👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Violence between Israel and Gaza continued this week, with Hamas firing hundreds of rockets toward Israel in recent days and the IDF continuing to strike targets in the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials have begun to quietly indicate that a cease-fire could be reached by the end of the week, though no official commitment has been made.
Speaking to foreign diplomats this morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the IDF is “not standing with a timer” in its hand on when to cease fighting, adding that “what interests us is to accomplish the goals of the operation.” He also said that Israel is currently working to deter Hamas, but that conquering Gaza “is always an open possibility… we don’t rule out anything.”
“You should know that [Hassan] Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, is watching this,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Bari Weiss in a podcast interview yesterday about the conflict between Israel and Hamas. “Massive numbers of precision-guided missiles sitting not too terribly far from the northern edge of Israel. He is watching. His Iranian sponsors are watching to see if the world is going to support Israel’s right to defend itself and seeing if this administration is prepared to lead in supporting that right for the Israelis.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) plans to introduce a resolution today urging an immediate cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians, sources on Capitol Hill tell JI. The resolution, which is also co-sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), supports diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, uphold international law and protect human rights on both sides, noting “every Palestinian life matters” and “every Israeli life matters.”
The House of Representatives passeda bipartisan anti-hate crimes package by a vote of 364-62 yesterday. The bill, which had the backing of a wide range of Jewish communal organizations, now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature.
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war drags on
Israel, Gaza continue exchanging fire as pressure for cease-fire mounts
As the flareup in violence between Israel and Hamas continued this week, Israeli officials have begun to indicate that a cease-fire deal could be possible in the coming days, as international pressure ramps up and Egyptian efforts to broker a truce intensify.
On the ground: Yesterday afternoon, two Thai agricultural workers were killed when a rocket from Gaza hit a packaging factory in the Eshkol region in the South. On Saturday, a 55-year-old disabled Israeli man was killed when a rocket hit his home in Ramat Gan. A Jewish Israeli man who was wounded by Arab rioters in Lod last week died of his wounds on Monday. An IAF strike on Gaza on Sunday killed 42 Palestinians in the deadliest single strike so far. Israel later said the buildings’ collapse was unintentional and occurred after the IDF struck an underground tunnel system beneath them. According to the latest Gaza Health Ministry figures, 219 Palestinians have been killed by IDF airstrikes, including 63 children. Israel claims around 160 of those killed have been terrorist operatives, and that some civilians were killed by misfired Hamas rockets. The IDF said this morning it has tried to kill Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif “several times.”
Playing politics: The wave of violence has ramped up pressure on right-wing party leaders Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in forming a government coalition. Reports also indicated that Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party is holding negotiations with Likud to join a coalition, something both parties denied. Opposition Leader Yair Lapid currently holds the mandate to form the next government, which expires on June 2. Lapid has vowed to continue to work to form a coalition before that deadline, and Bennett has indicated that the option to join Lapid remains a possibility. If no coalition can be formed by next month, a fifth election will be automatically triggered.
View from Washington: In a call with Netanyahu on Monday night, the third in the past week, President Joe Biden reiterated “his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks” and “expressed his support for a cease-fire.” The Biden administration approved a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel earlier this month, before the Gaza flare-up began. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), under pressure from some House Democrats, considered requesting a hold on the sale but decided against the move yesterday, prompting outrage from at least one colleague. Meeks said Foreign Affairs committee members will be meeting with the Biden administration today about the sale. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who is currently on a trip to Denmark, Iceland and Greenland, has held a series of calls with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi as well as regional Arab officials to urge ongoing diplomacy. State Department envoy Hady Amr met over the weekend with Gantz and on Monday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. For the third time on Monday, the U.S. blocked a U.N. Security Council draft statement that condemned the violence without referencing Hamas rocket fire.
Cease-fire calls: Lawmakers have appeared split in recent days over whether to publicly call for a cease-fire. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) backed a call from Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Todd Young (R-IN) for an end to the ongoing fighting. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also called for a cease-fire on Tuesday, in a statement that assigned primary blame for the current violence to Hamas. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) also said Monday that he supports efforts to establish a cease-fire, and reiterated his support for Israel and opposition to conditioning aid to the Jewish state. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), however, spoke out on Monday against calls for a cease-fire, accusing supporters of legitimizing Hamas and blaming both sides for the conflict. Meanwhile, activists from NORPAC said they have met with hundreds of Washington lawmakers in recent weeks, and told JI’s Marc Rod that “bipartisan support for Israel in the mainstream of both parties remains incredibly strong and unwavering.”
