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For English readers visiting this site, we provide information about Katharsis editors and advisory board, followed by the English abstracts of the articles in each issue.
For information, contact: info@katharsis.co.il 
 

EDITORS 

Amos Edelheit
Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy, National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
Student of Renaissance philosophy.
Former research collaborator in the De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Philosophy, Higher Institute of Philosophy, Catholic University of Leuven.    

Yehuda Friedlander

Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, Bar-Ilan University.

Former Dean of the Faculties of Humanities and of Jewish Studies.

Former Rector of Bar-Ilan University.

Former visiting scholar, Harvard University, and visiting professor, Brandeis University.

Winner of the Talpir Prize and the Avraham Kariv Prize.

Member of the Israeli Council for Higher education.

 

John Glucker

Professor Emeritus, Classics, Tel-Aviv University.

Former Lecturer in Classics, The University of Exeter, England.

Student of Greek and Roman philosophy, Classical philology, and the history of scholarship.

Visiting professor, Classics and Philosophy, University of Crete.

Former President of the Israel Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies.

Doctor in Philosophia Honoris Causa, University of Athens.

 

Alon Harel

Philip P. Mizok & Estelel Mizok Chair in Administrative and Criminal Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Former President, Israeli Law and Economics Association.

Former Visiting Fellow, Harvard University.

Former Visiting Professor, Faculties of Law, Columbia University and the Universities of Toronto and London.

 

Doron Mendels

Professor of Ancient History, The  Hebrew University.

Student of the history of the Hellenistic Greek and Jewish world, and of early Christian literature.

Former Head of the Department of General History, the Hebrew University.

Former editor, Scripta Classica Israelica.

Former president of the Israel Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies.

MEMBERS OF THE ADVISORY EDITORIAL BOARD 

David Bargal

Gordon Brown Professor of Social Work and Welfare, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Student of group and organizational behaviour and conflictts between human groups.

Former editor in chief of the periodical Chevra Urevacha.

Winner of the Ibelow Prize, Bar-Ilan University.

Former visiting professor in the Universities of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Columbia.

 

Rachel Birnbaum

Associate Professor, Classics, Tel-Aviv University.

Student of Latin literature.

Has published translations into Hebrew verse, with introductions and commentaries, of Catullus, Horace's Odes, and Juvenal.

Former Honoary Secretary, Israel Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies.

 

Menachem Friedman

Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bar-Ilan University.

Student of the sociology of religion, especially of radical religious groups.

Moshe Gil

Professor Emeritus, Jewish History, Tel-Aviv University.

Student of the history of the Jews in Arab lands, including the Cairo Genizah, Gaonic literature, and the literature of the Jews in Spain.

Former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Tel-Aviv University.

Winner of the Israel Prize and the Rothschild Prize in Jewish History.

 Aharon Kantorovich

International Fellow of the Center for the Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, U.S.A.

Won the University of Melbourne (Australia) first ever Research Fellowship in the Hitory and Philosophy of Science.

Research fellow at the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Has taught at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, Tel-Aviv University, and at the Department of Philosophy, University of Haifa.

 

Asa Kasher

Professor of Philosophy and incumbent of the Laura Schwarz-Kip Chair of Professional Ethics and the Philosophy of Practice, Tel-Aviv University.

Student of Pragmatics in general, with special emphasis on professional ethics.

Editor of the international periodical PHILOSOPHIA.

Author of the Ethical Code of the Israel Defence Forces.

Winner of the Yitzhak Sadeh Prize for Military Literature.

Winner of the Israel Prize in Philosophy.

 

Elisha Kimron

Professor, Hebrew Language, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Student of Biblical and Talmudic Hebrew and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Editor of the forthcoming full critical text of the Scrolls.

 

Hannah Rosén

Professor Emerita of Latin, the Hebrew University.

Student of Latin literature, and of the Latin language and its place in the Indo-European family of languages.

Former Head of the Department of Classics, the Hebrew University.

 

Raymond P. Scheindlin

Professor of medieval Hebrew literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and director of the Seminary's Shalom Spiegel Institute of Medieval Hebrew Poetry.

He is the author of several books and many articles dealing with the Hebrew poetry of the medieval Judeo-Arabic cultural sphere, especially Spain. He also specializes in  verse translation into English of pre-modern Hebrew literary texts; his major work of this type is a translation of the biblical book of Job.

He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, a Cullman fellowship (New York Public Library), and the Cultural Achievement Award of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

 

Moshe Shokeid

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tel-Aviv University.

Student of the anthropology of ethnic groups, especially of Jews from Arab lands in Israel and in the Diaspora.

Former Head of the  Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tel-Aviv University.

Former President of the Israel Anthropological Society.

Research fellow, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton.

Visiting professor at the University of Stokholm; Freie Universität, Berlin; Queens University, New York; New York University.

Emanuel Sivan

Professor of General History and the History of Islamic Countries, the Hebrew University.

Student of the history of Arab and Islamic lands, and of the Middle East.

Former head of the Division of Humanities, Social Studies and law, the Israel Science Foundation.

 

Sasson Somekh

Professor Emeritus of Arabic Language and Literature, Tel-Aviv University. Former Head of the Department of Arabic.

Student of modern Arabic literature, especially the literatures of Egypt and Iraq.

Hebrew translator of Arabic poetry. Author of Baghdad, Yesterday.

Winner of the Israel Prize in Oriental Stiudies.

 

Daniel Sperber

Milan Rowan Hof Professor of Talmudic Studies, Bar-Ilan University.

Student of Talmudic literature and its background in the Greek and Roman world.

Former Head of the Department of Talmud and Dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, Bar-Ilan University.

Chairman of the Committee for religious State Education.

Winner of the Israel Prize in Jewish Studies.

 

Meir Sternberg

Porter Professor of General and Comparative Literature, Tel-Aviv University.

Student of English and American literature, especially Narratology, and of the poetics of Biblical narrative.

Former editor of the Hebrew periodical Ha-Sifrut (Literature).

Editor of the international periodical Poetics Today.

Visiting professor in numerous universities in Europe and the United States.

Winner of the Israel Prize in General Literature.

 

Eyal Zamir

Augusto Levi Professor of Commercial Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Dean, Faculty of Law, the Hebrew University.

Formerly Visiting Scholar, Yale, University.

 

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English Abstracts - Issue 10

Shimshona Eliezer

"But it is All Personal"

A student in one of the humanities departments in an Israeli university obtained, some years ago, his first degree, B.A. It was an average degree, with no distinction, not to mention summa cum laude, but it was not 'just' a 'pass degree'. Something in the middle. It enabled the student to continue, as was then the custom in Israel, towards the second degree, M.A. But this particular student was far too ambitious to wait. He wanted to carry on directly to the PhD, and in a prestigious university abroad, since in Israel many academics and academic committees consider a degree from a respected university abroad – whatever the particular circumstances – as automatically better than the parallel Israeli degree.

With the financial help of his family, the student managed to spend some years in a prestigious university in the United States and obtain a doctor's degree. He came back to Israel and went immediately to the head of his previous department, demanding, as his birthright, to be appointed without delay as a lecturer in the department. After all, he had a PhD from a prestigious university in the USA, and for many Israeli academics whatever happens in an American university is, ipso facto, perfect in its kind.

The head of the department was not unaware of what has really been going on for some time in American universities. He knew of the existence of the institution called the Graduate School, the purpose of which is to produce as many doctorates as possible, at almost any price (including that of academic quality). He also knew that it is precisely the most prestigious universities that have developed the largest graduate schools. In many cases, ever since PhD studies have become a major industry, the university can no longer control the quality of the research. Quite often, a 'clever' student can manage to choose a supervisor who is either no proper expert in the field, or too busy to check everything thoroughly. The thesis is then sent to readers who are also no proper experts. They are impressed by all sorts of external things, such as a lot of dates, quotations in a number of languages, and the like, without checking (or being able to check) whether the dates are correct, or whether the writer understood what he quotes in foreign languages. Thus, a doctorate from a prestigious American university is no longer – if it ever was – a full guarantee of a high quality of research.

Knowing this, the head of the department (who is my source for this story) demanded to be given three photocpoies of the whole thesis, read one of them himself, and gave the others to two other experts. They all reached the conclusion that that thesis was sub-standard, full of basic mistakes in various aspects of the field of research, and methodically faulty. The two supervisors were clearly no proper experts in the field of the thesis, and one could assume that the anonymous readers who approved it were no experts either. The head of department called the former student and, without telling him who the readers were, informed him that, following their expert advice, he saw no reason for starting proceedings for his appointment in the department.

The student, however, did not despair. He had already established connections with some powerful Israeli academics – none of them in his field, but never mind – and within a year he was appointed to a post in another university, where he now has tenure. But things did not stop there. A few days after his meeing with the head of the department, he rang up one of the readers and complained about the 'injustice' he – the reader, his former teacher – had done by 'discarding' his thesis. He added that this was most surprising and unexpected, coming from one whom he had always admired as his best teacher in the department. To the reader's question how he had come by this secret information he simply replied that there are no secrets – and anyway, what does it matter? When the reader – his 'admired teacher' – explained that it was nothing personal, and that he had merely acted as a scholar, assessing the thesis impartially, the student replied that "there is no such thing as impartiality: everything in the academic world is personal."

My essay deals with this sort of claim, which one often encounters in various contexts. In our present story, this is clearly not the case, since three scholars who had no reason to be prejudiced against their former pupil acted properly and assessed the thesis on its merits (or lack of them) as a work of scholarship; although that student may claim (and probably does claim) that they, too, had done it for personal motives. No need to specify which motives, if we accept the dogma that "everything in the academic world is personal."

It is true that in most universities in the western world appointments and promotions depend on letters of reference from scholars in the field, and in many cases, especially when the field is relatively small, most of the referees know the candidate and have met him/her in conferences. What is more, some budding academics do not rely only on such 'necessary conditions' as a large number of publications, whenever posible in prestigious publishing houses and periodicals (see my article in Katharsis 4), and participation in international conferences. They use those conferences – and there are today literally dozens of conferences in each subject every year – to do what they regard as the most important thing in building up a career: 'networking'. Stripped of its high-sounding name, this means flattering senior infuential scholars, who may then, in exchange for being told how magnificent they are, being invited to lecture in the Holy Land, and any other 'appropriate' services and benefits, find it difficult, if and when asked, not to recommend their 'admirer' for tenure, promotion, a prize, and the like. Some would claim, therefore, that 'networking', and personal relations are all there is to it these days, and that they have totally replaced academic standards and requirements, which have now become mere formalities and 'necessary' – but not 'sufficient' – 'conditions'.

There is some truth in this claim. Flattery and other methods of 'networking' have become more widespread in the academic world in the last generation or so. What I claim is that they have still not become the one and only means of appointments and promotions. The very fact that committees still require doctorates, publications and teaching records testifies to it that even those who appreciate personal relations above all else still consider it at least 'politic' to demand – or to pretend to demand – some proper academic achievements. In a number of cases – as in the case of our head of department and the two readers – scholars still judge a work, when an academic appointment is at issue, not on personal grounds or on the reputation of a university or a supervisor, but on purely academic grounds. I maintain that this is exactly what every scholar involved in a process of appointment or promotion should do, and that an academic who acts on non-scholarly persoal grounds is guilty of betraying his trust, just like the director of a hospital who supports the appointment of a relative of his to the post of heart surgeon merely because he is his relative, even if he is an untrustworthy surgeon, or a high-ranking officer who supports the appointment of his former trainee as a combat officer, despite his unsuitability for such a position, merely because he is 'his man'. It is true that in such cases, the death by neglect of many patients or soldiers may result, while the appointment, say, of an ignorant professor of Spanish would 'only' result in some incompetent and illiterate publications which would bring 'mere' disgrace' on his university and on the Israeli academic world. But as we all know, Israel has no natural resources except its brains, and the humanities are an indispensable basis for any intellectual pursuits. I heard once, in an international conference in Turkey, a Turkish scholar maintain that a nation without philosophy and philology cannot call itself civilized. Do I have to go abroad to hear such words, which, until recently, were obvious to most members of 'the People of the Book'? 

Amir Engel

On Fidelity and Historical Truth

Elhanan Yakira, Post Zionism; Post Holocaust. Three Chapters on Denial and Negation of Israel, The Chaim Weizman Institute of the Study of Zionism, Tel-Aviv University, 2007

This is a review of Elhanan Yakira's book, Post Zionism; Post Holocaust, which attempts to contribute to a somewhat worn-out debate about Israel, the Holocaust and the use and abuse of memory in the service of ideology and truth. This book, however, is different from many others in the field. It is not a historical survey or a philosophical discussion, but it is rather a critique directed against a group of mostly Israeli thinkers that are sometimes labeled "post Zionists" and that have forcefully argued against the state of Israel for manipulating historical records as well as for its current policies. Without taking sides in this argument, this review is trying to show that Yakira does not provide the reader with a coherent world view, a historical analysis or a reasoned criticism and that his blunt judgment is based on something that is, in fact, irrelevant to the subject-matter of the debate: the fidelity of the author to a Zionist idea. The historians and intellectuals that Yakira deems untrue are relegated to the level of holocaust deniers and are labeled by him "ideologically perverse". The choice of these terms, I wish to show, is essential to what Yakira is actually trying to do in his book. Instead of facing the arguments of his opponents on the plane of argumentation, facts and historical interpretations, he chooses to circumvent the debate and to mark them as 'outsiders' and therefore unworthy of any serious consideration. This, more than his blunt language or other problems that can be found in the book, is Yakira's worst offense.

Doron Mendels

On Michael Segal, The Book of Jubilees: Rewritten Bible, Redaction, Ideology and Theology, Magnes Press, Jerusalem 2007

The review opposes the main argument of Segal, e.g. that the Book of Jubilees is a patchwork of many different and contradicting traditions that were put together by an editor. I argue that Jubilees is a composition with a clear unity of ideas that can be easily demonstrated. It is possible that its author drew upon earlier traditions, but he organized them quite well in line with his main aim. Jubilees wishes to demonstrate how political and theological issues of the Hasmonean period were already facing the fathers of the nation in Israel’s past. I argue that authors in antiquity (such as Diodours Siculus and Plutarch) drew upon many sources and since they wrote their compositions during a long span of time one can expect conflict in ideas here and there and even tensions from one chapter to another. But this in itself does not hamper the ideological unity of a composition.

A more serious problem concerning Segal’s book which is tackled by this review is the almost complete lack of a discussion on issues of context. Were he aware of those, Segal would have done a much better job. I elaborate on one significant aspect of the context of the Book of Jubilee, namely the issue of Hellenism and Hellenization. Segal deals at length with its role in the two first books of Maccabees. These books have to be viewed as the main background literature of the Book of Jubilees. Surprisingly, in both books the Hellenization is not at all emphasized. The real central topic is the fight of the zealous Jews against idolatry in the name of Monotheism. Therefore these Jews fight the natives of the Land of Israel rather than against the introduction of Hellenism into the Land. Thus it is against the background of the two first books of Maccabees that the Book of Jubilees should be read. Then it becomes quite clear that the author of Jubilees was as well a fierce fighter against idolatry in the name of Monotheism, but Hellenism is almost a non-issue for him. Moreover, the various actual issues that are transferred into the nations’ origins by the Book of Jubilees have escaped Segal's attention almost completely. For instance, the presentation of the special relationship between Israel and Edom and the Arabs cannot be ignored altogether. Taking these relationships together with the absence of Hellenism in the Book can point to the fact that the book was written in the second half of the second century BCE.

In spite of these criticisms, the review shows a great appreciation for Segal's sharpness and erudition, his clear presentation, and interesting narration. The book will no doubt be one of the main cornerstones in Jubilees studies henceforward. 

Eva Jablonca

Genetic Stories: Zionism and the Biology of the Jews

On Raphael Falk, Zionism and the Biology of the Jews, Resling, Tel-Aviv 2006.

The relationship between biological theory and data on the one hand and political ideology on the other is an issue of great sociological and political importance. Raphael Falk’s courageous book, "Zionism and the Biology of the Jews" describes the interactions between the study of biological heredity and Zionist ideology, offering a historical discussion of this tortuous relation, uncovering its social and political usages and ideological prejudices. His analysis leads to the slaughter of several genetic holy cows, and to an interesting alternative to the orthodox story of common Canaanite genetic origin of all extant Jewish people. Falk suggests that the origin of the Jewish people is diverse, and that the genetic similarity among Jewish communities is based on common and persistent cultural-religious affinities that have encouraged selective reproductive interactions, and ended up generating a certain degree of genetic similarity among them. This conclusion accommodates historical data that are usually excluded from the public and biological discourse, and offers a sobering and impartial account of the relations between genetic research and Zionist ideology.

