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Sundown: Turkish Turn Feared

Plus R.I.P. Erich Segal, Hezbollah and drugs, and more

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• The Israeli military intelligence head warned that Turkey is “moving further away from the secular Ataturk approach, closer to a radical approach,” and “no longer needs a close relationship with Israel.” [Haaretz]
• Erich Segal, the Harvard classics professor who wrote the popular novel Love Story, died at 72. Segal also penned Love Story’s screenplay, as well as the script of—who would have guessed?—The Beatles’s Yellow Submarine movie. [NYT]
• A Crete synagogue was set ablaze for the second time in two weeks. Israel asked Greece to prevent further attacks and to aid in the temple’s reconstruction. [Ynet]
• Hezbollah’s activities are funded in part through European drug-dealing, according to a big report in Der Spiegel. [Ynet]
• Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi, the first Israeli in the NBA, got into a heated argument with his coach over declining playing-time. [Haaretz]
• The papers of Chaim Potok, the rabbi and author of The Chosen, were moved to their new home: the University of Pennsylvania’s rare book and manuscript library. [ArtsBeat]

In and Out of Love With Zionism

Tony Judt recalls 1960s kibbutz life

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Orthodox Jews work the fields near a kibbutz, May 2009.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Historian Tony Judt provoked not a little controversy several years ago for proposing a single bi-national state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, effectively repudiating Zionism. Judt’s views, agree with them or not, are in part informed by his experiences living on kibbutzim in the 1960s. He recounts this time in a brief, lovely memoir in the latest New York Review of Books. Judt remembers:

For the neophyte fifteen-year-old Londoner encountering the kibbutz for the first time, the effect was exhilarating. Here was “Muscular Judaism” in its most seductive guise: health, exercise, productivity, collective purpose, self-sufficiency, and proud separatism—not to mention the charms of kibbutz children of one’s own generation, apparently free of all the complexes and inhibitions of their European peers.

Judt’s attraction to the world of the kibbutzim and to Labour Zionism failed to win out against his desire to attend university in Europe and the revulsion he felt while serving in the Israeli military. Judt concludes:

Labour Zionism made me, perhaps a trifle prematurely, a universalist social democrat—an unintended consequence which would have horrified my Israeli teachers had they followed my career. But of course they didn’t. I was lost to the cause and thus effectively “dead.”

Read the whole thing. Judt is a remarkable, perceptive writer. (He has also written beautifully about living with, and dying of, Lou Gehrig’s disease.)


Kibbutz
[NYRB]
Night [NYRB]

Jewish Characters on ‘Glee’ to Reunite

And we take the credit

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Breaking news for fans of Fox’s musical-comedy Glee (which won the Golden Globe for best comedy series Sunday night): Rachel and Puck, the musical-theater diva and the football-playing jock, are going to rekindle the romance they briefly enjoyed in an episode early this season. Said show creator Ryan Murphy: “I was really surprised [viewers responded so favorably to that pairing]. I thought people would find her to be far too irritating for him.”

Part of what makes Rachel and Puck such a special couple is their shared heritage. In fact, it is Puck’s desire to settle down with a nice Jewish girl that compels him to pursue her in the first place. Jeremy Dauber wrote about this intra-faith coupling last October in Tablet Magazine.

Exclusive: ‘Glee’ boss on Rachel/Puck, Kurt’s new BF, and Madonna! [Entertainment Weekly]

Related:
The Outsiders [Tablet Magazine]

Israeli Olympians Exiled from Promised Land

The skating diaspora is mainly in Jersey

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Where is the main Israeli skating rink? Why, in Paramus, New Jersey, of course! (There is one in Israel that is regulation-size, but it is located perilously close to the Lebanon border.) A bunch of Israeli hopefuls are training in and around Bergen County in anticipation of next month’s Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Although for some, a solid performance at the European Figure Skating Championships, which begin today in Estonia, stands in the way of an Olympics berth.

Israel has never won a Winter Olympics medal; the closest it came was in the 2006 games, when a mixed ice-dancing team finished sixth. But Efraim Zinger, the Israeli Olympic Committee’s secretary general, is nonetheless optimistic for this year: “We are not blessed with too many outstanding athletes,” he boasted. Wait, what???

