Another Israeli Land Dispute

How to write a Mideast trend piece

Bedouins in Al Araqib.(Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)

Yesterday, it was How To Write a Yiddish Trend Piece. Today’s lesson? How To Write a Mideast Trend Piece.

Headline implying this can all mostly be chalked up to the narcissism of small differences: Check.

Opening anecdote involving peaceful practice of benign religious ritual: Check.

“Then the bulldozers arrived at dawn”: Check.

Justify article by noting that this small conflict is in fact microcosmic of the larger one: Check.

Note that yet at the same time this one conflict is unique and idiosyncratic (in this case, the Arabs in question are Israeli Bedouins, not Palestinians): Check.

Quote Israeli spokesperson to the effect that Israel is acting within the law: Check.

Quote esteemed left-wing Israeli professor begrudgingly agreeing but nonetheless disagreeing with Israeli policy: Check.

Buttress that with prominent left-wing Israeli novelist (in this case, Amos Oz): Check.

Close on Jews and Muslims protesting Israeli policy together: Check.

A Test of Wills Over a Patch of Desert [NYT]
Earlier: A Settled Schtick

Today on Tablet

Caucasian Jews, infertility memoirs, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Sarah Marcus profiles the Mountain Jews of the southern Caucases, particularly Azerbaijan, where they always manage a minyan. Holly Lebowitz Rossi considers a graphic novel by one woman and an online video by another, both dealing with their own infertility. Part 4 of Toby Perl Frelich’s documentary about the kibbutz movement drops today. The Scroll wonders just how many more places in the world can have random Jewish communities.


This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’


The episode opens with Ed inexplicably cross-dressing. Maybe this is a side to him we simply haven’t met yet? Or maybe he is acting out after New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton panned his TriBeCa restaurant, Plein Sud, yesterday? Ah, I’m just breaking balls, I know this was taped well before Ed was Sift-bombed. But still: “The cooking at Plein Sud reveals itself to be lacking in flavor, texture, temperature, or interest: Room-service fare that leads to increased loneliness, raiding of the minibar, sleepless hours staring at the television in blue light, thinking about home. … This is grim stuff.” Indeed!

Kelly says she is gunning for Amanda Baumgarten, our only remaining Jewish cheftestant, now that Alex “Creepball Weirdo” Reznik has left the building.

Oh, also, Angelo, generally Joe Cool, has been freaking out. “Angelo’s been really weird some times,” Amanda relates. “He talks to himself, and says mantras, like, ‘You’re gonna win,’ stuff like that,” but you can’t hear the rest, because Amanda is collapsing with laughter. The notion that any chef thinks he is going to win is understandably very, very funny to Amanda. (more…)

Daybreak: Talks Threatened Over Freeze

Plus U.N. vindicates Israel on tree, and more in the news

An Israeli bulldozer removes an Israeli tree.(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Image)

• Palestinian negotiators told the United States that Israel must extend its construction freeze, and make it include East Jerusalem, for talks to continue. [Haaretz]

• Meanwhile, several allies of Prime Minister Netanyahu, including from his own Likud Party, have urged him not to extend the freeze—set to expire September 26—anywhere. [WSJ]

• The previous two points are part of why George F. Will sees no hope for anything to come out of this latest round of direct talks. [WP]

• A U.N. probe concluded that Israeli soldiers remained in Israeli territory during last month’s skirmish with Lebanese troops; the tree they were pruning, in other words, was theirs to prune. [JPost]

• The papers outlining the Nuremberg Laws were turned over to the U.S. National Archives. They had originally been spirited out of Germany by none other than General Patton. [AP/NYT]

• The Park51 debate has confirmed everyone else’s opinions of America, no matter what those opinions happen to be. [NYT]

Sundown: Blair Steps Up for Israel

Plus, they are women, hear them chant, and more

Quartet envoy Tony Blair yesterday (with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni).(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

• Tony Blair, the envoy for the direct talks-sponsoring Quartet, blasted delegitimization of Israel and praised Israelis’ “openness, fairmindedness, and creativity.” [JPost]