 

Zipora Tal-Shir

Yonina Dor, Have the "Foreign Women" Really Been Expelled?, Jerusalem, Magness Press, 2006, 309 pages

The book deals with the expulsion of foreign women in the era of Ezra and Nehemiah. It comprises three parts: I. Ezra 9-10: the Composition and its Sources. II. Who Were the Foreign Women? III. An interpretation of the Idea of the Expulsion of Foreign Women. Each part offers a far-reaching innovation in the study of the book of Ezra-Nehemiah in general and regarding the issue of the foreign women in particular. The main conclusions are: (1) The material dealing with the foreign women is based on six different sources. (2) The term 'foreign women' does not in fact relate to women of foreign origin but is rather a disparaging designation of women that did not belong among the returnees. (3) The 'foreign women' were not actually expelled: the texts dealing with the expulsion communicate nothing but ceremonies in which the women are theoretically expelled but then return to their families.

The book is a philologically shallow study whose conclusions are built on quicksands. (1) The six (!) sources theory has nothing in its favor. It completely neglects the book's complicated history of composition, especially the contribution of the redactor who combined the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah and may well be responsible for the undecided ending of Ezr 9-10 as well as for the laconic reports of the actual separation much later. The specific texts that have a prominent role in regard to the problems discussed are only superficially analyzed, and differentiations between the 'sources' are made on false pretenses. (2) Contrary to the argumentation followed in this study, the book of Ezra-Nehemiah abounds in descriptions and definitions that prove that the women referred to are unequivocally women of foreign origin. There is no shred of evidence to show that the phrase 'foreign women' was drained of its straightforward meaning. (3) The peak of this study is the preposterous suggestion that the quite simple, prosaic, clear-cut texts say one thing and mean something completely different: that is, that the expulsion of the foreign women did not happen and was never meant to happen. Not only do the texts repeatedly and assertively state that the separation indeed took place, but the author of this study admits, loud and clear, that there is no trace of the most important stage of this alleged ceremony, i.e., the return of the 'ceremonially' expelled women to their families.

It is a pity that the author did not use the sociological studies which she cites with much ado in order to better understand this age of rebuilding the national and religious life of the community that involved far-reaching undertakings and heart-breaking decisions advanced in public ceremonies and mass gatherings.

Yairah Amit

On Yuval Shimoni's "Dust"

In this essay Yuval Shimoni examines the ways in which biblical literature tackles the subject of death and the transiency of human existence. This literature, the formative text of the Jewish people, is an essential element of the cultural residue that Shimoni himself carries, as well as a force that has affected and still affects the life of the Israeli collective. Seeking to elicit the meaning that arises from the canonical complex as it stands today, Shimoni scans the entire biblical collection, from the stories of the Book of Genesis to the Writings. The 'essay' form (genre) of his book legitimizes his subjective selection of parts, without a commitment to the whole. He suggests that this literature offers a "Hebrew answer" to the issue – namely, being part of the generational sequence of the collective existence. He excoriates this "solution", which has governed Jewish history, and now Israeli existence as well, stating that achieving immortality via the chain of generations heightens the tragic fate of individuals on both sides of the barrier, since in any event all are destined to turn into dust. It is thus an engaged essay with a message, denouncing the squandering of human life that is taking place in this land, and it seeks to understand its motivation. The cry of individual figures in the Bible, whom the option of collective immortality did not silence, is echoed by the cry of Shimoni's essay.

Meir Bar-Ilan

Review of: J. Liebes, Ars Poetica in Sefer Yetsira, Tel-Aviv: Schocken, 2000

Sefer Yetsira (hereafter: SY), or The Book of Creation is considered the most enigmatic book in Hebrew literature. The book is believed to be ancient, nobody is quite sure how ancient, and it was the trigger of the Kabbalah in the Middle Ages. Liebes undertook the task of deciphering the text, in the wake of some 60 commentaries, and this paper shows to what extent he has been successful.

Unfortunately, Liebes does not analyze SY philologically, which is especially needed in such an unstable text, nor does he use the I. Gruenwald's edition, though he promises to do so. Liebes says nothing about the astrological character of the book, and he seems not to be aware of the ancient meaning of the relationship between the planets and the days of the week as shown in SY. Moreover, Liebes ignores the mathematical aspects of SY, which G. B. Sarfatti has pointed out. Though Liebes himself has already contributed a paper to the relationship between ancient linguistics and SY, in this book not only does he not continue his studies, but the reader may be confused by different characterizations of the language of SY. While discussing SY Liebes tackles subjects that are not in the text, such as the messianic idea or the concept of the human propensity to destroy; mentioning the Zohar, a much later text, is irrelevant. Apparently in one aspect the modern scholar is not any wiser than R. Jehuda Halevi, his predecessor in the Middle Ages, which reflects badly on a contemporary scholar who uses modern technology and budgets in research. It is a pity that Liebes shows his misunderstanding of Talmudic texts, and even his comparative study of SY with Philo raises many questions. The methods Liebes uses in regard to SY's provenance – in time and place – are far weaker than what one may expect.

All in all, after Liebes' book, SY is still enigmatic and even shown to be a pitfall for scholars.

  English Abstracts - Issue 9

David Imanuel

Prizes, Membership in the Academy of Sciences, and Other Things

 The essay surveys the awarding of prizes in Israel in the humanities and social sciences as well as the procedures of appointments to the Academy of Sciences. Both are faulty and should be improved in the near future since they lack a great deal of objectivity and transparency.

Whereas many nominees of prizes in the humanities, social sciences and law are worthy of the prize, there are also many that have received it because they belong to a clique. They are awarded the prize for a wide range of reasons, not necessarily academic. Among the many prizes that are mentioned, the Israel Prize in particular is tackled in the essay. A careful examination of the nominees shows that the list of people who have received it in the last decades is not really impressive and even disappointing. Many important scholars that one would expect to have been nominees for the Israel Prize have never received it. Others who are mediocre scholars but have got the right contacts did receive the prizes. Prizes in general in these areas are frequently granted as a result of various political reasons. The essay mentions some of those reasons that are basically non-academic. Also, lobbying is quite common among candidates and their supporters.

Another topic that is discussed is the appointments to the Israel Academy of Sciences. The essay argues that whereas at the beginning of its existence, the Academy as an institution was justified since it constituted a pleasant club of mostly outstanding Jerusalemite scholars, at present it has become superfluous. The appointments in the humanities, social sciences and law are done without a serious and objective procedural system. Thus, alongside distinguished scholars, less distinguished ones are recruited by their friends who have already become members of the Academy in the past. Usually no serious search is done to compare candidates in various fields of the aforementioned fields of scholarship in order to appoint the most excellent ones. The outcome is that many excellent scholars have not been elected to the Academy while some who have been appointed are not first class scholars. It is here proposed that the Academy in its present form should be abolished (since it does not have much impact on Israeli society), and an Internet-based Academy should be created in which most serious Israeli scholars will be elected as members according to their publications and willingness to contribute to the society.

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Alexander Yacobson

The Joy of Moral Preaching

Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zion, Hebrew translation by Oded Wolkstein, Resling, Tel-Aviv 2007, 203 pages.

Jacqueline Rose's examination and critique of Zionism in her Question of Zion is a mixture of ideological polemic and psychological – sometimes psychiatric – analysis of the subject matter – Zionism's founding fathers, the movement launched by them, and the Israeli society and state. Zionism's various neuroses and pathologies, as Rose sees them, stem basically from an over-reaction, translated into violent, paranoid and self-righteous nationalism, to the weakness, helplessness and humiliation of Europe's Jews in the 20th century, which culminated in the Holocaust; the price for all this is paid by the Palestinians. Rose's book, according to the author, examines "one side of the story" of the Middle-Eastern conflict – the behaviour of the Zionist side towards its Arab neighbours, mainly the Palestinians. Rose admits that the Arab and Palestinian side contributed to the conflict, but this contribution is left virtually unexamined. What interests the author is to present a vivid portrait of the tortured Zionist soul; the Palestinian soul evidently fails to fascinate her in a similar way. The result is that the resort to force on the part of the Zionists is invariably presented as not merely excessive but pathological. But how can this claim, legitimate and worthy of examination though it may be in each particular instance, be actually tested in the absence of any serious attempt to assess the threats and dangers faced, as the author freely admits, by the Zionist and Israeli side in the conflict? The excessive and pathological character of the use of force by Israel is, throughout, taken for granted rather than proved. It is hard to see what moral or analytical value a critique of this kind can possess. Moreover, the author repeatedly proves herself ignorant of crucially important factual details of Zionist and Israeli history. The Zionist project itself is presented as a wild fantasy, psychologically understandable against the background of the Jewish distress in the 20th century but utterly divorced from reality – something of a hallucination experienced by people (the founders and leaders of Zionism) described as either on or beyond the verge of mental disturbance. But, of course, the alleged hallucination has, as a matter of fact, come true; this might be thought to indicate that people like Herzl and Ben-Gurion were, in many ways, sober realists rather then wild dreamers trying to impose their fantasies on the reality. Their actions can be analysed and criticised, but putting them on a psychoanalysts' sofa does not seem to be a useful idea. Moreover, moral condemnation (which, naturally, is Jacqueline Rose's true purpose) disguised as psychoanalysis is in itself a rather questionable procedure from the ethical point of view.

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Aharon Kantorovich

Einstein and the Cosmic Religion

Max Jammer, Einstein and ReligionPhysics and Theology. Bar-Ilan University Press 2007.

The book describes Einstein's views about the relation between science and religion and his special attitude towards religion. Jammer wonders whether Einstein's rejection of any religious authority in his formative years led him later to the great revolution he engendered in physics. Moreover, several biographers have seen his early doubts about the stories of the Old Testament as the origin of his belief in free thought in science and as a necessary condition for the discovery of the Theory of Relativity. When he was a student, he was influenced by colleagues who treated the ideologies of Marx and Mach as substitutes for religion. There are some thinkers who claim that these revolutionary ideologies where the driving force behind Einstein's revolution in physics. From this, Jammer reaches the conjecture that the rejection of religious authority led to the greatest achievement in the history of human thought. However, Jammer points out that Einstein saw science and religion as complementary rather than as opposing each other; most profound hypotheses in science grow up out of deep religious sentiment. But here Jammer accepts this view without trying to question it. For instance, aesthetic considerations play an important role in selecting scientific theories. In general, in most cases Jammer tells us about Einstein's views as sheer facts, without trying to pass judgment on them.

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Yeruham Yatom

On Shay Frogel, Rhetoric, Ma? Da! Series, edited by Marcelo Dascal, Kineret, Zmora-Bitan, Dvir, 2006.

Frogel's book, Rhetoric, is published in a new Israeli series MA? DA!, a local version of the well-known French series Que sais-je? As such — and this is explicitly mentioned in the preface to the book — its aim it to give the general reader basic and up-to-date information on its subject, in our case on rhetoric. Unfortunately, none of its aims is fulfilled, to say the least.

The review is divided into three main sections. First, since Frogel's book is heavily imbued with classical literature and full of references and citations taken from Greek and Latin authors, one would have expected the author to have a wide knowledge of the historical milieu of rhetoric in the Greek polis and later in the Roman Republic and Empire, and furthermore to be equipped with the necessary tools to handle such literature, first and foremost a competence in the ancient languages. Even a summary perusal of the pages of this book exposes Frogel's ignorance of Greek and Latin: if even the title of Quintilian's work appears as De Institutio Oratoria, it should come as no surprise to encounter Quid sit rhetoric; Rhetoricien esses bene dicendi seientian; dispotutio; ad persona, to mention but a few. Furthermore, a book dealing with rhetoric might have been expected to mention "speech" and "argument" among the different meanings of the term logos.

The second part of the review deals with Frogel's main argument. In his view, what he calls "good rhetoric" was considered by the ancients to be guaranteed by the combination of a professional skill in rhetorical methods together with good character. This "innovation" he ascribes to Plato. However, in Plato’s Gorgias, Gorgias himself refuses to accept responsibility for the behaviour of a bad student by attributing the behaviour to the bad character of the student himself, while Socrates (some might say Plato) argues to the contrary, that there is something in rhetoric which differentiates it from all other arts and renders it bad, or rather no art at all. Frogel's "innovation", therefore, is to adopt Gorgias' excuse and attribute it to Socrates/Plato.

In the third part of the review I have selected several of the many discussions in Frogel's book betraying the author's fundamental lack of familiarity with the material he uses and with logical consistency. Thus, Frogel attributes to Aristotle the view that rhetoric is an art and a few lines later that it is merely a knack. He confuses between the Greek rhētorikos and rhētōr. He treats Aristotle's ēthos as referring to the speaker's moral obligation, and the like. All in all, the book is nothing but a hotchpotch of themes deriving from a careless reading of translated sources and secondary literature. If there are any ideas and "insights", they have nothing to do with the textual evidence.

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John Glucker

Remembrance of Former Generations

In this issue, we reprint an article by Walter Kaufmann (Freiburg 1921 – Princeton 1980). The article, Heidegger's Castle, was first written and published in Hebrew in the Hebrew philosophical quarterly Iyyun, vol. 9, 1, 1958 (dedicated to Martin Buber on his eightieth birthday), pp. 76–101. Kaufmann himself then translated and expanded the article in English as chapter 17 of his collection of articles From Shakespeare to Existentialism of 1959 (and reprints).

Kaufmann was born in Freiburg to Jewish parents who had converted to Christianity, and was brought up in Berlin as a Lutheran. At the age of ten he lost his Christian faith, and at twelve – the earliest legal age – he converted to Judaism. He spent the next few years studying both at a German school and at a Jewish orthodox rabbinical college, intending to become a rabbi.

In 1938, at the last minute, the family succeeded in escaping to England, and Walter went on from there to the United States, intending to continue his studies there. When the war came, he joined the American army, and in 1944 he became an American citizen. Meanwhile, he continued his academic studies. He obtained his BA and MA in philosophy from Williams College, and in 1947, he received his PhD in philosophy from Harvard. From that year until his untimely death, at the age of 59, in 1980, he taught at Princeton (full professor since 1962).

Kaufmann was best known as something like an ambassador of German philosophy and intellectual culture in general to the English-speaking world. But his books on Nietzsche (1950) and Hegel (1965) have been seriously studied also by philosophers and historians of philosophy in other countries (including Germany itself) in their own right. They demonstrate, among other things, how much a close familiarity, in the original, with a philosopher's intellectual background can help us understand his thought.

In America, Kaufmann lost his faith, and he explains his position in The Faith of a Heretic of 1960. But he never lost his special relations with the Jewish world and its culture. In his Critique of Religion and Philosophy (1958), he shows more sympathy for Judaism – and Buddhism – than towards any other religion. In the preface, he states that all translations from Hebrew and Aramaic are his own, and specifies that he used the classic Wilno edition of the Babylonian Talmud.

Kaufmann was a frequent visitor to Israel, and was on close terms with some Israeli philosophers – especially with Samuel Hugo Bergmann and Mordecai Martin Buber. In 1962, he served as a visiting professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Had he lived longer, he might have settled in Israel, or at least retired to Jerusalem.

The article we reprint here is not meant to represent 'the final word of scholarship' – as if there were such a thing. Like all articles in this section, it is only meant to show that great Jewish and Israeli scholars of the last few generations were not afraid of being critical, and even devastatingly so, when they thought that the evidence before them required such a harsh criticism. Kaufmann bases his criticism, not only on a thorough familiarity with Heidegger's work, and with the German background, at the time, but also on his year in Germany in 1956/7, when he heard, among other things, some lectures by 'the mature' Heidegger. His impressions of the German philosophical scene were published as chapter 18 of From Shakespeare to Existentialism, "German Thought after World War II", which we recommend to readers of English as a supplement to the article on Heidegger.

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English Abstracts - Katharsis 7 

John Glucker

Excellence, despite Everything

This is a response to an article published in the Hebrew daily Haaretz, on February 13, 2007, by Professor Moshe Kaveh, President of Bar-Ilan University and Chairman of the Committee of Heads of Universities in Israel. In an attempt to justify the universities’ demand for an increase in their budget, Prof. Kaveh maintains that “the higher education sector is the only public sector in Israel which is financed by the state on the transparent basis of productivity, measurable by objective means”. In the course of his article, it is made perfectly clear that the “excellence” which appears in his title (and which I have kept in mine) is nothing but measurable productivity. With the precision one would expect of a distinguished scientist, Kaveh makes it clear later in the article that this productivity is to be measured by the “amplitude of the publications and the citations”. This – as one should expect in the case of objective and measurable criteria – can only mean the size, in number of books, articles, and pages, of the publications by Israeli academics, and the number of citations of their publications in the various Citation Indices.