Yes, folks, the buried lede here is the astonishing—and, to editorialize a tad more, disgraceful—lack of support these athletes are getting from their own country. It is not just those undermine-y comments. So far, the Israeli Ice Skating Federation has received roughly one quarter what the IOC has promised it. “Everything is a challenge,” says the Federation’s head (who resides in Paramus, natch). “No winter in Israel is one problem. Not being a sports country is another. It’s a challenge for funding, a challenge to get people to appreciate what our skaters have accomplished.”

Only two things, it seems to us, will change this: Either one of these competitors is going to have to win a medal, or someone is going to have to make Cool Runnings 2: Shalom Skaters! We would prefer the former. In the meantime, can someone please fire the Israeli Olympic Committee head?

Israel’s Winter Athletes Come to U.S. Seeking Ice and Medals [NYT]

Iraq To Build Mosque Over Prophet’s Tomb

And wants its Jewish archives back

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The tomb of Ezekiel, April 2009.(Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Ezekiel is buried in Iraq (so are Ezra, Daniel, Nehemiah, Nahum, and Jonah—where exactly did you think Babylon was, anyway?). He is supposedly interred in a tomb in the town of Al-Kifl, south of Baghdad. The building has a minaret attached, but in its interior there are Hebrew inscriptions and a Torah ark. Give credit where credit is due: the local Shiites have preserved it this way for centuries (Ezekiel is holy to them, too). Now, though, according to local reports, the Iraqi government plans to remove all traces of the site’s Jewish heritage and build a mosque atop it. The government cites the structure’s dangerous condition, but many have their doubts.

Meanwhile, half a world away, the invaluable contents of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, recovered by U.S. troops in May 2003 from a flooded basement, are in storage near Washington, D.C. The Iraqi government wants them back, and it is worth pausing on what the head of the country’s national archives had to say in response to concerns that Iraq’s Jewish artifacts do not belong in a country with maybe a dozen Jews left in it: “Iraqis must know that we are a diverse people,” he said, “with different traditions, different religions, and we need to accept this diversity.”

Erasing Ezekiel’s Jewish Identity [JPost]
Iraq Urges U.S. to Give Back Iraqi Jewish Archive [AP/Haaretz]

The Cure To Fasting Headaches

And no, it’s not ‘eat something’

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Pharmaceutical company Merck thinks it has solved your Yom Kippur headache—and that its infamous drug Vioxx, which was the subject of a massive recall and class-action settlement, is involved. The anti-headache drug, marketed as Arcoxia, is a Vioxx cousin. In studies, people who took it the night before a night and day of fasting experienced either no headache or a reduced headache (as compared to those who took the placebo), and found it easier to fast. Arcoxia is available in several European countries as well as Israel. Stateside, however, it is hard to come by: the Food and Drug Administration refused to approve it, on the grounds that it is too similar to its black-sheep cousin. Dunno—it certainly beats suppositories!

Could Vioxx Cousin Prevent Yom Kippur Headache? [Reuters/Vos Iz Neias?]

Today on Tablet

The rabbis’ silence, trouble with Saudis, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, coverage of Rabbi Leib Tropper continues with Allison Hoffman’s look at other prominent rabbis’ notable reaction—or, really, notable lack of reaction—to the scandals surrounding the conversion guru. In his inaugural column, Lee Smith reports a widespread sense that the Obama administration has been tone-deaf in its dealings with Saudi Arabia. Adam Kirsch discusses German Catholic theologian Hans Küng’s “Global Ethic,” an ecumenically-minded tenet that “conceals the very real disagreements between faiths.” Yesterday, Marjorie Ingall compared student experience at Jewish day schools to that at public schools on Martin Luther King Day, and Josh Lambert offered his weekly round-up of forthcoming notable books. The Scroll is back, well-rested, and ready to bring the good word.

IDF Delivers Babies, One Named ‘Israel’

‘No one except the Israeli hospital has taken any of our patients’

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The baby Israel with mom, IDF hospital staffers(IDF)

CNN reports that the Israel Defense Force’s emergency medical facility in Haiti is far and away the most capable and state-of-the-art there right now. (As of Monday, according to the report, not even the United States had established such a facility.) Located in a Port-au-Prince soccer field, the hospital has operating rooms, a radiology department, an intensive care unit, and a children’s division. Doctors in its maternity ward have delivered at least a dozen babies, according to the IDF. The very first infant born there, pictured, was named “Israel” by her mother.

