln Memorial, a Call for Religious Rebirth [NYT]
Glenn Beck Goes Messianic at America’s Divine Destiny Event Before 2500 Screaming Fans [Alternet]
Glenn Beck’s ‘Divine Destiny’ Event Focuses on Faith [Daily Caller]

Another View of ‘Cordoba’

Does history live up to the Islamic center’s ideal?

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An anti-Park51 rally near the site.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Philologos, the Forward’s anonymous language columnist, tackles the name of the Cordoba Initiative, which is the force behind the planned lower Manhattan Islamic center (much as I did earlier this month). While Philologos is happy to “to take him at his word” when Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf states that he called his organization after the capital of the “enlightened, pluralistic and tolerant society” during the “Golden Age of Spain,” Philologos questions whether Rauf’s description is historically accurate. Specifically, Philologos takes a fascinating look at the Spanish city’s architectural history and concludes,

If Córdoba symbolizes anything in the context of architecture and religion, it is how all religions use power, when they have it, to promote their concept of their own grandeur and importance in architectural terms. The proposed construction of Cordoba House on a site two blocks from the area razed by Muslim jihadists is no exception to this rule. It is no worse than what has been done countless other times in the course of history, but it is not much better, either.

Philologos should definitely take a look at Nextbook Press’s Yehuda Halevi, by Hillel Halkin, which expertly examines the same time and place. The columnist would find much to agree with.

A Cordoban Chord [Forward]
Related: Why Cordoba?
Yehuda Halevi [Nextbook Press]

Today on Tablet

He declared, a summery new year, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch reviews a new book all about the famous 1917 Balfour Declaration, which committed Britain to a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Daniella Cheslow reports on a recent victory by Israel’s environmentalist movement. We kick off this year’s High Holiday coverage as Chef Melissa Petitto guides you through the produce available during this uncharacteristically early new year celebration and how to make it all delicious. The Scroll is looking forward to a summer Rosh Hashanah.

The Uninvited Prime Minister

Where the problematic ‘Fayyad Plan’ fits

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Prime Minister Salam Fayyad yesterday.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

The ghost at the White House banquet tomorrow night—the most conspicuous non-guest—may well be Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the man whom Israeli President Shimon Peres crowned the “Palestinian Ben-Gurion” and who, wrote Ben Smith in his conventional wisdom-making article last week, is “the guy who in our fantasy world would have [Palestinian President Abbas]’s job.” Fayyad has been trying to make himself heard nonetheless, questioning Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sincerity and releasing a plan (“Towards Liberty”) for further state-building. Abbas negotiates while Fayyad builds a viable state: That could potentially be the strategy.

This strategy has a name: The Fayyad Plan. Fayyad has repudiated it, except he seems to have taken a renewed liking to it. Under it, Fayyad, a Westernized technocrat who is not a member of Fatah, builds the infrastructure essential to statehood in the West Bank so that unilateral Palestinian independence seems credible, if only as a bargaining chip. In fact, columnist Yossi Alpher notices that the original timeline of the Fayyad Plan—Fayyad had said a Palestinian state would be viable by August 2011—seems to coincide immaculately with the one-year goal set by the Obama administration for this round of direct talks. (more…)

Daybreak: Abbas Walks the Tightrope

Plus a new West Bank? and more in the news

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President Abbas.(Omar Rashidi/PPO via Getty Images)

• The person risking the most in participating in upcoming talks is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who could lose control of Fatah and whose Fatah could lose power to Hamas. [LAT]

• By contrast, Prime Minister Netanyahu reassured party members that he knows where the redlines are and he won’t cross them. [JPost]

• Abbas and Defense Minister Barak met secretly in Amman over the weekend concerning the talks. [JTA]

• The New York Times editorializes for peace, among other things calling on Netanyahu to continue to halt settlement-building. [NYT]

• With its basic security and services, the West Bank is beginning to feel like an actual state—and that may be the one advantage compared to past talks. [NYT]

• Richard Cohen argues that we are in many ways stuck in the long-settled debate of whether Israel should exist. [WP]

Sundown: Intellectuals Back Settlement Boycott

Plus Biblical Bandz, and more

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(ModernTribe)

• The big left-wing Israeli novelists—Oz, Yehoshua, Grossman—spoke in support of actors’ refusal to perform in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. [Ynet]

• Don’t be silly says, the U.S. State Department, we don’t think we’ll achieve peace in one meeting. Just in one year. [Haaretz]

• The Emergency Committee for Israel and J Street have another spat. [J Street]

• The Times highlights contributing editor Rachel Shukert’s Everything’s Coming Up Moses, a Tablet Magazine production. [Paper Cuts]

• I’ve tried really hard to avoid the whole Silly Bandz thing, but now that there’s Biblical Bandz … . [ModernTribe]

• Jew’s Ear Juice? I’ll take two! [New Atlas Beverage]

It’s hot out, go get some gelato!

Travelin’ Men

The latest ‘Text/Context’

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Oh … look! It’s another issue of Text/Context, the supplement put together by Jewish Week and Nextbook Inc. In this travel-themed number, Stuart Schoffman documents various innocents abroad in Jerusalem; Rodger Kamenetz describes a visit to Uman, Ukraine, to the grave of the great Rabbi Nachman (the subject of his forthcoming Burnt Books); Ted Merwin profiles the 12th-century journeyman Benjamin of Tudela; and more.

More on the NFL’s Jews

And our official team, revealed!