I make it clear at the outset that I, too, support in principle the demand for a large increase in state financing of the universities. The alternative (which, in some measure, has already made its appearance) is a growing privatization of the universities. This would imply, among other things, requiring all students to pay ‘realistic’ fees, thus excluding from academic education some of the brighter young minds merely because they belong to families with a low income (“socio-economic status”, in today’s jargon). A small country like Israel, with no natural resources, and whose very existence is continually threatened, cannot afford this. I also accept Kaveh’s assumption – as a natural scientist, he should know – that quantity of publications and citations may well be a fairly objective criterion in the natural sciences, where the pace of research and the commitment to more objective criteria may be very different from those in the humanities and most of the social studies. Where I differ from him is in the attempt to impose these quantitative criteria on all subjects and fields studied in the university, including the humanities.

In the humanities, the pace of research is, as a rule, slower, and citations are not all that often a mark of excellence. Since the issue of citations and the Citation Index is still not all that well known in Israel, I give as examples two recent Hebrew translations: David Rokeah’s translation of Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, the first translation of that text into Hebrew; and Yoav Rinon’s translation of Aristotle’s Poetics, the third, and worst, Hebrew translation of that text. Rokeah’s book – translation, introduction, notes – is a major contribution to Hebrew scholarly literature by a man who is entirely at home in Classical and early Christian literature, as well as in the Jewish literature of the period, in their languages and backgrounds. Yet it has not, to the best of my knowledge, been reviewed in any Hebrew paper, periodical, or on Israeli radio or television. If there were a Citation Index in the Humanities in Hebrew, it would hardly earn a mention there. Rinon’s work was favourably reviewed in a number of papers; it had an hour-long programme on Israeli radio promoting it; and a three-page review in the Hebrew philosophical quarterly Iyyun praising it to high heaven (in the most general terms, with hardly a quotation or any other evidence). It is true that I published a scathing (and detailed) review of it in Haaretz in May 2003, and an extended version of this review in Katharsis 4, 2004, pp. 95-147. In it I pointed out such idiocies as “Euboea is an island east of the Peloponnese”, or “The sophists were paid teachers” (as the only explanation of this term) – not to mention sections of the Introduction which bear some uncanny verbal similarities to sections in the editions of Bywater and Lucas. But from the point of view of sheer, measurable quantity, this makes no difference. Indeed, my two articles – whatever their purport – would only add to the size of the entry in a Citation Index.

Thus, the formula E=mc2 (E: excellence, m: multiplicity, c: citations) cannot do for real academic excellence, at least not in the humanities. It may be a sufficient argument, in today’s mindless jargon, for the beleaguered heads of the universities in their haggling with a senseless and inhuman government; but adopting such an approach in the humanities – a process which has already made great advances, as many articles in Katharsis clearly show – is putting human studies in Israel in grave danger, to say the least. The humanities may appear to be of less importance than natural science and technology. But if we do not train some of our best minds to think logically, historically and philologically and refute the growing number of false arguments employed every day in all the media and international institutions by those who are intent on our liquidation, we may, in the very best case, survive merely as a small military power with advanced technology, large quantities of publications – and a preposterous pseudo-culture.

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Shalom Perlman

A Classical-Model Speech

Aeschines, Against Timarchos; On Male Love, translated from the Greek with Introduction and Commentary by Dwora Gilula, The Hebrew University Magnes Press, Jerusalem 2005.

The Hebrew translation of the speech of Aischines Against Timarchus by Prof. Dwora Gilula is to be heartily welcomed, because it is an important addition for those who are Greek-less, but interested in Greek classical literature. The translation into contemporary Hebrew makes it accessible to all. This is the first in a new series of translations of classical Greek speeches. (Since this review was submitted, the translation of Demosthenes' Against Meidias has been published.)

The translator has added a subtitle – On Male Love – which has no basis in the ancient tradition; moreover, she portrays the accused as a male prostitute, though the law provides for punishment against 'companions' who do it for a profit. The difference between 'companion' and 'prostitute' is one of social and political status.

Though the accusation is based on criminal law, it is clearly of political importance – as are the other two speeches of Aischines – in the struggle about the right way to react to the Macedonian expansion in Greece.

Prof. Gilula failed to explain to the Hebrew reader why this is considered a classical-model speech; she has not said much about Greek rhetoric, and in this case about the structure of the speech and the rhetorical means of persuasion – such as, e.g., the anticipation of the opponent's arguments. The rhetorical composition makes it a great oration.

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Aharon Maman

Is Medieval Comparative Semitic Philology a Copying or a Creative Work?

Dan Becker: Arabic Sources of Isaac Ben Barūn’s BOOK OF COMPARISON BETWEEN THE HEBREW AND THE ARABIC LANGUAGES, Tel-Aviv, Tel-Aviv University Press, 2005

The Jews in the Arabic-speaking area adopted Arabic and Arabic literary models for their works in philology, as well as in other fields of learning. It has long been common knowledge that Jewish writers borrowed from their counterparts Arabic terminology, paradigms and even examples. Recently, Dan Becker went a step further and by examining definitions and examples discovered the exact Arabic sources which Medieval Hebrew philologists used and quoted, mostly anonymously.

In his current book, Becker systematically points out the exact lines or paragraphs from which Ibn Barūn copied his lexical definitions or formulas. He even proves that in some cases the Hebrew philologists copied more than necessary for their Hebrew discussion.

However, once he has proved his thesis with clear examples, it seems too technical and superfluous to pick up every single occurrence of the same phenomenon. In this regard, the book seems to be nothing but an amplification of an earlier article Becker published on the same topic (in Language Studies viii, 2001, pp. 183-201).

The impact the collections of all Ibn Barūn’s quotes from his Arabic sources might leave on the reader is that Ibn Barūn was incapable of showing any originality.

Against this possible allegation I argue in this review that Ibn Barūn only used the materials he borrowed from his sources as mere components for a totally new creation which did not exist in any of his sources, i.e. comparative Semitic philology. As a scholar who mastered three Semitic languages, Arabic as his vernacular and literary language, and Hebrew and Aramaic as bearers of his Jewish culture, he could easily study both the similarities and the differences between the three languages – though he confined himself in his Kitāb al-Muwāzana to two only, Hebrew and Arabic. This is exactly what he realized by summing up all of the similarities between Hebrew and Arabic in his systematic comparative grammar and lexicon. None of these comparisons is to be found in his sources. The fact that he intensively used grammatical or lexical definitions from Arabic sources was only to avoid futile and unnecessary redefinitions. At any rate, his real work and innovation was the juxtaposition of those Arabic materials along with their Hebrew counterparts. His sources studied Arabic only, without combining with it Hebrew or Aramaic.

Becker’s book is indeed a clear monograph, but one that is reduced to one single feature of Ibn Barūn’s work, his borrowings from Arab grammarians and lexicographers, without referring to the other dimensions of Ibn Barūn’s Kitāb al-Muwāzana. A more balanced description of Ibn Barūn’s project would include the originality of his synthesis, along with the contrastive aspects of the languages he presented.

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Alon Harel

Chaim Gans, From Richard Wagner to the Palestinian Right of Return: Philosophical Analysis of Israeli Public Affairs, Am Oved, Tel-Aviv, 2006

In this important book, Chaim Gans collected previous essays discussing various aspects of Israeli public and political life. Gans’ approach in this book is a liberal one; he believes in the dignity of the individual and in the values of freedom and equality.

While the first part of the book is eclectic, the second part discusses the justifiability of Zionism and the question whether Zionism could be reconciled with liberalism. More generally Gans explores whether one can reconcile universal liberal values such as freedom and equality with nationalist particularistic sentiments which dictate privileging certain ethnic groups over others.

Nation-states differentiate between individuals on the basis of their ethnic or cultural affiliation. Such states often establish an official language or official religion and grant individuals from certain ethnic background privileges, e.g., privileges in immigration. The traditional liberal justification of these practices is grounded in the interests of individuals to maintain and develop their culture. Gans’ primary task in the second part of this book is to challenge this traditional liberal justification for a nation-state. While acknowledging the importance of cultures, Gans denies that the right to maintain and develop one’s culture entails a right to establish a nation-state designed to protect this culture. His view is that non-state institutions can adequately protect the interest in culture and that they can do so without offending other liberal values.

Using historical examples, my review establishes that non-state institutions are often ineffective in protecting the interest in culture and that, contrary to Gans’ conviction, nation-states are often necessary to protect this interest. Furthermore, I establish that the exclusive reliance on non-state institutions discriminates against weak nations or cultural groups which need the help of state institutions to preserve their culture.

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Aharon Kantorovich

The Universe in a Nutshell

On Dan Falk’s book: Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything, Translated by Shlomit Kna’an, Keter Books, 2005.

The book describes the search for the “final theory” that will explain in a unified manner the large variety of natural phenomena in terms of simple formulae. The author provides many historical and social insights and cites some valuable observations from the philosophy of science. He treats the ideational and the human-anecdotic aspects of science on an equal footing and concentrates in particular on the latter aspect. The book tells us the story of philosophers of nature and scientists from the ancient era until contemporary science and deals less with the content of their ideas.

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Magen Broshi

Marriage in Antiquity, Arpachshad for Example.

This article analyses the paper by Meir Bar-Ilan “Marriage and Other Basic Problems in Ancient Jewish Society” (Cathedra 121, 2006, pp. 23-52). The gravest fault of Bar-Ilan (hereafter BA) is his uncritical use of data. For instance, concerning Arpachshad, grandson of Noah, the Bible tells us that he lived 408 years and his son Shelah was born when he was 35 (Genesis 11, 12). From this datum BA deducts that Arpachshad married at the age of 34. Is there a demographic, gynecological or actuary rule that a child is born a year after the wedding? Can a Biblical chapter that tells us about patriarchs who lived hundreds of years be used as a demographic source? On the data given in this chapter on Abraham’s ancestors, BA reaches the conclusion that the average age of marriage for men was exactly 30.8 years. Does it make sense? Given life expectancy in antiquity, is it possible that men deferred their nuptials to this ripe old age? On the Patriarch Jacob we are told that he had 12 sons and 1 daughter. This and similar data (Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters) makes BA conclude that there was great shortage of brides. Doesn’t he grasp that the numbers 12 and 7 are typological? Or that Dinah, the only daughter among Jacob’s siblings mentioned in the biblical narrative, is mentioned because she was raped, a rape that was followed by a mass massacre?

The chapter on the economy of Palestine in the early Roman period is not much better than its predecessor. It ascribes the growth of population to trade with India and the introduction of rice growing. Both suggestions are futile. The difficulties of navigation in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea prevented any significant commerce. Scarcity of water and suitable land made rice growing a very marginal occupation.

As often happens in cases of poor scholarship, BA felt entitled to make abusive remarks on eminent scholars like Elias Bickerman and Martin Goodman.

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Ruth Ginsburg

"I come, then, as a Jewish Historian": From historical novel to scientific discourse and back

Yosef Haim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses, Judaism Terminable and Interminable, Shalem Press,
Jerusalem 2006

The belated translation of Yerushalmi's polemical, excited and exciting lectures (of 1991) on Freud's problematic Moses and Monotheism (of 1939) provides an occasion for a reassessment of his contribution to the emotionally-charged contestation over Freud's legacy. Yerushalmi's Freud's Moses is exceptional both in form and in content, its tour de force rhetoric leaving no reader indifferent. It clearly attests to its author's ambivalent fascination with Freud, his love-hate of this father figure.

Yerushalmi addresses his subject from the standpoint of a self-conscious Jewish historian, well aware of the dilemma facing a scholar whose identity problem is inextricably intertwined with the history he is writing. He is writing his Moses-book as a historian who has articulated his credo as a Jewish historian in an earlier book, Zachor, and who realizes the challenge Freud poses to it. His argument has two objectives: first, to convince his readers, on the basis of historical, documentary evidence, that Freud's last book is essentially a Jewish book, in which Freud belatedly fulfills his father's testament and returns to the folds of the religion of his forefathers. Yerushalmi's second objective is to deny Freud the title of "historian" and undo his conception of a psychoanalytic history. Freud's book, so Yerushalmi, is not history but myth. Modern Historiography has to do with consciously-organized social collective memory and tradition and not with an unconscious transmission of repressed imagined phantasized Ur-deeds. No analogy can be drawn between individual and collective psychology. Freud is not a historian, but an arch anti-theologian.

Of the many reactions to Yerushalmi's controversial grappling with Freud, two very different examples are treated at some length: Jacques Derrida's Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, and Jan Assmann's Moses the Egyptian, The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism.

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Gideon M. Kressel

Eisenstadt, S.N. Jewish Civilization: The Jewish Historical Experience in a Comparative Perspective. Sde-Boqer, Ben Gurion University Press, 2002

Drawn on Carl Jaspers’ concept of the “Axial Age” and the goal of history, which carries on ideas expressed by Max Weber regarding ethic and spirit in the world’s economy, S.N. Eisenstadt’s book is said to estimate the trajectory along which Jewish publics have passed through time. Viewing the annals of Jewish life since the distant past, the book is focused on the views of the institutions that run the Jews’ affairs in Israel and the USA, which after the Holocaust remained the people’s main centers.

The linking of Jewish civilization to premises of the divine (i.e., the Kingdom of Heaven) is an unfulfilled promise of this book. Though thickly descriptive and richly documented, Professor Eisenstadt fails to expound his database in terms of an “axial age” idea. A few examples are therefore suggested to further his work;

—Jewish courts and capital punishment, both in lands of the diaspora and in the sovereign State of Israel;

—Rules of the Sabbath, Sabbatical year (Shmita) and Jubilee by State Laws;

—Thoughts debated pertaining to civil constitution alongside the Torah;

Kashruth (ritual diet) monitored by State laws vs. personal freedom of religious abiding.

An apparent similarity endowed by differing perceptions of the divine is another theorem to be examined. The relative advantage gained by endorsement by one heavenly concept, e.g., Jihad, in comparison with the Hindu term of Karma for satisfying the Deity; or contrasting Jihad with a missionary approach to spreading belief. Put these terms of serving the Holy vis-à-vis the (Jewish) succumbing to a scapegoat position on confronting belligerent others shatters an idea of sameness and of an axial view as regards to the meaning of life.

Persecutions, inquisition, pogroms, pacts of structured humiliations (dhima) or, on the other hand, openness and hospitality to Jews as neighbors—all are needed to elucidate either the relinquishing or the adherence of Jews to their ethnic tradition. The availability of religious ministrants is another expounding factor to a civilization in practice, which remains opaque in Eisenstadt’s book.

What is essentially ‘civilization’ and what promotes Jewish traditions, manners and customs to reach the level of a civilization, are questions to be answered, perhaps in another book.

Jewish Civilization by Professor S.N Eisenstadt holds an ample amount of historic material. It stimulates intricate sociological and philosophical thought—and it is not an easy read.

 

זכרון לראשונים

Remembrance of Former Generations

In this issue, we reprint a number of items by the late Haiim B. Rosén (Vienna 1922 - Paris 1999). Our selection includes a section from his revolutionary book Our Hebrew, Viewed in the light of Linguistic Methodology, of 1955; a review of a book on Hebrew linguistics which was popular at the time, and an esssay called Palmach, a spirited parody of various manners and fashions in etymological research.

Haiim Rosén studied Classics and Linguistics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His PhD thesis, of 1948, concerned the grammar of Herodotus, and was an indication of his life-long interest in this author and his language. After some years of serving in the army, teaching Latin and Hebrew in a school, and studying in Paris, he joined the Department of Linguistics of the Hebrew University, where he taught until his retirement. He also taught for many years in the Classics and Hebrew Linguistics departments of Tel-Aviv University. His fields of research were Indo-European linguistics, with special emphasis on the Greek language and its dialects, and the modern linguistic study of the newly-formed Israeli Hebrew. He published numerous books and articles in these fields in Hebrew, English, French and German. Perhaps his most remarkable achievement on the Greek side was his monumental two-volume Teubner edition of Herodotus (1987; 1997). His work on modern Hebrew, starting with his 1955 Our Hebrew, caused a stir among the more conservative Hebraists, most of whom refused to admit that the Hebrew spoken and written in Israel was fast becoming a new language, departing from the various kinds of “Classical” Hebrew which preceded it. Yet by the late 1970s he was awarded the Israel Prize, largely for his achievements in the linguistic study of Israeli Hebrew.

Rosén was a demanding, but also a charismatic teacher, and no student who attended any of his courses could ever forget the true intellectual experience involved in them, and the teacher’s complete identification with his subject. He was well-known and highly respected in linguistic circles in Europe and America. He died suddenly while on a year’s leave in Paris, one of his great loves.

In the Hebrew version, we have an introduction on, and an appreciation of, Haiim Rosén by his erstwhile pupil Aminadav Dykman, now senior lecturer in literature at the Hebrew University.