Press pressure: Israel faced a wave of international condemnation for bombing a building in Gaza on Saturday that housed the offices of both The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The IDF, which gave occupants of the building one-hour advance notice to evacuate before the strike — which caused no casualties — claims that Hamas was operating in the building. Netanyahu told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Israel shared intelligence reports showing Hamas activity with U.S. officials, something Blinken later confirmed, but refused to comment on further. Outgoing AP executive editor Sally Buzbee, who is slated to succeed Marty Baron as executive editor of The Washington Post, has called for an independent investigation into the claims and the IDF strike. The incident prompted Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) — usually a staunch supporter of Israel — to say in a statement that he was “deeply troubled” by the latest Israeli strikes.
Michigan meetup: Prior to Biden’s visit to a Ford factory in Dearborn, Michigan yesterday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) confronted Biden and urged him to do more to protect Palestinians. Biden praised Tlaib in subsequent remarks at the factory, saying, “I admire your intellect, I admire your passion and I admire your concern for so many other people,” and he pledged to “do everything” to ensure that Tlaib’s family in the West Bank will remain safe. Later in Michigan, while test driving an electric truck, Biden was asked by a reporter if he could ask a question on Israel and Gaza. “No you can’t,” the president replied. “Not unless you get in front of the car as I step on it. I’m only teasing.”
Jonathan Ames puts a Jewish spin on the detective novel
Jonathan Ames is best known for writing “Bored to Death,” his short-lived HBO series. The noirish comedy tells the story of a floundering Brooklyn novelist who becomes an unlicensed private investigator. But for Ames, a devoted reader of hardboiled crime fiction, the series may have been a diversion. In his latest work, A Man Named Doll, he has produced the real thing. “I guess I was finally ready to try writing my own detective novel,” Ames, 57, said in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. Ames discussed his long-held desire to write a crime novel, how his Jewish identity may or may not inform his work and why he loved visiting the Russian baths in Manhattan before decamping for Los Angeles in 2014.
JI: There’s something about the crime novel that feels distinctly non-Jewish, like hunting or riding a motorcycle. What are your thoughts?
Ames: I wouldn’t characterize it that way. I think there’s been a lot of Jewish crime writers, and I’m beginning to personally rethink the notion of limiting what one does by calling it crime fiction. To me, it’s just fiction. That said, I do think there have been Jewish practitioners of detective fiction. Recent vintage: Jonathan Lethem, who’s Jewish, has written more than one detective novel; Michael Chabon wrote The Yiddish Policemen’s Union; David Goodis was a great pulp writer of the ’50s and ’60s. So I don’t have that notion in my mind. I’m not saying it’s incorrect, but it’s not something I’ve thought.
JI: You’ve long wanted to write crime novels. What took you so long?
Ames: I always had this wish to be a pulp writer going back a long way, but in a sense I got sidetracked writing comedic television. Originally, “Bored to Death” was a short story written kind of like a piece of pulp but in the style of my essays. When I wrote that short story, back in 2007, there was a yearning for writing detective fiction. But like I said, I got sidetracked, and it was just part of my development to work in TV for the next few years. It’s been an odd path. I guess I was finally ready to try writing my own detective novel.
JI: Wasn’t there a time when you were going almost every day to the Russian baths in the East Village?
Ames: Practically. There were a couple of years there, definitely when I didn’t have to work in television. I would go at night. I found out later that my great-grandfather, who I was named for, would go to the 10th Street bathhouse in Manhattan. I found that out after I’d already been going there a few years. I knew that he liked to go to a shvitz, but then I found out, at least according to family lore, that we went to the very same shvitz. That was kind of interesting. It was like in my DNA. Like a migratory bird, I had found my way back there.
The life of Henrietta Szold, a pioneering feminist Zionist
Israeli professor and historian Dvora Hacohen was looking for a comprehensive biography of Henrietta Szold. When she couldn’t find one, she decided to write it herself. “How come, the question is, that by now, no scholarly biography of Henrietta Szold was written by any of the thousands of researchers in America?” Hacohen asked Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiroin a recent interview from her home in Jerusalem. “She was the most famous Jewish woman in the 20th century in America — the most important, the most admired.”