Also, IDF rescue crews have been deployed to try to save victims of the earthquake that struck the Caribbean country one week ago.

Please consider giving to the American Jewish World Service’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, here. You can also text “Haiti” to 90999 to automatically donate $10 to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts.

Finally, you can get updates on the IDF’s activities in Haiti by visiting—where else?—http://twitter.com/idfinhaiti.

Haiti Earthquake: Mother Delivers Baby in a Disaster Zone [ABC News]
Israel Crews Rescue University Student from Haiti Rubble [Haaretz]

Daybreak: Germany’s Historic Anti-Iran Stand

Plus a pope defends another, the ‘couch crisis,’ and more in the news

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• After the first-ever summit between Germany and Israel, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she would seek harsher sanctions against Iran for its alleged nuclear violations. [NYT]
• Pope Benedict XVI defended Pius XII, the controversial pontiff who is now up for sainthood. During the Holocaust, Benedict said, the Vatican gave European Jews “hidden and discreet” help. [WSJ]
• Jordanian sources claim that Iran orchestrated last week’s attack on an Israeli diplomatic convoy traveling through their country. [JPost]
• Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara. The two sides said they hope the diplomatic to-do now known as the “couch crisis” can be put behind them. [Haaretz]
• “This was a colossal mistake on the part of Israeli diplomacy,” says a former Israeli envoy to Turkey in a helpful interview. [LAT]
• The U.S. believes Syria is letting Hezbollah train there with advanced anti-aircraft missiles. [Haaretz]

Sundown: Abbas Says He Fears Israeli Assassination

Plus happy 100th to a New York knishery, and more

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• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told an Egyptian news agency that Israel killed Yasser Arafat, and he is worried he will meet the same fate. [Arutz Sheva]
• Legendary Lower East Side knishery Yonah Schimmel’s celebrated its 100th anniversary. [City Room]
• Hamas asked Egypt to stop building an underground wall along its border with Gaza. The wall is intended to slow smuggling. [Ynet]
• A (apparently non-Jewish) Labour member of Britain’s House of Lords announced that the nation’s Jewish community feels “under constant attack.” He pointed to a recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
• Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni said that Turkey, with which Israel is on icy terms, must choose between moderation and Islamic fundamentalism. [JPost]
• Speaking of which, one Turkish human rights group announced plans to try to lodge war-crimes charges in its country against Israeli Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak. [Haaretz]

Why They Hate ‘Why Jews Hate Palin’

A detailed analysis of controversial ‘Commentary’ essay

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Can’t get enough of hating on Jennifer Rubin’s controversial Commentary essay, “Why Jews Hate Palin”? The Atlantic’s Website has a nice compendium of angry reactions to Rubin’s article, grouped under one of three problems that they accuse the essay of having:

• No Evidence That Jews, in Particular, Hate Palin
• Conflates Jews and Liberals
• Recycles Every Anti-Semitic Jewish Stereotype Known to Man

If anyone notices anything detailing why the haters are wrong and Rubin is right, do please leave it in the comments.

The Three Biggest Problems With ‘Why Jews Hate Palin’ [TheAtlanticWire]

Related: Why Jews Hate Palin [Commentary]

Earlier: Why We Hate Her

Why You Should Root For the Chargers

NFL playoffs continue this weekend

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Antonio Garay in 2006, when he was a mere Chicago Bear.(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It’s because of their Jewish quotient!

Kaplan’s Korner breaks it down: of the eight remaining playoff teams, the San Diego Chargers have two Jews (David Binn and Antonio Garay), the Dallas Cowboys also have two Jews (Igor Olshansky and Kyle Kosier), and the Minnesota Vikings have one (Sage Rosenfels). It’s probably not worth letting Rosenfels sway you in favor of the Vikings: he’s an aging back-up quarterback who gets very little playing time due to Minnesota’s aging starting quarterback, Brett Favre. Nor should you root for the Cowboys, ever.