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Katharsis 6 - English Abstracts 

John Glucker

"Uncollegial": "snitching" vs.
aiding and abetting

This article analyses concepts such as "collegial", "uncollegial" and "group solidarity" in the context of academic reviewing and criticism in the humanities in Israel.

Very often, when an Israeli academic in a faculty of humanities publishes a review in which he exposes the incompetence and ignorance (and often also the dishonesty) of another academic, he is accused of being "uncollegial" and of lack of "solidarity". This accusation is based on the assumption that even if the reviewer is perfectly right, and the reviewed book or article is utterly incompetent or misleading or both, it is "not nice" to expose someone who is, after all, a colleague, "one of us".

What, then, is such a "colleague", whose honour and dignity should not be tainted, even at the price of ignoring basic scholarly standards? A colleague is merely a man or a woman who has been appointed to hold the post of lecturer or professor in an academic institution. Anyone even slightly familiar with appointment procedures, and especially with the manner in which they have been conducted in recent years, knows that not every person who has passed through the various committees and obtained his post or promotion is a true scholar. In numerous cases, the sheer number of publications is the only consideration in the committee's initial decision whether it should even start proceedings for this particular person – independently of the quality of these publications. This, as Shimshona Eliezer has pointed out in a previous issue of Katharsis, often gives an initial advantage to the unprincipled careerist and charlatan, who knows how to produce as many publications as possible and to establish the right connections ("networking"), and excludes at the outset the careful and meticulous scholar, whose main concern is the thoroughness and real originality of his research and the quality of his publications. In other cases, a person is appointed or promoted, not because of his qualities as a scholar, nor even because of the number of his publications, but because of his connections with powerful academics within his institution and outside it. Thus, the fact that someone is a lecturer, a professor, a dean, and the like is no guarantee for his qualities as a scholar. If I read a book by such a "colleague" which is incompetent, full of basic errors, and misleading, there is no reason why I should regard the decisions made in the past by various committees as overruling my duty as a scholar. My duty is to warn students and "innocent readers", who do not possess the tools for assessing the publication, of the dangers of using it as if it were a competent book or article based on real expertise.

I compare this type of situation with what happens in other professions. If a medical expert discovers that a colleague, a surgeon, does not possess the basic qualifications for his work and, as a result, his patients suffer and some of them die, his duty is not to cover up for a colleague, but to warn his superiors and the public. If he does not "snitch" on his colleague, he is aiding and abetting crime. It is true that incompetence and ignorance in the humanities is not quite as dangerous as incompetence in medicine, or even dishonesty in financial dealings. But in principle – and the principle is still officially upheld in most academic institutions – a man or a woman is appointed to a post in the humanities on the assumption that he or she is fully competent in their field of study. If an academic is not fully competent, conceals it from his colleagues and from the committees, and manages to obtain his post and promotions, he is in breach of contract. Moreover, by teaching others subjects which he himself does not properly know, and by supervising research students and helping them to obtain university posts, he is spreading and perpetuating ignorance, incompetence and dishonesty at the highest academic levels. A scholar's duty, when he is faced with reviewing the work of such an academic, is first and foremost to the students, the public – and, essentially, to scholarship.

 

Ezer Scribonic, Ahuva Schreiber, Mahmud Katib

Scribo ergo sum

This article is to be read together with Shimshona Eliezer's article – "The Publications Industry" – which appeared in Katharsis 4. While in Shimshona's article the emphasis is given to the danger in taking the number of publications as the sole criterion for positions and promotions in academic institutions, in our article we focus on the techniques by which one can enhance the number of his publications using nothing but formal methods.

We start by stating the difference between scholarship and scholarly publication. Publications do not create scholarship. They are only one of its expressions. Thus one may be a scholar without even one single publication. This statement is quite obvious, but it should be remembered and repeated again and again, since today it is the publication, or rather the number of publications, which create the scholar. This opens the way before the charlatan to become a scholar by means of publications alone. While in the good old days scholarly research required a knowledge of the relevant materia and only an acquaintance with the rules of how to write and submit an article, today things have been reversed. The "professional articles producer" knows, in the strict meaning of the word, how to produce an article, and has only an acquaintance with the relevant materia. This acquaintance could be taken from secondary literature such as introductory books, encyclopedias, articles and articles dealing with other articles and the like. Taking this kind of information the "professional articles producer" can make, easily enough, an academic article. This can be done by using suffixes such as –ism and –logy, high and elevated sentences, big theories and the like.

In the second part of our article we have collected a few rules which we have called 'a guidebook for the "professional articles producer"'. 1) The idea itself is enough for making the argument. The "professional articles producer" does not care whether his new idea suits the facts. He may use as his "proofs" arguments such as "no one has said it before" or what we call "negation of the negation", namely: the fact that the idea is not wholly absurd is enough to present it as a thesis. 2) One has simply to inflate an idea he has found somewhere. The means by which this inflation is made are various and include mainly citations and hermeneutic theories. In order to evade plagiarism he may refer to his source with formulae such as "this thesis owes very much to the insight of Prof. Smith …" In that way both scholars are rewarded. The first gets another reference in the "citation index" and the second has another publication. 3) The fact that a thesis is challenging is enough for presenting it as a scholarly thesis. Thus the argument that Spinoza was a homosexual is very challenging. It even might explain some difficult passages in his Ethics. Moreover, no one has said it before! 4) Taking a self-standing article and cutting it into four articles may be also used by the "professional articles producer". In these cases the articles will be published in different periodicals, and if possible in different languages (one can use his fund to pay for a translation!). 5) Whenever there is a debate between two real scholars presenting opposite ideas, the "professional articles producer" may present a "moderate version" of this debate. Sticking to every debate whatsoever a "moderate version" may double and triple his publications.

One of the referees of this article expressed his fear lest some of the readers may, indeed, find these rules very useful to their career. However, it is our hope that presenting this 'guidebook for the "professional articles producer"' will be used as a mirror. Standing in front of a mirror may make someone pleased with himself, but sometimes it should make him also change his ways.

 

Irene Eber

Human Nature – A Perennial Problem in Chinese Philosophy

Galia Pat-Shamir, A Human Riddle, Human Nature and Chinese Philosophy, Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Press, 2004, 255 pp., index.

Professor Pat-Shamir's book deals with a subject that continues to be important in Chinese philosophy to the present day. As a work of interpretation it is a significant contribution in the Hebrew language to the subject of Chinese thought generally and of human nature in particular.

Confucius's (ca. 551-479 BCE) few and terse statements on the topic were more fully explained by his follower Mencius (ca. 371-289 BCE), who connected the notion of the innate goodness of human nature to the human attribute of compassion. Although also considered as belonging to the Confucian school, the philosopher Xunzi (fl. 298-238 BCE) insisted that goodness was an acquired characteristic due to the civilizing influence of laws and rules.

Not only Confucians, Daoists too were concerned with the problem of human nature, but their argument was significantly different. Rather than discussing a good or bad human nature, Zhuangzi (ca. 369-286 BCE), for example, believed that everything that exists has a nature that must be allowed to express itself freely.

These ideas of the classical period of Chinese philosophy were given a new and more sophisticated twist in the Song dynasty (960-1279). Philosophers during this period were intent on understanding the human order as part of cosmic existence. Obviously, therefore, if the cosmic order is considered both good and moral, the individual too must possess the goodness that allows him to engage in moral action. The two philosophers most responsible for developing this idea were Cheng Yi (1022-1107) and Zhu Xi (1130-1200).

A Human Riddle deals with these as well as with other men. Nor does the author neglect the impact of Buddhist schools of thought, which too dealt with the problem of human nature. Considering its comprehensiveness and its sound approach, the book is a most welcome addition to a growing shelf of works on Chinese philosophy in Hebrew.

Aharon Kantorovich

Science on the Psychoanalyst's Coach

Yehoyakim Stein, The Unconscious in Science and in Psychoanalysis, Magnes Press, Jerusalem 2005, 182 pp.

Yehoyakim Stein outlines in his book a program for a new field: the psychoanalysis of science. His contributions in this direction focus on the unconscious or unintentional activity of individual scientists and communities of scientists which leads to scientific creativity. However, the author claims that the psychoanalysis of science is intended to deal also with processes which hinder the growth of science – in other words, how blind spots in science disturbed its development. But unintentional behavior or serendipity is also a major source of creativity, whereas the author treats it as a source of disorder which hinders the progress of science. The contrast between these two tasks is discussed.

Alex Weingrod

The New Israeli Sociologies: Designing the New Orthodoxy

This review article considers four recently published sociological studies of Israeli society. Two of the books (by Baruch Kimmerling, and by co-authors Gershon Shafir and Yoav Peled) were published in English; the other two (the one co-authored by Ephraim Yaar and Ze’ev Shavit, and the other by Uri Ram) appeared in Hebrew. Taken together, these books present fresh views and interpretations of present-day Israeli society, and, in fact, both Kimmerling and Shamir-Peled claim that in comparison with earlier studies, their books represent the new critical “second generation” analysis of trends and developments within Israeli society.

Each of the four books is briefly reviewed, both with regard to contents and theory, and comparisons are drawn between them. Taken together, the studies generally succeed in developing a keen analysis of the sectorialized, globalized, market-oriented and militarist trends that have become increasingly influential. The new Israeli sociologies are also criticized on several counts. First, several of the books present a partial and therefore incomplete view; second, some of the studies revise the pre-state period in such ways that the major role of the kibbutz and the Labor movement become blurred; and third, the dominant influence of the political Right during the past three decades is not given adequate attention.

Shraga Nero

The Backward Look and the Black Hole

On Shahar Bram, A Backward Look. The Long Poem in the Writings of Israel Pincas, Harold Schimmel and Aharon Shabtay, The Hebrew University Magnes Press, Jerusalem 2005, 200 pp.

A section of this book is based on a PhD thesis presented to the Hebrew University, and some other parts of it have been published as articles. Its subject is what is called "the long poem" (in Hebrew one uses the term "poema", taken from Russian literary terminology) in the work of three Hebrew poets, two of whom began publishing in the 1960s and one in the 1950s, and all of whom are still active today. Their work consists of poems of different lengths and genres, and the long poems are only a small part of their output.

I begin my discussion with some methodological observations concerning the difference between literary criticism and literary scholarship and research. The literary critic analyses the recent work of living authors, helping the reader to become more sensitive to contemporary literature and sorting out proper literary works of art from pseudo-literature. The literary scholar, on the other hand, cannot deal properly with the works of his contemporaries, since his basic corpus is small and is still evolving, and since he lacks historical perspective. I also observe that it is somewhat artificial to select one kind of poetry out of the many poems of different descriptions published by the same poet, and to deal with it in the perspective of the history and nature of this particular poetic genre, without examining it in the context of the poet's whole output and his immediate background and influences.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what Bram attempts to do. In his discussions of each poet, and of each individual work, he invariably puts them in the wider context of "the long poem", from Homer and Hesiod to Dante and Whitman, ignoring their background in the Hebrew literature of their age and of earlier periods, or the immediate – and acknowledged – influences on them of English and American poets like Eliot and Lowell, and in the case of Pincas, Italian poets like Montale. He is also unaware of the influence of Talmudic texts and of mediaeval Hebrew poetry on these poets. Indeed, what concerns him is not even a proper comparison with Homer, Hesiod or Dante – poets whom he has hardly read even in translation – but the wide and often meaningless generalities of the contemporary jargon of literary theory. When we meet with long lists of poets who wrote "long poems" – e.g., Homer, Hesiod, Virgil, Dante, Wordsworth, Whitman, Pound, Williams, Olson – one doubts how much of their poetry he has actually read. He draws his information on the Greek, Latin, French and Itailian poets, and on Wordsworth, from secondary literature, and only occasionally refers to their texts (in the case of non-English poetry, in translation). In one case, he mentions – in a passage taken from another Hebrew book – a "long poem" called "Genriada". The reference is clearly to Voltaire's Henriade, and the author of the book Bram has used found it somewhere in the Russian pronunciation.

Thus, although he claims that one of his aims is to put "the long poem" in a historical perspective, his ignorance of languages and literatures renders him incapable of performing such a task, or even of being able to read critically the secondary literature in Hebrew and in English from which he derives his historical information. One finds such general statements as that "prose never became a proper literary vehicle in antiquity", or that Plato and Aristotle use the term "lyric poetry", or that Homer and Hesiod present a linear view of time and history.

As a result, the poems which Bram has selected for analysis are treated in a vacuum, with no reference to the poets' other works, to their immediate literary milieu in Israeli and earlier Hebrew poetry, and are dealt with against the background of vague generalizations about "long poems" from Homer to Williams, taken at second hand from the works of other literary theorists. What matters to Bram is neither the analysis of the poems themselves, nor the proper history of epic poetry and its cognates in world literature, but the use of fashionable jargon. The book is full of high-flown words like "space", "archetypal", "paradigmatic", "narrative", "metaphor" – and one could add more and more. Instead of doing proper literary criticism and sensitizing the reader to the poems discussed, Bram throws a cloud of theoretical smoke between the reader and the poem, as well as between the reader and himself.

One feature of this book is the free and frequent use of wild association – usually prefixed by words like "by necessity" or "as is well-known". When a poet writes about a sharp knife in our heart, "by necessity" he means the occupation of Palestinian land, and its poem thus becomes a leaflet of the peace movement and loses is many ambiguities. When we have a crow, this must be a reference to Noah’s crow, who betrays mankind because he knows that man is also a treacherous animal. The image of an animal which looks like "an elegant frog" must imply a prince: after all, every frog has a prince inside is, as is well-known. This is as far as Bram attempts to produce some apology for literary criticism.

My conclusion is that this book is neither a work of literary scholarship nor a piece of literary criticism. It is not criticism, since, apart from the free associations and the liberal use of metaphors, metonyms and archetypes whether they stick or not, there is no attempt to penetrate the poems and illustrate them against their own literary environment. It is not scholarship – beside my more general observation that the work of living poets lacks the perspective necessary for literary scholarship – because the author is entirely innocent of the basic tools of literary scholarship: knowledge of language and of literatures in the original, and knowledge of the historical background to the various literatures. The erudition he displays here is almost entirely second-hand, and mainly taken from works of fashionable literary theory rather than works of literary history or close analysis. This is a book which was written with the sole aim of promoting the academic career of its author. The fact that such a book has been published by a respected academic press, and that its author teaches literature in a university, is a sad reflection on the general state of the academic study of Hebrew literature today. 

Reuven (Raymond) Scheindlin

On Shulamit Elitzur (ed.), The Liturgical Poetry of Pinhas ben Jacob ha-Kohen, Magnes Press, Jerusalem 2004 

The book under review is a comprehensive work on the liturgical poetry of Pinhas ben Jacob ha-Kohen (8th century), one of the most important Hebrew poets of late antiquity. The book, which fills a great lacuna in Hebrew literary history, contains, in vocalized form, all the poems attributable to him, together with a complete critical apparatus and commentary. The book also includes a major study of Pinhas’s works, dealing with: the poet’s period, the attribution of the poems, poetic forms, functions, style, prosody, language, and themes, and related subjects. The review raises for discussion the author’s appraisal of Pinhas as a classical payyetan, suggesting, rather, that some aspects of Pinhas’s work show post-classical tendencies vis-à-vis the work of his great predecessors, Yannai and Qallir. This judgment is not intended to diminish at all the importance of Pinhas’s contribution or that of this masterful work to the history of Hebrew letters.


Gideon Kressel

Hurricanes and Storms in a Glass of Water

Oz Almog, 2004. Farewell to 'Srulik'; Changing Values Among the Israeli Elite. Haifa University, Zmora Bittan. 1412 pp. 

This book reviews changes of ideational trends observed in the Israeli elite, the way they are reflected through the media, including the written press, radio and TV programs, and in several works of literature. Here journalists and writers are the main protagonists, who take the lead as though their voices are the elite's, swaying the nation away from the shores of 1948. The shift is perceived primarily in distancing from anything communal, striving towards privacy and individuality, hence from centralism to decentralization. Written texts and refreshing anecdotes subdivided into five 'gates' or 'fronts' are used in demonstrating this metamorphosis. These 'gates' are journalism; jurisdiction; psychology; feminism and the family. Dr. Almog brings to the fore a lot of past material which is pertinent, interesting, refreshing and telling, but it is hardly analyzed and is mainly categorized.

Inter-creed, inter-ethnical, inter-gender, inter-generational, inter-ideological and inter-personal encounters gain attention; on the other hand, the division of sovereignties, the distinction of ministries, of parties and movements, of national and regional authorities, the three instances of law, socio-economic structures and macro organizations such as the labor union, the military and the police, subdivisions of academic institutions and of science communities, of scientific achievements, the religious establishments, etc., do not. As regards qualitative methods, the two-volume book does not provide numerical data of any sort to justify its assertions.