Telling her story: Hacohen’s resulting book was first published in Hebrew in 2019 and then translated to English by Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel, published last week as To Repair a Broken World: The Life of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah. Hacohen, 84, a professor of modern Jewish history at Bar Ilan University, has written and edited nine other books on Jewish history. She dove straight into the task of researching and writing about Szold, whose leadership and trailblazing path she greatly admires. “She had a set of values that she would not give up in any way, and she had to fight so many fights with other people” in order to maintain them, Hacohen noted.
Pioneer: Szold was born in Baltimore in 1860, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. From a young age she pursued educational and professional paths that were normally closed off to women. She became the first-ever female editor at the Jewish Publication Society, the first woman enrolled at the Jewish Theological Seminary (though she had to promise to not seek ordination) and the only female member of the Federation of American Zionists’ executive committee. Later, she also became a passionate and outspoken Zionist, and the founder and first president of Hadassah, the now-sprawling women’s Zionist organization.
Evolution: In her early years, Hacohen said, Szold “suffered the exclusion of women and she didn’t fight against it, she didn’t protest, she accepted what she suffered.” But later in life, she became a much more strident feminist, and “one of the greatest fighters for the rights of women, and this she did by herself.” In Szold’s personal writings, Hacohen discovered one of the strongest motivating factors of Szold’s life of philanthropy and activism: a broken heart. “She suffered from an unrequited love that broke her heart,” said Hacohen. “She fell into a terrible depression” after her love for a younger professor at JTS was not returned. But after a few months, “she made a dramatic decision to change her priorities. She decided to fight the exclusion and discrimination of women, and for equal rights for all people.”
RBG’s take: The book opens with an introduction from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who penned the foreword in January 2020, months before her death. Bader Ginsburg — who spoke of Szold often — noted her admiration for Szold’s “notable sensitivity and keen insight,” and Hacohen for compiling a “treasure trove of the kind Szold’s story well deserves.” Hacohen said she wrote Bader Ginsburg a letter, “and I asked her why did she mention her and what did she see in her. After a few days I got an answer… and she wrote me a beautiful letter about Henrietta Szold and how she was a role model for her and for her mother.” And when Hacohen asked her to write a foreword for the book, “she answered immediately ‘yes,’” she recalled. “I was amazed” that she agreed, and also at her thoughtful approach, said Hacohen. “The way she looks at things, the way she explains things — is beautiful.”
🏥 Teamwork: Dr. Adam Lee Goldstein, the head of trauma surgery at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, writes in The New York Times about the hospital’s “team of Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze” who have been working around the clock in recent days to treat those wounded by both rockets and local violence. “I hope that what is happening now under the roof of this hospital — the selflessness, the lack of ego, the teamwork and diversity and mutual respect — can be a model for this entire country, for our entire region.” [NYTimes]
⚔️ Proxy Battle: In The Atlantic, Kim Ghattas explores how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long served as a “proxy battle” between Iran and Saudi Arabia, leading to even greater Palestinian isolation among Arab nations. “Some Palestinians may look to Iran as their last ally, and may well cheer the Hamas rockets as the sole way to push back against Israel. But for more than 40 years, the Islamic Republic has used the Palestinian cause for its own advancement.” [Atlantic]
📽️ Never Forget: In The New York Times, Nina Siegal highlights the work of two Dutch researchers to identify the children in an infamous and rare video depicting a deportation from the Nazi transit camp Westerbork in 1944. “I was overwhelmed to see myself as a little boy being transported with my family,” said Marc Degen, who was confirmed as a 3-year-old boy seen in the deportation video. [NYTimes]
🥖 Taste Test: New Yorker food critic Hannah Goldfield spotlights two new challah offerings in the New York area, including Dolly Meckler’s “Challah Dolly” loaves and Parchment, a new service from Israeli-American Erez Blanks, which delivers bread boxes of challah and Yemenite kubanah with accompanying dips to eager foodies. [NewYorker]
Around the Web
💥 Northern Front: Israel returned fire on Lebanon on Monday after six missiles were launched towards its northern border, but all fell short and landed in Lebanese territory.
🕍 Tragedy: Bleachers at a mass gathering in an unfinished synagogue outside Jerusalem collapsed during Shavuot services Sunday night, killing two and injuring more than 150.