• Rabbi Avraham Bronstein, of the Hampton Synagogue, has a nuanced take on the new, unavoidable relationship between Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists. [… VaAni B’Sof HaMizrach]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu will be roughing it to some extent when he arrives in Washington, D.C., next week: Foreign Ministry workers are on strike. [JPost]

• Meet the newly announced Six Points Fellows: Nine emerging Jewish artists to watch. [Jewcy]

• Why the Park51 affair is important, no matter whether it ever actually gets built. [Jonathan Chait]

• Advocacy group Women of the Wall collected photographs of women around the world reading from the Torah. [Sisterhood]

Colbert v. Goldberg, on Iran.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jeffrey Goldberg
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A Settled Schtick

How to write a Yiddish trend piece

Hy Wolfe, this week’s melancholy champion of a dying language.(NYT)

Picture of forlorn-looking older Jewish man: Check.

Lead with acknowledgment that everyone knows and writes about the fact that Yiddish is dying: Check.

Superimpose cultural connotations of Yiddish onto subject of article, with a phrase like “flinty Yiddish contrarianism”: Check.

Name-drop Sholom Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer: Check.

Note that language is actually on the rise in Hasidic communities: Check.

Name-drop a Gentile Yiddish enthusiast (in this case, Shane Baker, whom Tablet Magazine has profiled): Check.

Mention the Lower East Side and a particular Brooklyn neighborhood (Brownsville, in this instance): Check.

End on mournful note: Check.

I’ll be honest: I could read a new one every week.

Shop That Speaks Yiddish Needs a Rich Man’s Help [NYT]
Related: The Ventriloquist [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Amid Dying Languages, Yiddish Lives On

The Rabbi Is In

Ask Joseph Telushkin your questions

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.(Random House)

In a moral quandary? Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Nextbook Press’s forthcoming Hillel: If Not Now, When?, will help you find the answers just in time for the High Holidays. Send your questions to by August 28, and the rabbi will answer the most compelling submissions in Tablet Magazine before Yom Kippur.

Hillel: If Not Now, When? [Nextbook Press]

George David Weiss Dies at 89

Wrote ‘What A Wonderful World’ and ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’


Songwriter, Broadway impresario, and musician George David Weiss died Monday. Below, enjoy his most famous song, which somehow manages to be affecting even after the 500th time you’ve heard it.

Jewish Brawlin’, 1961

The UNC-Duke rivalry goes way back

Art Heyman, 1962.(Sports Illustrated)

Prompted by my list of the Top Ten Jewish-American Athletes, one reader writes in:

“When I was 15, two of the best players in the country were Barry Kramer at NYU and Art Heyman at Duke. Heyman was Player of the Year in 1963 and MVP of the NCAA tourney even though they lost in the semis (in those days the two semi losers played each other, a nice touch I’m sorry they discontinued).

“I just learned that in his sophomore year, Heyman was ejected and suspended for several games, along with the UNC player with whom he started a fight that led to a major melee … Larry Brown!”

Brown, who is also Jewish, became one of basketball’s all-time great coaches. Ironically, he was also present for the most famous brawl in basketball history. Best of all? You can watch Heyman v. Brown below! 1961!

(P.S. It just so happens that the above e-mailer was my father. But you don’t have to be responsible for my existence to send me helpful tips:

Earlier: The Top Ten Jewish-American Athletes

Today on Tablet

If Saudi Arabia gets the bomb, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Mideast columnist Lee Smith reports on the prospect and consequences of Saudi Arabia’s going nuclear—the region would look “almost exactly the way it already does, except more so.” Mya Guarnieri describes the hopeless sense of being caught between two extremes that each peg you for the other that comes with being a liberal in Israel. Noah B. Strote profiles Jacob Taubes, the great mid-20th-century Orthodox rabbi-cum-intellectual. That article is called “Eschatologist,” and eschatology is one of The Scroll‘s favorite words.

A Quibble With a Magnificent Novel

Franzen gets much right, but gets D.C. neocons wrong

Jonathan Franzen.(Time)

I come to praise Freedom, not to bury it. Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, which drops next week (though President Obama got a hold of it already), is a wonderful book, one you get lost in and then come out at the other end of with an enriched understanding of your own life.