Alternative themes for future studies of the above-mentioned local effects (few examples) are proposed by the reviewer. These are the powerful concomitances that the demise of the Soviet Union had; the declining perception of socialism and of the 'world of tomorrow'; Americanization of political climates diminishing the weight of platforms in favor of individual wealth and show-person traits; the interplay of mega capitalist companies in the local economy; rising standards of living and the growth of the local disposable income; growing socio-economic gaps; the spread of computers and the impact of the internet age; cheap labor arriving from abroad, thus changing the value of labor; the ease of emigration of Israelis now striking roots in a growing number of foreign lands that welcome their arrival; reshuffling of the two-world blocks into conflict between radical Islam and Christianity; and recent, renovated patterns of anti-semitism, including the rising volume of calls to demolish the Jewish state.

Yoram Erder

Eyal Regev, The Sadducees and their Halakhah – Religion and Society in the Second Temple Period, Yad Ben Zvi Press, Jerusalem 2005, 457 pp.

According to Regev one can understand the essence of the Sadducee movement mainly by studying its halakhah. My critical article is also devoted to this subject.

Regev believes that since the Boethusians held an halakhic approach similar to that of the Sadducees, investigating the halakhah of the Boethusians will also help to decipher the Sadducee enigma. Most of the Sadducee halakhah is preserved in the Rabbinic Oral-Law literature, which was written and edited by the enemies of the Sadducees, a long time after the disappearance of the movement. As Regev does not accept the notion that the Qumran sect was a branch of the Sadducee movement, the Qumran scrolls cannot serve him as a source for understanding the Sadducee halakhah. On the other hand, the halakhic issues raised in the Qumran scrolls help, according to Regev, to define the halakhic barriers between the Jewish movements during the second temple period.

Taking into account the state of our sources, and the lack of any authentic Sadducee document, Regev agrees that in many cases, conclusions about the Sadducee halakhah are not very far from being conjectures.

In the first part of my article I refer to the way Regev treats the available sources about Sadducee halakhah. In the second part I refer to the general features Regev has attributed to the Sadducee movement.

 


זכרון לראשונים

Remembrance of Former Generations

In this issue, we reprint the review, by David Flusser, of Hayim H. Cohn's book The Trial and Death of Jesus of Nazareth. The review was first published in a Hebrew literary periodical a few months after the publication of Cohn's book, in 1969. It was reprinted ten years later, in 1979, in a collection of Flusser's Hebrew articles on the Jewish sources of Christianity.

David Flusser, Vienna 1917 – Jerusalem 2000, was a scholar of international standing in the study of the New Testament and early Christianity. He grew up in Czecholslovakia, emigrated to Israel in 1939, and was most of his life Professor in the Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A Classical scholar by training, Flusser always based his research on the close reading and analysis of texts in the original languages, be it old Christian texts in Greek and Latin or Talmudic, Midrashic and Kumran texts in Hebrew and Aramaic. His unconventional view of the importance of Luke as a source, as well as his many studies of the Scrolls as background to Christianity, made his name a household word among New Testament scholars everywhere. His great edition, with a long philological and historical introduction, of the mediaeval Hebrew book of Josippon is a model of a critical edition of a popular and complex text, and has done much to teach Hebrew scholars some of the main principles of textual criticism and history. His review which is republished here is an example of a thorough and uncompromising discussion, at the same time giving Cohn, one of the founders of the Israeli legal system, his full due as a lawyer. It can teach the Hebrew reader not only the importance of studying philology and history as a necessary background to ancient legal issues, but also something about the ”Synoptic Problem“, on which there is hardly any literature in Hebrew. This reprint of Flusser's article is prefaced by an appreciation of Flusser's scholarly personality written especially for this issue of Katharsis by his former pupil, Professor Menachem Kister.
 
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Katharsis 5 - English Abstracts

 Nikos Dimou

(Hebrew translation by John Glucker)

A Story for Savages

This article, first printed in 1980, tells the story of the (then) recent appointment of a professor at the University of Athens. The appointment committee was fully aware of the fact that, in some of his handbooks for students, the new professor used extensively long passages translated (with some mistakes), without permission or acknowledgement, from English books (by others) published by the Cambridge University Press. In its report, the committee notes this, with regret, as setting a bad example. Yet the committee decided to go ahead with the appointment. Its excuse was that there were no regulations requiring such books for the use of students to be original contributions to knowledge by the author himself – and that other professors had also plagiarized in such textbooks.

Mr. Dimou protests against the appointment of someone who has committed the criminal offense of using intellectual property without permission. He regards the appointment committee’s decision, and reasons for that decision, as representing an attitude of disrespect for the students. At the end, he advises students, from now on, to plagiarize on a large scale in their examinations and seminar papers – and if censured, to refer, chapter and verse, to the handbooks by the new professor.

The editors are grateful to Mr. Nikos Dimou for permission to publish this Hebrew translation of his article. Mr. Dimou has asked us to give the date of the first publication of the article (which has since been reprinted a few times in a collection of his articles) in order to show how little has changed since then. We concur.

 

John Glucker

A Reply to Professor Zeev Tsahor

In this article, I cite and discuss a short article published in a Hebrew paper some months ago by Professor Zeev Tsahor, Principal of the Sapir Academic College.

Tsahor begins with some reminiscences. Many years ago, he and his colleagues used to complain about the ignorance of present-day students, who did not even know the meaning, and etymology, of terms like ‘dean’, ‘rector’ or ‘B.A.’. More recently, he began to realize that such knowledge, which he had acquired from his own teachers, was a privilege which these teachers of yore had enjoyed, since most of them came from well-to-do European families, and were sent to excellent schools where they were taught such difficult subjects as Latin. Nowadays, most students are taught less at school; but as compensation, more and more students, especially from the lower economic strata of society, are now accepted into the universities and into the growing number of academic colleges. They can now make up for what they have missed in their incomplete and rather dogmatic education at school by being exposed to higher education, where the most important thing which they are taught is a sceptical attitude, very much in need these days.

In my response, I start by pointing out that it is not only such ‘esoteric’ subjects as Latin which today’s pupils are not taught at school, nor is it a problem only for students from the lower income groups. Already in the 1980s, and in Tel-Aviv University, where most students came from the more affluent strata of society, their ignorance included not only a very defective knowledge of English, but even an inability – in most of them – to think clearly and incisively and express themselves fluently and correctly in their own language, Hebrew. The problem is thus not the absence of some ‘recherché’ subjects from the school curriculum, but rather a lack of training in most schools in clear thinking and its adequate expression. I maintain – citing the long history of scepticism in antiquity – that in order to doubt the views of others, it is not enough to be taught to be sceptical in the abstract and in principle. One can only be sceptical of views which one has taken the time and the effort to learn and understand in depth. Today’s school education does not prepare most pupils even for thinking and expressing properly their own ideas – far less so understanding the views of others and being able to confront them properly. A sceptical and open attitude is, indeed, one of the most elementary tools of scholarship: but it has to be based on clear dialectical thinking in the first place.

What is needed, I maintain, is not – as Tsahor seems to suggest – taking the defective school education for granted and attempting to correct it at university or college level (which, in any case, is not always done), but a thorough reform of the system of school education, where learning by rote should be replaced by learning to think, to argue properly, and to express oneself clearly.

I add a few remarks about that ‘mythical’ subject, Latin. In order to understand concepts like ‘dean’, ‘rector’ or ‘B.A.’, one does not need to know Latin: indeed, the usual training in Classical Latin is unlikely to help much in understanding such terms, taken from the jargon of the mediaeval universities. At the same time, a few generations ago Latin was not the privilege of a small number of students who came from rich families. It was taught almost in all secondary schools in Europe and in French North Africa. Latin and Greek are still far from being mythical creatures of a long-lost Golden Age. The two languages are taught in all five universities in Israel, and in three of them there are full departments of Classics, where students read much literature in the original Greek and Latin. What was possible in the Europe of yore is no less possible today, the myth is no myth, and whoever wishes can study Latin (and Greek) today, at least at university level. 

Naomi Kasher

Until you are in his place

Yotam Benziman, Until You Are In His Place, Magnes Press, Jerusalem 2005.

Benziman’s book is an attempt to delineate morality in a new way, thus enriching our moral lives. In contrast with ordinary depictions of morality in terms of impartiality, the gist of the book is that morality is partiality. Morality, in Benziman’s book, rests on friendship. "Good heartedness"[1] is not the characteristic of a person who can share the sorrow of anyone, willing to help any person in need, even a stranger, but rather the characteristic of a person who shows such an attitude towards relatives and friends, whom he supports when they are in need.

By arguing to that effect, Benziman represents his approach as an alternative to those of Kant, Hare and Rawls, which rest on conceptions of impartiality.

In the present review of the book, I accept the author’s view that the full extent of our moral relationships cannot be captured by a single general abstract principle of impartiality. I also accept the view that good heartedness is an indispensable moral characteristic. However, I show in the present review that the author is wrong in claiming that our full, rich, intricate and variegated moral world can rest on a conception of a single relationship, namely that of friendship, one that is concrete and personal, subjective and relative, portrayed as partiality.

It is also argued in the present review that the author is wrong in maintaining that good heartedness applies to relatives and friends alone. Expressions of moral evaluation of good heartedness are characteristic of a person’s attitude towards other persons qua beings of intrinsic value.

Moreover, it is here argued that good heartedness should not be identified with morality, although it manifests the “warm” part of it. Morality includes the additional spheres of honesty and justice. The world of morality is much more complicated than what emerges from the book under review. No simple dichotomy can provide firm grounds for the whole world of morality.

Other shortcomings of the book under review are also indicated.


[1]   An untranslatable Hebrew term, which encompasses kindness, helpfulness and empathy.


Yismach Ben Elimelech

Paideios of Hadera and the Compassionate Jewish Soul 

The title itself, and a look at the Hebrew original, should be sufficient to show that this piece of scholarship is far too complex to grasp in anything but the Hebrew original. 

Eldad Iddan

Concerning the Limitations of Unlimited Opportunities

Anner Govrin, From Abstinence to Seduction, Dvir, Tel Aviv 2004.

This article reviews Anner Govrin’s book From Abstinence to Seduction, recently published by Dvir. The book introduces the Hebrew reader to the intellectual fermentation that permeated psychoanalytic thought and writing in the United States during the last few decades. It pays special attention to the complex relations between psychoanalysis and philosophy, which have become more conscious and emphasized in the last few generations. Starting with Freud’s attitude to psychoanalysis as a purely positive science, with no philosophical presuppositions (except for the ‘positivist’ attitude), the book discusses the development of psychoanalysis in the USA, using as a main division the distinction between Classical Psychoanalysis (consisting of Freudians and Ego Psychologists), Self Psychologists, and Post modern psychoanalysis (consisting of the Intersubjective and Relational Movements). The Classical Psychoanalysts are the more traditional practitioners, who dominated the scene till the late nineteen sixties, regarded psychoanalysis as a positive science and considered themselves the true followers of Freud. Heinz Kohut’s Self Psychology departed from Freud’s drive theory, no longer stressed the expansion of consciousness as the goal of analytic treatment, and sought the restoration of the self instead. The Intersubjectivists and Relationals, who sprang from Self Psychology, totally abandoned positivist positions and were significantly influenced by postmodernist thought as a more suitable epistemology for psychoanalysis. All psychoanalytic schools have philosophical roots, but it appears that the Postmodernists have been more conscious of them – as well as of the fact that therapeutic practice cannot remain on the purely scientific level.

Since the subject of this book is not widely known to the Israeli general public, this article goes to some length to introduce the reader to the main facts, names and schools of psychoanalytic thought in the USA. On most issues, the reviewer follows Govrin’s book, which he regards as a remarkable achievement. But he takes issue with him on some points, such as Freud’s attitude to philosophical ideas; Kohut’s real attitude to psychoanalysis as a science and his departure (as is claimed here) from traditional psychoanalysis; and the place of more recent developmental theories in the history of American psychoanalysis. Unlike the author, who suggests a straight-line development of the subject, with its ups and downs, the reviewer argues that Kohut already took a position of radical departure, while some of the later postmodernist psychoanalysts should be regarded as somewhat regressive.


Shlomo Aharonson

In-Depth Study of Nationalism and Zionism

Hedva Ben-Israel, In the Name of the Nation, Essays and Articles on Nationalism and Zionism, Ben Gurion Institute for the Study of Eretz Israel, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, 2004.

Professor Ben-Israel’s essays combine a critical analysis of various schools in the study of nationalism, with her own, innovative analysis of Zionism. In her view, theories based solely on comparative, social science or moralistically inspired models of nationalism in general and of Zionism in particular, missed the historical-cultural and psychological contents of modern nationalism. Other theoreticians believed that nationalism was "primordial," and hence it was not "modern" as otherwise assumed. Still others perceived nationalism to be the product of elite manipulations, of modern media, and of "imagined communities." Her view of the necessary research, as offered here, is that of a historical, in-depth analysis of Judaism and its ties to the land, the crisis of Diaspora Judaism and its pursuance of emancipation and of universal values, and its failure, and the use of Jewish national values by the modern – non-Jewish – national movements as inherited by Zionism when the other options proved to be failures. The land and the return to a part of it at least by socialist Zionists plus its adoption of the universal credo of the prophets was thus the formula which established the State of Israel. But this formula was misused by contemporary enemies of nationalism, and of Israel as its incarnation, and by Israelis who made the land, rather than universal and Jewish values combined, their ideal, as this article helps us understand. 

Rimon Kasher

Where is it written?

Avigdor Shinan & Yair Zakovitch, That's Not What the Good Book Says, Miskal, Yedioth Ahronoth Books and Chemed Books: Tel-Aviv 2004

The Hebrew Bible does indeed not contain all the ancient traditions which were widespread during the First Temple era. The authors, two prominent scholars, following Cassuto and Loewenstamm’s method in biblical research, try successfully to uncover some thirty hidden traditions and stories, which were excluded from the Pentateuch or even from the whole Hebrew Bible. These hidden traditions are exposed through several means, mainly by comparing them with ancient near eastern myths; by uncovering allusions in the Bible itself; and by reading carefully the post-biblical literature. Most of the samples are well established, and as a whole they do indicate that the method operates quite well. In a few cases we suggest establishing the arguments by using the anthropological-folklore method. Everyone interested in biblical traditions should now read not only the Bible but Shinan & Zakovitch’s book as well!


Shulamit Furstenburg-Levy

The Relationship Between “Religion” and “Culture” during the Renaissance

Benjamin Arbel, The Italian Renaissance: The Growth of a Secular Culture, MOD Press, Broadcast University Library, Tel Aviv 2000.

Benjamin Arbel’s book presents to the Israeli reader, for the first time in Hebrew, an impressive survey of various central aspects of the history of Renaissance culture, among them the development of Italian urban society; humanistic studies; historical writing; scientific knowledge and other aspects.

This review takes issue with Arbel’s main thesis in this book, namely, the way he views the Renaissance almost exclusively through the prism of the secularization of Western culture.

The review tries to analyze Arbel’s view by examining it in the context of the existing traditions and schools of thought of Renaissance studies. Arbel’s approach is classified as belonging to the “school” of Renaissance scholars who trace elements of modern thought to Renaissance roots, or in other words, who employ the “Modernist Paradigm of Renaissance thought”.

The review then points out the weakest part of the book, which is the definition that Arbel gives the terms “secularism” (as the separation from religion and the expropriation of holiness), and “secular” (as a person who is not connected to religion), and totally rejects Arbel’s definition of Pico della Mirandola as secular.

The main argument of the review is that during the Renaissance culture cannot be separated from religion, and that the two are interwoven. This deep connection is demonstrated both on the level of individual figures of the Renaissance, such as Pico della Mirandola and Egidio da Viterbo, who reflect in very different ways the interconnection between religion and culture, showing the variety and complexity of a “non-separate” relationships with religion, as well as on the level of groups or “circles” of humanists.

To conclude, the review alludes to the field of Renaissance art, which exemplifies in an explicit manner the dominant role that the religious world still played in Renaissance culture.

זכרון לראשונים

Remembrance of Former Generations 

In this issue we reprint an article by Gershom Scholem on Martin Buber’s interpretation of Hassidism. The article was first published in a Hebrew literary periodical in 1963, and was reprinted in a collection of articles by Scholem in 1976. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of Am Oved publishing company, Tel-Aviv, and of the Jewish National and University Library, holders of the copyright on Scholem’s writings.

Gershom Scholem (Berlin 1897 - Jerusalem 1982) was the greatest expert in the study of Jewish mysticism and the founder of the proper philological and historical study of Jewish mystical literature. He brought to his field of study an almost uncanny familiarity with Jewish literature of all periods and in all languages; an unusual knowledge of Jewish history and its various backgrounds; a wide familiarity with European mysticism of all periods; and the philological and historical methods which he learnt from his teachers in Germany. Most of his ideas have now become part of the common stock of Jewish scholarship, and most students of Jewish mysticism in the last three generation, even those who have not been his direct or indirect pupils, have carried on their research with his works as one of their main starting-points.