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Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In today’s Vox Tablet podcast, Ray Gustini, of the Atlantic Wire, and I figured out exactly how many NFL franchises are owned by Jews. The final answer is 10.5 or 11.5, depending on whether or not Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is Jewish (Ray thinks he’s Catholic; I found no evidence of that, and found that he has donated to a Jewish cause; and, for what it’s worth, a number of anti-Semitic Websites say he is).

A few notes that did not make it into the final podcast, which was edited for time:

• Though I did not count them as being Jewish-owned, the Green Bay Packers almost certainly have Jewish owners: They are owned by the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, which has at least one synagogue.

• New York Jets owner Woody Johnson (as in Johnson & Johnson) is not Jewish, but was a great friend to the Jews last season, when he successfully complained after the NFL scheduled his team’s first two home games during the High Holidays. Indeed, though the Giants are 50-percent Jewish-owned, I think you have to consider the Jets (whose prior owners were Jews, who come from the scrappy and heavily Jewish AFL, and whose current general manager is Jewish) the more Jewish New York-area franchise.

• The owner of the Detroit Lions is William Clay Ford. Ford is not Jewish, but is descended from one of history’s most influential anti-Semites.

• You should follow Ray’s Twitter feed, @VeryFakeAlDavis.

• Finally, Julian Edelman is not Jewish. Taylor Mays, however, is.

After the jump: The 11.5 (maybe 10.5) Jewish-owned NFL franchises, along with Ray’s and my pick for Tablet Magazine’s official team. (But really, listen to the podcast!) (more…)

Settle This

Why they’ll be talking about a freeze this week

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A Jewish farmer on a West Bank settlement outpost.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Gadi Taub got one thousand words and prime Sunday op-ed page placement for a summary of his new book, The Settlers. The Israeli settlements, which are “looming over the direct talks,” are a threat to Israel’s simultaneously Jewish and democratic character, Taub believes. Yet he notes that it dates to modern Zionism’s complicated roots:

The Zionist movement sought to achieve by human means what Jews for two millenniums considered to be God’s work alone: the gathering of the diaspora in the land of Israel. Most rabbis therefore shunned Herzl, but not all. Some joined the movement, even formed a party within it, based on a separation of religion and politics. For them, secular Zionism was primarily a solution to the earthly predicament of the Jews; it was not so theologically laden.

(Raise your hand if you remember being surprised when, in The Chosen, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi is a vehement opponent of Zionism.)

Two weeks ago, Tablet Magazine books critic Adam Kirsch praised Taub’s new book:

The philosophical danger of the Occupation—to say nothing of the diplomatic and military and economic dangers—is that its illiberalism will make Zionism itself look illiberal in retrospect. This is, as Taub points out, the view of the “post-Zionists” in Israel and of much of the left in Europe and America: that “Zionism was never democratic, and the very idea of a Jewish democratic state is a mere contradiction in terms.” Ironically, Taub argues, this is the same thing that the settler movement believes. The difference is that, while anti-Zionists want to resolve the contradiction by making Israel cease to be Jewish (the so-called “one-state solution”), the settlers want to resolve it by making Israel cease to be democratic.

In Israel, Settling for Less [NYT]
Related: Unsettling [Tablet Magazine]

What We Talk About When We Talk About Talks

A reading list

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President Obama yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s direct talks week! Let’s look at some of the latest developments.

• The best overview of what Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas might be hoping to get out of the talks comes courtesy Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz. If you read one article on the talks, read this one. [JPost]

• President Obama is yoking some of his prestige and credibility to the mother of all impossible conflicts. Why? [LAT]

• And how is he going to keep the American pro-Israel community onboard? [Politico]

• But he is getting praise for including Egypt and Jordan, whose heads of states will also be in Washington, D.C., this week. [Politico]

• Back to Israel, where the head of the main settlers’ organization vociferously opposes an extension of the settlement freeze, which is being requested of Netanyahu. The head of the main settlers’ organization’s previous job? Chief-of-staff to Netanyahu. [LAT]

• If you’re the Palestinian Authority, here is one way to keep Hamas from accusing you of selling out the cause by talking to the Israelis: Ban their clerics from preaching. No way that’ll backfire. [JPost]

• The European Union wants in on the talks. [AP/JPost]

• Egypt also wants the EU in on the talks. [Haaretz]

• The U.S. wants Syria to stay far, far away from the talks. [JPost]

• Last and least, a group of retired IDF generals enacted an amusing but probably altogether worthless negotiation simulation (say that ten times fast). [JPost]

Today on Tablet

NFL preview, ‘inclusive education,’ and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, staff writer Marc Tracy and former football writer Ray Gustini, now at the Atlantic, discuss the upcoming NFL season with an eye toward anointing Tablet’s official team. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall praises “inclusive education,” which groups special-needs kids in with others, thereby enriching the experiences of both. Josh Lambert has his usual round-up of forthcoming books of interest. The Scroll knows its the final Monday of August; let’s leave the summer in style.

Blue, White, and Ebony

Meet the black Orthodox Jews

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Shais Rison (left) and Yitzchak Jordan.(NYT)

Your other favorite daily magazine of Jewish life and culture reported on the growing number of black Orthodox American Jews over the weekend. While a 2005 book estimated that seven percent of (all) American Jews were black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American, nearly all experts agree that number is likely to grow via marriage/conversion, and the article specifically highlights black converts to Orthodox Judaism (though one of the subjects married a black woman whose family was Orthodox as early as the 19th century).

Seriously, this one is not to be missed. (And nor, presumably, is the gefilte fish prepared by one subject’s mother, “seasoned with Jamaican peppers and spices.” Recipe, anyone?)

Black and Jewish, and Seeing No Contradiction [NYT]

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