🗣️ War Words: Israel condemned Chinese state TV for “blatant antisemitism” in its coverage of the Gaza conflict, and the U.S. State Department slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “antisemitic comments regarding the Jewish people.”
🤝 Looking Inward: In The New York Times, Yossi Klein Halevi argues that the real existential threat to Israel is not Hamas rockets but internal Arab-Jewish violence.
🏗️ Rebuilding: Famed Israeli chef Uri Buri, whose Acre restaurant was destroyed by Arab rioters, said he feels no anger: “My only focus is to rebuild this place.”
🚓 Arrested: U.K. police arrested four people on Sunday for driving a convoy of cars through Jewish neighborhoods in London while shouting antisemitic abuse from loudspeakers.
🔎 Crime Beat: Police are investigating a swastika scratched into the Chabad Jewish Community Center Synagogue in Salt Lake City, Utah, while Chicago police are searching for a suspect who smashed a synagogue window and left a Palestinian flag at the scene.
🙅♂️ No Thanks: The Council on American-Islamic Relations boycotted the White House’s annual Eid celebration in protest of the Biden administration’s support of Israeli actions in Gaza.
🎮 Refresh: The IGN gaming site angered some employees by removing an article about aiding Palestinian civilians, saying the post “mistakenly left the impression that we were politically aligned with one side.”
☢️ Nuclear Option: Iran gained the know-how to build nuclear weapons before its nuclear work was halted in 2003, according to a new book by the Institute for Science and International Security’s David Albright and Sarah Burkhard.
📱 Walk Back: Actor LaKeith Stanfield, who came under fire for moderating a recent antisemitic Clubhouse room on Louis Farrakhan’s legacy, distanced himself from the Nation of Islam leader.
💰 Partners: Philanthropist Lynn Forester de Rothschild, founder of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, is hoping to work with Pope Francis on encouraging a kinder capitalism.
👩 New Guardian: Bloomberg spotlights Vicky Safra, the 68-year-old widow of Joseph Safra, who is “now the guardian of the vast Safra fortune” estimated at $90 billion.
📈 Startup Nation: Israeli work management firm Monday.com filed publicly for a U.S. IPO, and Israeli web navigation startup WalkMe filed for a NASDAQ IPO and is reportedly eyeing a $4 billion valuation.
👨 Making Moves: After rumors of his impending departure, CNN President Jeff Zucker appears poised to gain a prime position following the recently announced Warner Brothers-Discovery merger.
🎥 On Tape: A new documentary, “Final Account,” features interviews with hundreds of elderly Germans who were actively or passively complicit in the Third Reich’s activities.
📺 Media Watch: CNN cut ties with a freelancer based in Islamabad after a series of antisemitic tweets including one that proclaimed: “The world today needs a Hitler.”
💼 Transition: Chanan Weissman, who recently worked in the State Department after serving as a White House Jewish liaison during the Obama administration, joined the Biden administration as the National Security Council’s director for technology and democracy.
Retired senior counsel in the D.C. office of Blank Rome LLP, Harvey Sherzer turns 77… A former New York State judge, now of counsel at Latham & Watkins, Jonathan Lippman turns 76… Clinical psychologist, author and ordained rabbi, Dennis G. Shulman turns 71… Former member of the California State Senate, Hannah-Beth Jackson turns 71… A nurse by profession, she served as member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Sandra “Sandy” Pasch turns 67… Harvey D. Harman turns 65… Retired chief of the general staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Gadi Eizenkot turns 61… Chief rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar turns 57… Journalist, teacher and playwright, Gersh Kuntzman turns 56… Professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alex Eskin turns 56… Author of 26 novels that have sold over 40 million copies in 34 languages, Jodi Picoult turns 55… Business manager and spokesperson for NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, Estee Portnoy turns 54… Chief executive officer of Bend the Arc, Stosh Cotler turns 53… Israeli-born chef, owner of multiple NYC restaurants, cookbook author and comedian, Einat Admony turns 50… Israeli actress and fashion designer, Dorit Bar Or turns 46… Canadian food writer and cookbook author, Gail Simmons turns 45… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Ofir Katz turns 41… Former professional baseball player, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and is now a pitching coach for the Santa Barbara Foresters, Zachary “Zack” James Thornton turns 33… Advocacy educator, engagement strategist and TED speaker, Natalie Warne turns 31… Professional ice hockey forward currently playing for CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League, Brendan Leipsic turns 27…