Scholem was for most of his life Professor of Kabbalah at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was one of the founders of the Israel Academy of Sciences and the Humanities and its first president. He was awarded many honorary degrees and various prizes and distinctions in Israel, Europe and the United States. His works, some of them originally written in English, have been translated into a number of European languages. Collections of his articles have appeared in Hebrew, English and German. The present article shows Scholem at his best as a critic. While disagreeing with his great colleague Martin Buber and finding his approach to Hassidism lacking in one of its basic aspects, he writes with care and politeness, emphasizing his great appreciation for Buber’s positive qualities as an author, thinker and theologian.

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Katharsis 4 - English Abstracts

Shimshona Eliezer

The Publications Industry

In this article I analyse the growing demand on academics in the faculties of humanities, from PhD students to the candidates for various promotions, to publish more and more every year and at every stage of their career. This is no longer the familiar "publish or perish" policy. It is now not enough to have some publications, and a few more at any later stage. Appointment committees are now told what exactly should be the minimal number of new publications at each stage – say, a book and three articles, or six articles, for a first appointment, another book and four articles, or eight-nine articles, for tenure, and the like. Without this minimal number of new publications, a candidate is not even to be considered for appointment, tenure or promotion. Often, the number of required publications is raised while the prospective candidate is at an intermediate stage. He or she is told, say, that, for the next promotion, six new articles should suffice; but when the next promotion comes up, the number has been raised retroactively (!) to eight or nine.

I must stress that such "minimal numbers" have nothing to do with the quality of the publications. A failure to publish at least the required number automatically disqualifies one from being even a candidate for discussion by the appointment committee. This is the charlatan's dream, where priority is given at the initial stage of appointment or promotion to those who are fast with their pens (or computers) and have learned how to produce many articles with the external paraphernalia demanded by periodicals – regardless of quality.

Committees consider not only quantity, but also the standing and reputation of publishers and periodicals; but this is a slippery criterion, especially these days, when even some of the most reputable academic publishers have succumbed to the pressures of "the publications industry", and have published books and articles which they would have rejected out of hand only twenty years (or less) ago. And this is a criterion considered by committees before they decide on the short list of candidates whose CV and publications should be sent to professional readers. Thus, criteria of quantity and appearances determine at the outset which candidates' career and publications will even be submitted for professional adjudication. Again, the cunning charlatans, with good connections and a knowledge of the external manners of impressing editors and publishers, leave hardly any chance to the careful and conscientious scholar, who takes his time checking his theories and evidence, and may not have formed the "right" connections, being too busy doing scholarship.

If, despite all this, some very serious scholars are still being appointed and promoted, it is because they have accepted this gloomy reality and are prepared to compromise their standards for a while – at least until they have tenure. I know some such scholars who feel miserable for having been forced to commit such a trahison des clercs in order to be able to enjoy the basic research conditions provided by academic institutions. Some such scholars have left the university in disgust, leaving the field open to charlatans. The results are apparent in some of the less flattering articles published in Katharsis and in some professional periodicals.


Shimshona Eliezer

Additions to my article in Katharsis 3

In my article in Katharsis 3, I described in some detail the growing commercialization of the faculties of humanities, and pointed out some of the results. Since the publication of that article, an official confirmation of my main point has come to light. In a meeting with students of the Faculty of Humanities in Tel-Aviv University, convened in order to explain to them the closure and amalgamation of departments, the Dean told his students: "We live in an age of marketing and post-modernism; once the faculty becomes profitable, nobody will touch it."

In this article, I attempt to understand what sort of profitability the Dean (like many others, on various occasion) is referring to. Faculties of humanities do not, as a rule, produce commodities which make profit in the open and competitive market. The reference is obviously to the amount of money a faculty, through the university, can obtain from the Minsitry of Education. This depends entirely on the decisions and instructions of the University Budgeting Committee of the Ministry, the majority of members of which are bureaucrats. They dictate to the minority of academics, and to the universities, the terms and conditions for the amounts of money each of them may get – and their criteria are the purely quantitative and "levelling" ones which I described in my previous article. The "profits" are thus no real profits, but merely government funding conditioned on the universities complying with purely quantitative, bureaucratic standards posited by the politicians and their clerks. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has stood up against this degradation of all the criteria of quality and excellence in research.

Another recent phenomenon is the tendency of the faculties of humanities to force more and more students to start their PhD without the intermediate MA course. This is done, not for reasons of excellence or scholarship, but simply because the university – and through it the faculty – receives more funding from the Budgeting Committee for each PhD student than it does for an MA student. From the point of view of scholarship, at a time when the standards of the BA are plummetting, the intermediate MA course has become more important than ever before. But no academic criteria are even considered where funding is involved.

I also report that the rector of one of the Israeli universities has already declared that, in his university, he will make sure that all doctorate students submit their dissertations within two years of registering. The last Government committee made three or four years the time-limit for submitting a doctorate, but this rector wishes to become even more efficient, "more Catholic than the Pope".

 


Alon Harel

Skeptical Thoughts on Judicial Optimism

Aharon Barak: The Judge in a Democracy, Haifa University Press, Keter, Nevo, 2004.

The book The Judge in a Democracy explores the judges' role in a democracy. It is based on the rich experience of its author – Justice Barak – who has served as the President of the Israeli Supreme Court for many years.

Numerous writers and philosophers have argued that the judicial process is ultimately a political process and that judicial decisions reflect the ideological and political convictions of judges. Justice Barak resists this accusation. In this book he defends the claim that the judicial process is an objective process and that its authoritativeness is ultimately justified. The Judge in a Democracy can therefore be characterized as an optimistic book, as it defends the integrity and objectivity of the legal process.

The conviction that the judicial process is ultimately justifiable is based on the constraints and freedoms of judges in a democratic system. Judges benefit from institutional and ideological independence accompanied by constraints imposed by a detailed set of rules guiding the judicial decisions. The combination of a judge who, on the one hand, is free of ideological, political or institutional commitments and, on the other hand, is constrained by a set of rules and interpretative principles guarantees, in Justice Barak's view, the objectivity and rationality of the judicial decision and ensures the legitimacy of the court. The review critically investigates two features which, in Justice Barak' view, guarantee the integrity of the legal process: the objectivity of the judicial decision and the "balancing" paradigm.

Justice Barak believes that objectivity can be ensured by the obligation of judges to rely on social norms. When the "personal values" of the judge conflict with the "social values", the judge ought to yield to the social values and thus guarantee that her own biases and subjectivity will not distort the decision. It is argued that this directive cannot constrain the judicial discretion. There are conflicting social norms with respect to most legal decisions and, consequently, the judge ought to make a decision as to which among the social norms ought to be applied in the particular case. Should a contract discriminating between gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples be decided on the basis of the prevailing social norm that gay and lesbian are equal? Or should it be decided on the basis of a libertarian social norm – namely a norm that dictates that the state ought not to interfere in voluntary contractual relations? Given the plurality of conflicting social norms, it seems that relying on social norms and popular convictions as a means of realizing objectivity is bound to fail.

Justice Barak also believes that balancing, in particular balancing conflicting values, is an essential legal device which promotes justice. This argument has two dimensions. Sometimes Justice Barak says that balancing conflicting values dictates what the right decision is. At other times, Justice Barak emphasizes that balancing is desirable as a means of discovering what the right decision is.

By using real cases, the review challenges both claims. It demonstrates that often values ought not to be balanced against each other. Instead, some values exclude other values from being evaluated at all. Thus, for instance, in examining the legality of torture, Justice Barak argues that dignity ought to be balanced against security. But it seems that dignity is not merely a value that competes with other values but is sometimes used to exclude other values and consequently to annul their relevance in certain contexts. Balancing in such cases is a misguided methodology because it ignores the structural features of the different values. Finally, the review challenges the claim that balancing is desirable as a tool for discovering what the right decision is. The judge who is faithful to balancing often attributes relevance to considerations which ought not to be relevant just in order to follow the methodology of balancing.

Stripped of some of the most fundamental tools designed to establish the integrity of the legal system, Justice Barak's book fails to establish what he purports to establish, namely the legitimacy of the judicial process. The quest for such legitimacy must therefore come from other sources. Fortunately, the weaknesses of Justice Barak's jurisprudence do not necessarily affect his qualities as a judge. Judge Barak's intuitions often override Professor Barak's jurisprudence.

 


Lawrence Kaplan

Does Jewish Existentialism have a Special Character?

Jewish Existential Philosophers in Dialogue

By Ephraim Meir, translated and edited by Miriam Meir, Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2004, 162 pp.

Ephraim Meir’s Jewish Existential Philosophers in Dialogue seeks to provide the reader with an understanding of “the special character of Jewish existentialism” and the contribution it can make to general existentialist thought. The book is divided into three parts. The first part limns the main features of general existentialism and briefly surveys the lives, works, and leading doctrines of the major existentialists. The second and main part of the book reviews the lives, works, and basic teachings of important Jewish existentialist thinkers and writers. In light of his analyses in the first two parts of the book, Meir in the third and final part identifies “the special character of Jewish existentialism” and the contribution it can make to general existentialist thought as consisting in its emphasis on dialogue and intersubjectivity.

The boldness and scope of Meir’s project are impressive, and his study does contain certain individual valuable insights; nevertheless, as a whole, it is seriously flawed. First, his characterization of general existentialism is thin and incomplete; second, his principles of selection are problematic: a number of the particular thinkers and works he chooses to discuss are unrepresentative and his focus on them is difficult to justify, while he ignores entirely or passes over lightly very important and relevant thinkers and works; third, many of his interpretations of the overall thought of the thinkers he examines as well as his readings of specific texts of theirs are often questionable, if not plain wrong; fourth and finally, the distinction he draws between general and Jewish existentialism is problematic.

The body of the review is devoted to elaborating upon these criticisms. In its conclusion, I tentatively suggest with reference to the last criticism that if there is any broad contrast to be drawn, it is not between Jewish existentialism and general existentialist thought, but between religious and secular existentialism, more specifically between religious and secular existentialist ethics. Secular existentialist ethics as an ethics of reciprocal freedom emphasizes the importance of mutual recognition, acknowledgment, respect, enabling, collaboration, and confirmation. What is missing is mutual love. And, I believe, it is precisely this emphasis on the critical importance of the mutual exercise of the virtues of love, generosity, hesed (loving kindness), and sympathy in the sphere of inter-human relationships that characterizes the ethical teaching of the major religious existentialist philosophers of the twentieth century, both Christian and Jewish, from Marcel to Buber to Rosenzweig to Rabbi Soloveitchik.


Bilhah Nitzan

The Hasmonaean Period in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Hanan Eshel, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonaean State , Yad Ben-Zvi Press, Jerusalem 2004.

Eshel’s book discusses the historical events which are mentioned in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, trying to understand the attitude of the Yahad sect from Qumran (probably the Essenes) to these events from both the political and the religious aspects. Persons, sects and nations which formed part of these events are not named explicitly in most of the scrolls, but are referred to by typological sobriquets. Their historical identification and the data concerning their activity have to be unravelled by the readers. The sobriquets are based mainly on biblical typology, and the characteristics of the historical events are criticized according to the theological doctrine of the Qumran authors. Considering these qualities, scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls - and now Hanan Eshel in his new book – have succeeded in deciphering the interesting data concerning the attitude of the Yahad sectarians to the Hasmonaean leaders Jonathan, John Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus, and the various categories into which Hellenistic and Roman kings and commanders are classified. Eshel succeeds in throwing new light on some historical data by following the connections between different parts of some Qumran compositions. E.g. (1) the criticism of 4QTestimonia (4Q175) regarding the characteristics attributed to John Hyrcanus analysed in light of the ideal biblical characteristics of prophet, king and priest, and the messianic expectations of the Yahad sectarians; (2) the historical reason for the prayer on behalf of Alexander Jannaeus in 4QApocryphal Psalm and Prayer (4Q448). Very important is the practice of criticizing historical figures and events during the Hasmonaean period in the light of typological models studied in the Bible. Thus, the criticisms of the Seleucid wars against Judaea are seen as a reflection of the Assyrian wars during the First Temple period (4QPesher Isa. A = 4Q161, fragment 5-6, and 4QPesher Nahum = 4Q169, fragment 3-4, column I, lines 1-3). Not all of Eshel’s suggestions are acceptable. There is no appropriate biblical basis for a midrashic speculation regarding the death of Pompey on the shores of Egypt (4Q386), and Eshel’s suggestion as to the reason for the cessation of writing Pesharim some time before 31 BCE does not fit the historical viewpoint of the Yahad sectarians. However, this book is an important contribution to the methodical exposure of the historical enigmatic data concealed in the literature of Dead Sea Scrolls.


Mario Sznajder

Details about the Life of a Mythical Her Che Guevara

Ephraim Davidi, Che Guevara: The Life of  a Revolutionary, Tel Aviv, Resling, 2004.

Che Guevara: the life of a revolutionary, by Efraim Davidi, is a short book that tries to summarize the life, deeds and thought of Dr. Ernesto Guevara, better known as Che Guevara, a mythical twentieth century hero of Latin America and the whole world.

From his youth in Argentina, to his travels around Latin America; the meeting with the Castro brothers in Mexico; his joining Cuba's rebels and becoming a central figure of the revolution in that country; to his attempts to bring the 'revolution' to Congo and Bolivia; the life of Guevara is depicted in uneven terms and levels of analysis, as a figure whose influence spread well beyond his immediate spheres of action. This book raises more questions than it answers but provides a certain insight into a very interesting subject.


Avshalom Laniado

The Byzantine Empire in the Early Middle Ages According to a Textbook of the Open University

In 2003 the Open University of Israel published a four-volume textbook in Hebrew bearing the title The Beginnings of Europe: Western Europe in the Early Middle Ages. The nine units into which this textbook is divided were written by a team headed by Prof. Ora Limor. The first part of Unit 8 (Neighboring Europe: The Byzantine and the Islamic Worlds), is called "The Byzantine Empire in the Early Middle Ages". It consists of an introduction written by Dr. Iris Shagrir as well as of a Hebrew translation of two articles by D. M. Nicol and C. Mango respectively (D. M. Nicol, "Justinian I and his Successors - A.D. 527-610", in Ph. Whitting [ed.], Byzantium. An Introduction, 2nd edition, Oxford 1981, pp. 15-38; C. Mango, "Heraclius, the Threats from the East and Iconoclasm – 610-843", ibid. pp. 39-60).

Unfortunately, the introduction fails to discuss properly fundamental issues such as the emergence of Byzantium out of the Roman Empire or the success of fifth-century Byzantium in avoiding the fate of the Western Roman Empire, which underwent rapid disintegration from the beginning of the fifth century C.E. until its disappearance in 476. Moreover, the introduction fails to take into account the results of intensive research conducted during the last half-century on fundamental issues such as the status of late Roman and early Byzantine cities or the origins of the middle Byzantine military themes. The introduction also abounds in factual mistakes, misprints and unclear phrasings.

As for the articles of Nicol and Mango, there is no doubt that they were written by first class specialists in Byzantine history, yet these articles, which were published for the first time in 1971, cannot be considered as up-to-date. One may therefore wonder why they were deemed worthy of inclusion in a textbook written and published at the beginning of the 21st century. Moreover, the translation includes inaccuracies, while the footnotes added by the translator are not free from mistakes. This half-unit concludes with a chronological table for the years 324-1056, which is not as reliable as it should be.

The inclusion of a Byzantine half-unit in a textbook whose main subject is Western Europe in the early middle ages should be welcome, but the outcome is disappointing.


Alon Kadish

Remarks on the Military Aspects of Yigal Alon's Biography

Anita Shapira, Igal [sic] Alon: Spring of his Life, a Biography, Tel Aviv: Hotsa'at Hakibuts Hameuchad, 2004.

Professor Anita Shapira's decision to write the biography of Yigal Alon (1918-1980) can only be described as unfortunate. To begin with Prof. Shapira has decided to end her book with Alon's leaving the Israeli army in 1950 following the War of Independence. In doing so she has confined herself to Alon's military career while assuming, on the basis of general impressions, that as a politician and minister Alon was a failure, mainly because he did not realize his ambition to become Minister of Defense and Prime Minister.

The story of Alon's life up to the age of 31 consists of his childhood in Mescha-Kfar Tavor, education in the Kadouri elitest agricultural school, and the early years of Kibuts Ginosar which he helped found. The rest constitutes a short but important chapter in the early military history of Israel, a subject on which Shapira lacks sufficient technical knowledge.

