The Tikvah Podcast

Have you ever seen the old murals that decorate the walls of Israel’s historic kibbutzim? They often feature young, brawny Jewish men and women working and plowing the land. They evoke the pioneering spirit of early Zionism: glorifying the mixing of sweat and soil, focused on what Hebrew labor could achieve through cooperation and collective action, and strikingly statist, even socialist. These murals are, in fact, a stark reminder that the Jewish state was founded in large part by Labor Zionists, and that the Israeli Left once dominated the country’s politics.

Things have changed a great deal over the past 72 years. Israel is now a nation with a strong conservative consensus. The Labor Party of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir—the political organization that erected the governing structures of the country—has been reduced to a mere three seats in the 23rd Knesset. And a poll conducted earlier this month shows that if elections were to be held right now, the party that dominated Israeli politics for decades would not win a single seat in the next Knesset.

What happened? And what does Labor’s decline tell us about contemporary Israel? Earlier this week, the journalist and author Matti Friedman wrote a piece in the New York Times examining “The Last Remnants of the Israeli Left.” In this podcast, he joins host Jonathan Silver to discuss the history and precipitous decline of socialist politics in Israel.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Ulterior” by Swan Production.

Direct download: Friedman_Israeli_Left_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:27pm EST

Like so many nations around the world, Israel has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, the Jewish state has over 14,000 confirmed cases of the virus, and over 180 deaths. Among those who have suffered most from the pandemic are Israel’s ultra-Orthodox. The haredi public was slow to recognize the threat of the disease—keeping its synagogues and houses of study open even as the rest of the country closed down. Many haredim initially failed to observe the “social-distancing” protocols that have helped to slow the virus’s spread, and the results are clear: confirmed coronavirus cases in the haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem and in predominately ultra-Orthodox cities like Bnei Brak are among the highest in the country

Though things have begun to turn around, with more leading rabbis instructing their followers to observe social distancing to curb the pandemic, the question remains: why was the haredi public initially so reluctant so join the rest of Israel in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19?

No one has written about this with more insight, nuance, and wisdom that Tikvah’s own Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer. In an essay for Tzarich Iyun, Tikvah’s journal of haredi thought, Rabbi Pfeffer explores the principles and ideas that have been behind the haredi response to the virus and takes a hard look at the societal vulnerabilities this crisis has exposed. He joins this week’s podcast to discuss his important essay.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Pfeffer_COVID_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 5:14pm EST

Yoga represents a $16-billion industry in the U.S., reaching an estimated 36.7 million people in 2016 alone. And the Jewish community enjoys it as much as any other. One hears of synagogue-sponsored yoga programs and yoga minyanim (quorums). Even a right-wing Orthodox educational organization like Aish HaTorah has seen fit to re-post on its website an item titled “How Orthodox Jews Taught Me Yoga.” In a stimulating Mosaic essay on the subject, Menachem Wecker asks if the very thing that gets people excited about yoga, namely that it is not just physical exercise but spiritual nourishment as well, should force us to think about how it relates to Jewish faith. How much of contemporary yoga, a product of today’s “wellness culture,” is still seriously connected to its Hindu origins? What about the statues and other visual representations of non-Jewish divinities that adorn so many yoga studios? Is yoga a form of contemporary idolatry?

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by the author Menachem Wecker to discuss his March 2020 essay, “Shibboleths and Sun Salutations: Should Religious Jews Practice Yoga?” published in Mosaic.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_-_Wecker_Final2.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:17pm EST

With the recent agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, a governing coalition is at long last beginning to emerge in Israel. After three national elections in a single year, the Jewish state will soon have a regular cabinet and resume the work of government.

It couldn’t have happened at a better time. The coronavirus pandemic will have significant effects on Israel’s politics and economy, while Israel’s citizens continue to live under threat of attack from enemies in the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. And questions remain about what will become of the Trump peace plan, especially with American elections just a few months away.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by Moshe Koppel, chairman of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a member of the Department of Computer Science at Bar-Ilan University, and one of Israel’s leading conservative political activists and policy experts. They analyze the causes of Israel’s political crisis, explain how it finally came to an end, and probe the larger significance of these recent events in Israeli history.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

This podcast was recorded as part of an exclusive conference call for members of the Tikvah Society. If you want to learn more about joining the Tikvah Society, click here.

Direct download: Koppel_Podcast_FI.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 10:22am EST

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