So go Chargers! Phillip Rivers is the NFL’s most exciting young quarterback. Running back LaDanian Tomlinson (and, yes, Coach Norv Turner) deserve a Super Bowl win. As do the Chargers, a venerable franchise that dates back to the American Football League’s founding 50 years ago but has yet to bring home a Lombardi Trophy. To get prepared for this weekend’s game—San Diego hosts the New York Jets on Sunday at 4:40 P.M., EST—check out this new profile (via Kaplan’s Korner, natch) of Chargers defensive tackle Antonio Garay.

Oh, and for the record, the favorites will win this weekend (home team in caps):

NO (-7) over Arizona; INDIANAPOLIS (-6.5) over Baltimore; MINNESOTA (-2.5) over Dallas; New York (+7.5) over SAN DIEGO—but San Diego wins the game.

Samson Ain’t Got Nothin’ On These Guys [Kaplan’s Korner]

Jewish Charger Antonio Garay Strives to Help Bring San Diego a Super Bowl Championship [San Diego Jewish World]

Poll: Blumenthal Set To Win Seat

Next Jewish Senate candidate is likely the next Jewish senator

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Blumenthal announcing his candidacy last week in Connecticut.(Douglas Healey/Getty Images)

Richard Blumenthal, the long-time Democratic Connecticut attorney general who is running for Sen. Christopher Dodd’s soon-to-be open seat, is sitting very pretty according to a new poll. Quinnipiac University—which is known and respected for its national polls, but is actually in Connecticut—found Blumenthal positively walloping his three most likely Republican opponents (one of whom is Linda McMahon, the wife of professional wrestling honcho Vince McMahon). We’re talking leads of several touchdowns here, which is perhaps unsurprising given Blumenthal’s astonishing 84 percent approval rating. “Blumenthal’s job approval is unbelievably high, higher than any other politician we’ve ever measured, other than former President George W. Bush after 9/11,” said the poll’s director. Hey, it was enough to get Bush re-elected, right?

Blumenthal Body Slams Republicans in Connecticut [Quinnipiac University]

Earlier: Meet the Likely Next Jewish Senator

Who Built The Pyramids? Not the Jews

Newly discovered tombs indicate laborers were paid

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Nope, no one he knew built pyramids.(Cafe Americain)

We were once slaves in the land of Egypt, until the Lord with His outstretched hand did His thing. But, while in Egypt, whatever we were doing, we probably weren’t building the pyramids. Mud-brick tombs discovered last week purportedly demonstrate that the builders of the famous pyramids at Giza were paid laborers, probably drawn from the ranks of poor Egyptians, and not slaves, Jewish or otherwise. Part of the reason to think this is that these laborers received lavish burials for their services—“No way would they have been buried so honorably if they were slaves,” says an Egyptian archaeologist.

So where did the whole Jews-built-the-pyramids idea originate? (C’mon, you thought so, admit it!) Exodus refers to the Jews’ “backbreaking labor,” but does not specify what that labor was. You can blame Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who in 1977 said the Jews built the pyramids. Blame it on Orientalism, if that is your thing. But most of all, say experts? Blame it on Hollywood. Sure, why not!

Egypt Says Jewish Slaves Didn’t Build Pyramids [Christian Science Monitor]

Next Year, The Quake May Be in Jerusalem

And Israel is not ready for it

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The disaster in Haiti is bringing attention to the fact that Israel is more or less due for an earthquake of its own. It experiences a major one roughly once every 80 years; the last one was in 1927, and every year that passes without one increases one’s chances of occurring the next year. The epicenter in 1927 was the Dead Sea (the main rift runs along the Jordan Valley), and registered a 6.2 on the Richter scale. Haaretz’s reporter writes:

Most schools and hospitals in Israel were constructed before new building codes—which take into account the effects of earthquakes—were enacted. Moreover, some 50,000 residential buildings in Israel do not meet the new codes and are expected to collapse in the event of an earthquake. … Billions of shekels are invested in the defense budget, and this is seen as an obvious investment, but reinforcing hospitals or schools so they can withstand earthquakes and their aftermath receives no allotment.

Maybe Haiti can serve as a wake-up call.

Israel is Due, and Ill Prepared, for Major Earthquake [Forward/Haaretz]

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