The book has two major faults which render it largely unusable as an historical reference work. Firstly it contains an unreasonable number of factual mistakes, the worst of which result in a misunderstanding of military developments, battles etc. Secondly, Shapira chose to ignore a large body of research on the 1940's and Israel's War of Independence which has been published during the past two decades and is of direct relevance to her subject. Consequently much of the book is from the outset out of date.

Rather than concentrate on the biography she was meant to write, Shapira decided to expand on the period and on Alon's generation. The book contains some interesting and insightful observations on the age and on some of its main protagonists. However some of her arguments are based on inaccurate evidence and others are of little relevance to Alon's life. Hence the book, while readable and interesting, cannot be recommended as an adequate biography of Yigal Alon or as an introduction to the 1940's and the story of the generation of 1948.

 


John Glucker

Herbal Nutrition Squashing the Intellect

Daniel S. Schwartz, II Maccabees, Introduction, Hebrew Translation, Commentary. Yad Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem 2004, 351 pp.

This lavishly produced volume is part of a new series of texts published by Yad Ben-Zvi, "Between Bible and Mishnah". Its aim is to supply the Hebrew reader and student with new editions – in translation whenever the original is not in Hebrew – of texts written by Jews in what is broadly called the "Second Temple Period". My review does not deal with the historical and literary discussions in the introduction, notes, and commentary. I hope that some expert in these fields will review these aspects of the book. I concentrate on Schwartz' understanding of the original Greek of II Maccabees and on his Hebrew rendering of the text.

Schwartz claims that he has tried to stick as closely as possible to the Greek, so as to 'bring the reader close to the original', rather than 'bring the original close to the reader'. I show that, both from the Greek and from the Hebrew aspects of his translation, he has failed to do anything like it.

His insistence on translating every word as closely as possible to the Greek original – as he conceives it – has produced a sort of pidgin Hebrew which the Hebrew reader will find ridiculous, preposterous, or plainly unintelligible. My title here is my attempt to translate literally Schwartz' Hebrew renderings of two Greek expressions, the first meaning 'vegetarian food', and the second 'breaks one's heart'. Other examples, where the peculiar Hebrew can, just about, be translated are 'he left life behind him', 'he slaughtered twenty-five thousand corpses' – and '[God] flung down Jericho in the days of Joshua'.

Such bizarre Hebrew expressions, which one finds on every page, do not correspond to the style of the Greek original, which is no literary masterpiece, but has hardly anything like the strange and confused style of this translation. This outlandish Hebrew is due both to the translator's imperfect command of the Hebrew language – both ancient and modern – and to his dubious mastery of ancient Greek. It is not an accident that most of the philological notes to this translation deal with the dictionary meanings of individual words and phrases, as if an ancient Greek text were something of a crossword puzzle.

Here are some examples of the translator's understanding of Greek. In a number of places, he makes heavy weather of the particles μέν and δέ, which he invariably translates as expressing a contrast, and regards them as the rhetorical figure inclusio. Of course, the contrast is not always there, and sometimes it has to be eked out by force. In two places, he also points out the immense significance of two opposing sides both saying tau=ta, and bases a whole midrash on the significance of this 'unusual' phenomenon. He translates zwgrafei=n literally as 'to paint animals', and e!sw tw=n qurwma/twn as 'inside through the openings of the gates'. In a few places, he takes the genitive absolute to be the subject of the main sentence. In one central place, this gives the story a meaning opposite to what we find in the text. On every page, the nuances of the author's Helllenistic Greek are missed. In other cases, plain Classical constructions are misunderstood. I conclude that, as far as the translation is concerned, the Hebrew reader will be better advised to read, or consult, Abraham Kahane's 1937 translation rather than this new effort.


זכרון לראשונים

Remembrance of the Former Generations

This is a section which appears at the end of each volume of Katharsis, consisting of a critical article by an Israeli scholar of the first few generations of academic life in Israel. In each issue, this section contains a reprint of the article and an introductory note on the author and his achievements, with a photograph of the author whenever possible.

In vol. 1, pp. 116-127, we reprinted an article by Chaim Wirszubski, 1914-1976, on Hebrew translations from Classical literature. The article was originally published in 1955.

Chaim Wirszubski was Professor of Latin at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was a well-known expert on Roman political thought in the late Republic and early Empire; a translator of Spinoza into Hebrew, and a leading expert on Christian Kabbalah, whose books and articles on the Kabbalah of Flavius Mithdridates and Pico della Mirandola laid the foundations of this branch of study. Two pages of the original article were accidentally omitted, and were reprinted in vol. 2, p. 160.

In vol. 2, pp. 149-159, we reprinted an article by Yaacov Fleischmann, 1921-1990, on the problem of objectivity in the study of Jewish history. The article was first published in 1958.

Yaacov (Eugène) Fleischmann was Professor of Philosophy, Tel-Aviv University, and a Researcher at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris. He was an expert on Continental philosophy, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and on the philosophical background of the social sciences. His two books in French on Hegel's political philosophy (1964) and on Hegel's logic (1968) are still among the standard books in this field. His Hebrew book on the problem of Christianity in Jewish thought from Mendelssohn to Rosenzweig, published in 1964 and later translated into French, was one of the first studies of this issue.

In vol. 3, pp. 168-184, we printed for the first time, from the author's manuscript, a response by Saul Lieberman to Gedalyahu Alon's review of Lieberman's Greek in Jewish Palestine, 1948. The Hebrew periodical Kiriat Sefer, in which Alon's review was published, refused to publish Lieberman's response, and it had remained unpublished until now.

Saul Lieberman, 1898-1983, was one of the greatest Talmudists in modern times. Much of his work laid the foundations for a proper critical text of the Jerusalem Talmud. He was also an accomplished Classical scholar, and his two books on Greek and Hellenism in Jewish Palestine were pioneering works in this field. An earlier book of his in Hebrew uncovered the remains of Jewish customs and traditions hidden among the writings of some of the early Greek and Latin Church Fathers. Lieberman taught for many years in Jerusalem, and spent the last thirty years of his career as Professor of Talmudic and Midrashic Literature, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York.

In this volume, pp. 161-168, we reprint a review by Abraham Saltman, 1925-2000, of Joshua Prawer's book on the Crusader's Kingdom of Jerusalem. The review was first published in 1964.

Abraham Saltman was Professor of Mediaeval History and founding head of the Department of General History at Bar-Ilan University. His earlier works dealt with various topics in the history of the mediaeval English Church and monasteries. In his later years, he edited from manuscripts some Latin commentaries on books of the Bible (Samuel, Chronicles, Song of Songs), and showed that they were based to a large extent on some of the Jewish mediaeval commentors. He was regarded as a leading expert on the mediaeval history of the Church in England and on Christian-Jewish relations in the mediaeval West.

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Katharsis 3 -  English Abstracts 

Shimshona Eliezer

Speed Spoil Hasten Plunder

This is the first in a series of articles called 'For Three and for Four', in which various authors will discuss some of the more problematic aspects of research and higher education in the humanities in Israel today. The present article deals with the gradual lowering of the standadrs of admission to the various undergraduate and graduate degree courses over the last twenty years. Basic requirements, such as learning languages and disciplines essential for research, have become empty formalities. A government committee has recently fixed the maximum number of years required for each degree – three for the BA, two for the MA, and four for the PhD – with no distinction between the various subjects of reasearch and the difficulties facing different students in diffreent subjects. The pressure on universities and departments to take as many students as possible has resulted in a gradual loweing of the standards of courses, theses and examinations. Instead of standing up and fighting for proper standards and strict requirements, most universities and faculties of humanities have given in to these unscholarly demands for fear of losing their funding. Students are encouraged to finish their degrees in a hurry in order not to make the department lose money – and in order to be able to start their academic career as soon as possible, no matter what the quality of their research has been. The author regards this process as a serious threat to the level and quality of research in the humanities.


Aharon Kantorovich

Local Philosophy of Science

Arie John Wurm, Rationality and Progress in Science[1]

Wurm's book covers traditional topics in the philosophy of science. It is loaded with fallacies, misleading arguments and strong statements with no arguments at all. It does not attempt to define “rationality”. It introduces the distinction between rationality of action and rationality of products, without explaining what is meant by “product”. In discussing the distinction between descriptive and normative approaches to the philosophy of science, it does not mention the third alternative, i.e. normative naturalism. It describes evolutionary epistemology in a very simplistic way without discussing the important developments in the field since the early 1970s. The treatment of the subject reflects a provincial attitude influenced by the local teachers of the author.

[1]   Ministry of Defence Press, Israel. 2004


Doron Mendels

Ancient or American Diaspora?

Diaspora, Jews among Greeks and Romans, by Erich S. Gruen[2]

The thesis promoted by Gruen in his book Diaspora, translated into Hebrew and published by Tel-Aviv University (2004), is that the Jews in the Diaspora during the Hellenistic period lived safely, in relative security and well-organized in their communities. Hence they had no desire to return to the Land of Israel and gradually lost touch emotionally and physically with the Land and the poor Jews living there. In an attempt to refute this thesis the review focuses on the following arguments: 1. The attested dichotomy between Jews of the Diaspora and the Jewish population of the Land of Israel did not exist in reality, since after the Hasmonean period the Jews in the Land lived in similar conditions to their brethren in the Diaspora. 2. To argue that the Jews lived peacefully and without fear of verbal and physical attacks from gentiles goes against the evidence. 3. It is impossible to argue that the synagogue was a unique institution that strengthened only Jewish communities in the Diaspora, since the synagogue was extremely important also in the Land of Israel. 4. The Land of Israel was never forgotten by Jews in the Diaspora. It was very much on their agenda as is evidenced in their literature as well as in the translation of the Bible into Greek. 5. Where Gruen finds humor in the literature of the period, as an expression of the unique spirit of Jews in the Diaspora, it cannot be found. 6. Gruen does not make use of theories taken from the social sciences where one would expect them (theories concerning the notions of diaspora and humor).

In sum: the book is more of a description of a certain segment of American Jewry, and is less a faithful description of Jews in the Diaspora in Antiquity.

[2]   Translated by Yaron Toren and Tamar Landau, Tel-Aviv University Press, 2004.


Eddy M. Zemach

Literature as Education for Democracy[3]

In Poetic Justice M. Nussbaum argues that a study of realistic novels is conducive to democracy: the sensitivity of these novels to human experience, to the uniqueness and complexity of each subject, inclines the reader to adopt an egalitarian world outlook and avoid mechanical, merely-statistical, approaches to legal and ethical questions. This review questions the thesis that the literary imagination is essentially akin to democratic ideals. It points out that the vast majority of Western works of literature promulgate anti-liberal, non-democratic values. For example, the study of the human psyche in works of the grand masters of the realistic novel, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, is meant to show the futility and even perversity of liberal anthropocentric humanism. To illustrate her point Nussbaum uses Dickens' Hard Times, a novel that mocks and attacks the benign but dehumanized utilitarian Darwinism; it is therefore instructive to compare that novel to Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, where likewise the protagonist riles against the same mechanical deterministic utilitarianism. The latter work, however, leads its reader not to democratic humanism but to its opposite. As in his Devils, Dostoevsky means to show that human autonomy is utterly repugnant; only religious quietism and political conservatism would save man from his own wicked nature. Using several such examples the review concludes that the literary imagination can go many ways, but in most of its historical incarnations it was not an ally of democracy.

Nussbaum criticizes utilitarianism. She discusses and rejects four utilitarian tenets: (1) the commensurability of distinct values, (2) their aggregation across personal boundaries, (3) the commitment to their maximization, and (4) their exogenous origin. This reviewer concurs with Nussbaum's rejection of tenet (4) but not with her dismissal of the other three. If distinct values were incommensurable no decision could be rational, for a typical decision involves choosing between perusal of distinct values (e.g., Read, Sleep, or Work?). If they are incommensurable all quotidian decisions must be arbitrary. Surely that is not so? Second, aggregation is essential to public policy. How else can one justify a political decision (e.g., the fluoridation of drinking water) if not through aggregating the satisfactions of distinct subjects? If such aggregation is not allowed, decisions that impact on more than one subject may serve the interest of one subject only, e.g., the monarch. Tyranny, then, would be no less moral than democracy. Surely, Nussbaum does not believe that? Third, Nussbaum (using Sen's work) argues that for rationality to be construed as maximization of satisfaction, a specific goal must be identified (not merely as "that which the agent's behavior aims at", for that would be tautologous). But how can one identify a goal other than by the agent's (say, verbal) behavior? The hiatus which Nussbaum notes between Hobbsian and Posnerian utilitarianism is, therefore, exaggerated.

The Hebrew translation of the book is criticized; in the more "philosophical" and less "legal" parts of the book, it is atrocious: wooden, non-idiomatic, and misleading. The Hebrew translation of Hard Times used is also utterly unacceptable. Finally, the three articles that end the volume, by T. Zamir, A. Reichman, and S. Almog, are discussed. This reviewer finds the first two illuminating; they ask basic questions, spell out the (e.g., Aristotelian) origins of Nussbaum's thinking, and offer additional, fruitful applications for Nussbaum's revolutionary idea.

[3]   Martha C. Nussbaum, Poetic Justice, translated by Michael Shkodnikov, Haifa University Press and Maariv Publishing, 2003.


Boaz Arpaly

Neither Judaism nor Zionism

Mordechai Shalev rewrites Alterman's Simhat Aniyim.

My review deals extensively and in detail with a work by Mordechai Shalev, Who is afraid of Simhat Aniyim? This work, an interpretation of Nathan Alterman's Simhat Aniyim, one of the central and most fascinating works of modern Hebrew poetry, has won entusiastic reception on the part of an admiring readership, and was extended from an article to a book which soon reached its second edition. Readers and scholars, within and outside the universities, who expressed a negative opinion of this book in private, have been tolerant of it in public. My view is that there is no reason for enthusiasm. Shalev's main theses are baseless, and do not conform even to the most elastic criteria accepted in literary scholarship and interpretation and in the humantities in general. Yet one should not ignore Shalev's book, because of its symptomatic significance to Israeli culture.

Shalev's interpretation is a strange amalgam of post-modernist licence in matters of method and neo-orthodoxy in subject-matter. It attempts to introduce into Israeli critical discourse midrashic, prophetic and magical modes of interpretation which are not bound by any rational procedures of demonstration and evidence. On the other hand it tends to distort – in accordance with the author's ideological needs – the image of some of the main creative authors in modern Hebrew literature and culture, and by implication, the image of this culture as a whole. Who is afraid of Simhat Aniyim? is essentially more of a historiosophical, ideological – indeed, theological – work, which bends a literary text to its own requirements and reads into it ideas and beliefs of the interpreter himself, than a proper representation of a work of literature and an attempt to unveil its secrets. Shalev weaves his own reflections, derived from the areas of ideology and theology, into a discordant patchwork, and dresses up with this patchwork Alterman's Simhat Aniyim. Ostensibly, Shalev is attempting to elevate this work to the highest level of the literary and spiritual life of Jews in Eretz-Israel. Yet a thorough examination of his book reveals that he holds the concrete text of this work, both in its details and in its general purport, in deep contempt.

From the textual and interpretive aspect, I examine the methodology of Shalev's interpretation and point out a number of logical and rhetorical fallacies: an interpretation of individual lines and poems which ignores the proper interpretive connections (the work as one whole; other poems within this work; the relations between various poems); a silent concealment of general and individual characteristics of the work which do not fit in with Shalev's interpretation; analogies to texts external to Simhat Aniyim which are brought in, with no justification and economy, while structures and connections within this work iteslf are ignored. My review shows that Shalev's interpretation does not fit in with the text, the characters, the relations between them, the central events, the concepts employed in the work, its motives, and the main ideas it represents. Shalev finds in this work things which are not in it or in its characters, events and ideas, or even things which stand in contradiction to them.

On another level, I show that Shalev's interpretation of Simhat Aniyim would force us to assume that everything we know about Alterman, both from his works and from his biography, is utterly wrong. The Alterman we know could not possibly even have imagined things which Shalev ascribes to him. To make his interpretation possible, Shalev has created a new image of Alterman, a figment of his own imagination, and he brings no evidence whatsoever for the existence of this new image. According to Shalev's fantasy, Alterman believed that the imminent German occupation of Palestine in the early 1940s was a punishment brought by Judaism (or rather, by the God of the Jews) on its Zionist inhabitants, who had severed themselves from Juadism (or rather, from Jewish Religion). This is an interpretation that only someone who holds an extreme orthodox mentality or view of life can maintain, and it is utterly alien both to the intended readership of Alterman's work or to Alterman himself. Needless to say, there is no basis for this in the text. Indeed, in order to maintain this connection and make it appear causal and necessary – to maintain that the dead man in this work stands for Judaism and his living wife for Zionism – Shalev has to turn Alterman into a man possessed by an ultra-orthodox mentality and world-view. I show that without making this baselss presupposition, Shalev's interpretation has not a leg to stand on. But Shalev is not quite satisfied even with presenting Alterman as an ultra-orthodox Jew, one of those who believed that the Holocaust was a punishment for the people's transgressions, and especially for the transgressions of the Zionists, who – in the Talmudic expression – 'ascended the wall'. Shalev also describes Alterman as a megalomaniac, who viewed the imminent German occupation as a punishment for his own arrogance as a poet. He ascribes to him some of the qualities of a prophet and a messiah, or a self-deluded messiah: all this on the basis of baseless assumptions and psycjologistic intuitions.