And Sam Tanenhaus’ review is fantastic in itself—it particularly helped me clarify how I felt about the novel’s haunting, literally breath-taking final section. (It is, granted, almost impossibly rhapsodic—here is a very positive but more measured take.) Tanenhaus is especially perceptive when teasing out all the permutations of the novel’s ambitious (and self-admittedly grandiose) title. He treats its political implications with particular sensitivity—sometimes more than Franzen does himself.

Here is where I step in as the Jewish blogger™ and say that, despite the above, I did have one problem with the novel. While its two most prominent Jewish characters—Patty Berglund, one half of the novel’s central couple, who grew up in a politically prominent Westchester County Jewish home, and the memorable rocker-cum-builder Richard Katz—are as finely drawn as any characters you will find in contemporary American fiction, there is additionally a minor Jewish character who left a distinctly metallic taste in my mouth. (Franzen himself is not Jewish.) (more…)

Daybreak: Avigdor Nixes Further Freeze

Plus Bloomberg continues crusade, and more in the news

Bloomberg last night.(Frank Franklin II-Pool/Getty Images)

• Foreign Minister Lieberman dismissed the notions that there would be peace in one year and that the West Bank construction freeze would be extended. [JPost]

• Mayor Michael Bloomberg clarified and extended his remarks defending Park51 at a Gracie Mansion Iftar dinner. [Politico]

• The U.N. probe into former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s death wants more of Hezbollah’s alleged evidence that Israel is culpable. [Haaretz]

• Opening arguments were heard in the trial of four men accused of plotting to bomb Bronx synagogues. Defense lawyers argued their clients were illegally entrapped. [NYT]

• Israeli public schools in a pilot project will begin the cumpulsory study of Arabic in fifth grade rather than seventh. [NYT]

• Benjamin Kaplan, who helped prosecute Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, died at 99. [NYT]

Sundown: Whose Side Are You Really On?

Plus, it’s medicinal, man, and more


• The especially fearful and vigorous opponents of Park51 are actually playing into terrorists’ hands, argues one terrorism expert. [Laura Rozen]

• Guess which country has legalized medicinal marijuana! [Haaretz]

• Online praying, online synagogues. This just in: The Internet is not a fad. [JTA]

• All of these color pictures of Russia 100 years ago are awesome, but number 16 is of particular interest. [Boston Globel]

The New Leader shuttered for good. [Jewish Ideas Daily]

• Why Turkish EU membership is probably good for everyone, and how it ought to be done. [FT]

Via The Lede, Wikipedia for Zionists:

Direct Peace Talk

The freeze extension is the only issue right now

Shalom (L) huddles with Prime Minister Netanyahu Sunday.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Are there impending direct peace talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, or an impending direct peace talk? The September 2 session in Washington, D.C., will last one day only, and will deal with one subject only: The West Bank construction freeze, currently scheduled to expire on September 26 (which, naturally, is right after Sukkot, the ultimate holiday of building).

While that freeze is but the tip of very, very large iceberg of issues concerning Israeli-Palestinian peace, in a sense it is the only one worth talking about: Abbas has said peace talks will end if the freeze is not extended, period. The way out of this, say some on both left and right, is that Abbas could agree to recognize a freeze extension that excludes recognized settlements around Jerusalem, which, most assume, will be located in Israel proper under any comprehensive final deal. (It’s worth remembering, also, that Abbas has already moved on this issue: Earlier this year, he nixed direct talks without a freeze in East Jerusalem.) (more…)

‘Ah, There’s Another One’

Hitchens and Amis on English anti-Semitism


Do you want to watch Christopher Hitchens discuss Anthony Julius’s recent book on English anti-Semitism (based around his latest essay) with contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg?

How about, do you want to see Martin Amis talk about Philip Roth and how his father, the great (though not as great) novelist Kingsley, was a minor Jew-hater? English philo-Semites are great.

Related: Chosen [The Atlantic]
Albion’s Shame [The Atlantic]

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