The reshaping of the non-religious poet Alterman in Shalev's work is a reflection of Shalev's own general attitude towards modern Judaism. Indeed, I conceive, in my review, of Shalev's interpretation of Simhat Aniyim as part of a more general ideological policy, the aim of which is the 'rejudaification' of the Jewish revolution affected by Zionism. Since Shalev is hardly alone in adopting this policy, which is all too often based on smoothing over and blurring crucial differences and painful truths and on nostalgia and phobias, it is important to point it out and unmask it. Shalev, who apparently would not dare to express his own anxieties openly, projects them on some of the founders of modern Hebrew literature, thus distorting their image in the process. It is as though he were afraid of the vengeance of the primordial God of the Jews on secular Israel and on the Godless Zionists; as if he has some feeling of guilt towards orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews and the tradition which they embody. He is no loger willing to pay any respect to the new culture created by the Jewish people in the last century and a half, and to accept it on its own terms; but he is also unwilling to confront it openly and explicitly. Something (the God of Judaism?) whispers in his ear that without absorbing a large dose of religiosity there is no hope of saving the Israeli people from the internal and external existential dangers threatening it. All this he derives, as it were, from the works of Alterman and of some other Hebrew creative writers.

The article ends with a brief version of another possible interpretation of Alterman's Simhat Aniyim which I offer. I hope that this interpretation would exemplify in a positive fashion what the article has attempted to accomplish in a more negative manner.


Avshalom Laniado

Translation, Interpretation or Distortion?

Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History in Hebrew[4]

This article deals with the first ever Hebrew translation of Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History. Unfortunately, no attempt has been made to translate this important text from the original Greek. As is frankly stated in the preface (p. vii), the Hebrew version is based upon the English translation of K. Lake (vol. I) and J.E.L. Oulton (vol. II), published in the Loeb Classical Library series. The translators nevertheless claim that they endeavoured to use the original Greek text in order to correct and clarify the English translation whenever that was deemed necessary. This article argues that the outcome of this methodologically unacceptable choice suffers from many mistakes and inaccuracies which render this translation totally unreliable. Some specimen paragraphs are discussed in detail.

 

[4]   Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, History of the Church, Caspari Center, Jerusalem 2001.

Shaul Katz

Gerschon Scholem's Early Years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This article seeks to 'demystify' the alleged miraculous appearance of Gerschom Scholem at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem during mid 1920s, and the consequent acceptance of Jewish Mysticism/Kabbala as a legitimate academic pursuit, as recently described by Prof. Joseph Dan ("The Beginnings of Gerschom Scholem's career at The Hebrew University: Two puzzles", Haaretz, 2.4.2002). By ignoring open and accessible materials that may be easily found in publications of the University, and by an anachronistic reading even of Scholem's own memoirs, Prof. Dan arrives at a fictitious biography of his mentor. Prof. Dan argues that on the eve of the opening of the Institute of Jewish Studies at the newly established University, the founders of the Institute envisaged the future outstanding scholarly career of the then anonymous young Scholem. Consequently, they invited him to join their new Institute, conferring on him the honor of opening the Institute by delivering its Inauguration Lecture. However, things were entirely different. Scholem, like several other junior scholars already living in Jerusalem, was recruited by the Institute only a year after its inauguration, due to mere pragmatic motivations: to fill vacant positions that had not been taken by prominent scholars who disappointingly failed to come to Jerusalem. The story of Scholem's outstanding intellectual career evolved in several historical periods of the twentieth century and within diverse circles of interaction and influence: from a gradual establishment of himself as a distinguished scholar of Jewish mysticism, outreaching into wider circles of Jewish philosophy and history, followed by his acceptance as a prominent Jewish thinker with impact on certain Israeli circles, especially youngsters, some of them even seeking his spiritual guidance, towards becoming, in his later years, an outstanding modern European historian of religion and ideas. Hagiographic positions like those taken by Prof. Dan miss both Scholem's interesting personal biography as well as the intellectual history of his manifold intellectual milieu.
 
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Katharsis 2 -  English Abstracts 

Shlomo Deshen

Theories and Documents in the Study of Baghdad Jewry

The Arab Jews: Nationalism, Religion and Ethnicity by Yehouda Shenhav, Am Oved Publishers, Tel Aviv, 2003

Shenhav offers a depiction of Israelis who immigrated from Arab countries, on the base of postcolonialist sociological theory and of historical source material. He argues that there was congruence between Israeli government attitudes towards the Palestinian refugees and towards “the Arab Jews.” In the author’s view the two attitudes ramified each other. The Palestinians were despoiled of their property by the Israeli government, and that was justified by an argument that juxtaposed the act with the expropriation of Jewish property by the authorities in Arab lands. The Israeli government denied the individual rights of both its “Arab-Jewish” citizens and of the Palestinian refugees to their respective properties. This government argument, in Shenhav’s view, also supported the Israeli denial of the existence of a Palestinian nation altogether, because expropriation of Jewish property by countries such as Iraq, was assumed to benefit not just Iraqi Arabs but also Palestinian Arabs who supposedly all constituted one nation. Another thesis of the book is that “the Arab Jews” were subordinated by other Israeli Jews through orientalization. “Arab Jews” were conceived by Ashkenazi Israelis as being both radically different and inferior to them. To develop this conception Ashkenazi Israelis needed, according to Shenhav, to conceptualize “Arab Jews” as being religious and traditional, which in fact, the author claims, they were not. In order to incorporate “Arab Jews” into the Israeli system, the Israeli authorities obliterated the Arab element in their identity and dubbed them “Orientals.” Thereby “the Arab Jews” were stigmatized as inferior, classed accordingly, and positioned to take an exposed and active part in the conflict with the Palestinians. The reviewer takes issue with the author on three counts. He criticizes the factual base for some of the author’s statements, in addition to loose usage of evidence. Also, the reviewer draws attention to uncritical acceptance of abstract theory where positive evidence is thin. Finally, the reviewer remarks on the ideological agenda that pervades the book.

Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz

Democracy Now

The Classical Democracy. Its Formation, Function, Ideals, and Trials in Athens by David, E., J.L. Magnes Publishers, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem 2003.

David's book is an excellent study in the history and function of the ancient Athenian democracy. It combines the didactic with the scholarly approach, and offers many examples and comparisons with modern democracies. David succeeds in making the ancient model of democracy relevant to our times and in showing how closely related are the problems inherent in ancient democracy, its criticism, and the dangers it faced to our own. The book therefore suits both school pupils, university students and every knowledge-seeking person. David reviews and interprets the political history of Athens from the monarchic regime to the fully developed democracy in the fifth century B.C. He then discusses the democratic ideology, the opposition to democracy and the two oligarchic revolutions which took place in late fifth-century Athens. The book concludes with a review of the alterations made in some of the political institutions, in their function and powers, and with a suggestion as to the question: why was Athenian democracy stable? Despite the generally lucid presentation of the development and function of the classical democracy, and the sound interpretations, there is some misleading wording, and some events and issues, which are important to the understanding of the development of democracy and of the difficulties presented by the sources, are overlooked or related too briefly.


Eli Franco

Immanent India and Transcendent Europe

This is a review article of a book entitled Philosophical Journeys – India and the West (published in 2004 by Yediot Aharonot, Tel-Aviv.) The author, Shlomo Biderman, is professor of philosophy in Tel-Aviv University, and specializes in Indian philosophy and the philosophy of religion. The book is based on the prestigious 'Rector Lectures', which he delivered in Tel-Aviv some years ago.

In my opening section, I draw attention to the linguistic limitations of this book. Indian works are not treated on the basis of editions in the original Sanskrit, but invariably utilized in and quoted from English translations (although the reader is not informed of this fact). Basic Indian philosophical concepts and their Sanskrit terms, crucial to a proper discussion of the issues which occupy the bulk of this book, are never mentioned, not to say discussed. The bibliography is all in English and Hebrew. Works in German, French and Italian – languages which are indispensable to any study of this field – are never mentioned.

 

The main thesis of the book is that, unlike Western philosophy, where the idea of transcendence is central (in Biderman‘s words, has conceptual primacy), and is employed and developed in many forms and aspects, Indian philosophies and religions lack this idea of transcendence altogether. Even the Indian gods are said to be never transcendent, and are to be always part of this world and wholly dependent on it and on human acts of worship. I show, with numerous and detailed discussions of relevant passages in Indian philosophical literature and of basic concepts as they appear in the original sources, and with references to the current state of research, that this is plainly not the case, and that in many of the philosophical traditions of India – which I list and discuss in some detail – God or the gods are perfectly transcendent and independent of man or nature. I demonstrate this transcendence in terms of plain independence of the gods; ontological transcendence of concepts like Nirvana; and epistemological transcendence of divine beings and ideas, often beyond the ken of mere mortals. All these points are supported by evidence from some of the basic and central works of Indian philosophy, and by references to the results of well-known research published by experts in the field – including a number of recent books by leading scholars, which even have the word 'transcendence' in their title. Some of these books are based on international symposia conducted in recent years, the proceedings of which have been published.

Biderman's book appears to ignore all these intense research activities, just as it ignores some original and translated sources which have been available all along.

I conclude that the main thesis of Biderman's book is baseless, and liken his presentation of Indian philosophy to a distorted mirror.

 


Moshe Shokeid

The Pains of a Discipline
Comments on an article by Alek D. Epstein, “The Decline of Israeli Sociology” in Tchelet No. 15, 2003.

The author accuses a theoretical genre popular in recent years among the younger cohort of Israeli sociologists, known as “critical sociologists,” for their neglect of the more serious issues confronting contemporary Israeli society. Following trendy theories in American academia, such as the value-loaded paradigms of Orientalism, Colonialism etc., Israeli sociologists have become fully engaged in the craft of deconstructing various Zionist myths and national historical records. The review evaluates these claims that seem to reflect also on a broader professional phenomenon that affects the position of sociology, in both the academic and public domains, beyond the borders of Israel.

 


Bat-Zion Eraqi Klorman

Yemeni Jews and the Labor Movement: Cultural-Ideological Distinction or Ethnic and Economic Discrimination

Comments on Yosef Gorny's article: "The Strengths and Weaknesses of 'Constructive Paternalism': The Second Aliyah Leaders' Image of the Yemenite Jews," Cathedra, 108 (2003), pp. 131-162.

The research of the last twenty years has exposed the Ashkenazi leaders of the labor movement during the Second Aliya (and thereafter) as discriminating against Yemeni Jews in distributing various national resources. One major element in this pattern was the description of Yemeni Jews as a "quantitative force" in the Zionist endeavor while relating to Eastern European Jews as a "quality contribution" to the Zionist effort. Gorny's article attempts to present the labor movement's conduct toward Yemeni Jews, as well as to other Mizrahi Jews, as unavoidable and as a historical necessity.

Gorny's discussion rests on two main arguments: 1. the leaders of the labor movement developed a concept of "constructive paternalism" which treated Ashkenazi Jews, Yemeni Jews, women and children equally; 2. the labor movement's distinction (i.e., discrimination) between Ashkenazi and Yemeni workers was based on cultural and ideological differences rather than ethnic footing.

By relating to the historical events which Gorny himself cites, and through a careful reading of the archives and published texts, this article refutes Gorny's assumptions and arguments. It shows that when the interests of Ashkenazi Jews conflicted with those of Yemeni Jews – even when they shared a similar background – the "constructive paternalism" of labor leaders always favored Ashkenazi Jews. This conduct stemmed mainly from the rejection of Yemeni Jews on the basis of ethnic differences and from the wish to preserve economic and other strongholds – and not on ideological grounds as Gorny suggests. In adopting the images shaped by the labor movement at the beginning of the 20th century, Gorny, writing in the early 21st century, expresses an amazing, almost unbelievable, empathy for the peripheralization of Yemeni Jews in Jewish society.


Henry Wassermann

How to invent a Jewish Cultural Renaissance in Weimar Germany

During the threescore years and more which have passed since the end of World War II, an interesting change of paradigms has occurred vis-à-vis the integration of Jews in German society. During its first generation or so, articles in the Year Book of the Leo Baeck Institute, written mostly by emigré German Jews who had first-hand experience of life in Weimar Germany, emphasized the degree of social integration which had been their lot. But under the impact of a series of still to be examined developments, such as the Yom Kippur War, the growing acceptance of the thesis of G. Scholem concerning the non-existence of a German-Jewish symbiosis (i.e. impossibility of any German-Jewish dialogue), and, primarily, I think, the apotheosis of the murder of European Jewry – an apotheosis also known as The Holocaust or The Shoah – an apotheosis accompanied by an increasingly ritualistic attitude of veneration towards this genocide – a new paradigm emerged, according to which Jews had never really been integrated into German society.

The translation into Hebrew of the highly acclaimed The Renaissance of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany (1996) by Michael Brenner, which received rave reviews upon its appearance in Germany as well, is a further development in this direction: German Jews of the Weimar period, who were, by and large, a very highly secularized segment of the German bourgeoisie, and were generally indifferent to their Jewish background, as can be observed in hundreds of autobiographies, have here undergone a process of re-Judaization. The self-commendatory words of community functionaries, on the payroll of the major Jewish communities and organizations, and employed in order to stave off the indifference which most German Jews accorded their communal ties, are taken as the honest truth. The Frankfurt Lehrhaus initiated by Franz Rosenzweig, which enjoyed a rather short vogue, is transformed as offering German Jewry a deep and significant spiritual renewal – but without the slightest evidence thereof! Both Buber and Rosenzweig undergo an embarrassingly uncritical apotheosis, as if their handiwork, such as the enigmatic Star of Redemption by Rosenzweig, or their eccentric translation of the Scriptures, had played a significant cultural role. Last but not least, the content of the Cultural Renaissance posited – or rather, invented – by Brenner is never examined. Much of it was sheer kitsch, best exemplified by the hypocritical attitude of Weimar Jewry towards the Ostjuden, supposedly adored as emblematic Jews, but who were also deprived of communal rights and despised socially.


John Glucker

Up to Date

This is an extended form of a more popular review, published in the Hebrew daily Ha'aretz, of a new Hebrew translation, with introduction, notes, and a long appendix, of Aristotle's Poetics, by Dr. Yoav Rinon In my review in Ha'aretz, I already pointed out some serious mistakes in Greek, in comprehension, and in the little said in this book on historical issues, as well as the translator's excessive dependence on recent secondary literature. In the present article I add a few specimens of Rinon's method of work. I show that he seems to be entirely confused as to the meaning of the term 'manuscript', and often calls a whole ancient work 'a manuscript'. The few things he says about the MS tradition of Poetics in his introduction were copied directly – with a few omissions and adaptations – from Lucas' and Bywater's introductions. His comprehension of textual problems is also precarious, to say the least, and is hardly adequate for a translator of a complex text like Poetics. I analyse one particularly difficult passage, with a number of cruces and a few sentences excised by most editors, to show that Rinon, far from understanding the textual difficulties, simply followed an English translation in forming most of his Hebrew version of that passage. On historical issues, this edition is almost entirely lacking in information, and some of the exceedingly little information given is laconic, not always precise, and often misleading. Rinon's main purpose seems to be to give the Hebrew reader an 'updated poetics'. This he does by coining new words for such basic concepts as poesis and mythos, which may appeal to literary theoreticians, but often miss Aristotle's point; and by basing his general discussion in the long appendix mostly on the secondary literature published in the last generation, often ignoring things said by Aristotle himself or by some great scholars of the past. I conclude my review with a discussion of the whole idea of being 'up to date' in the humanities, and of the danger involved in such an approach in a field like ancient philosophy.
 
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 Katharsis 1 - English Abstracts
 
 
Raphael Freundlich 

Judaism and Hellenism in a Distorted Mirror

The title of Yaacov Shavit's study Judaism in the Greek Mirror and the Emergence of the Modern Hellenized Jew is partly misleading and partly based on false premises. Opening this book, the innocent reader will probably assume that considerable portions of it are devoted to the portrayal of the Jewish people in Hellenistic literature. But this subject is hardly treated at all. On the other hand, the use of the stereotype Modern Hellenized Jew suggests that a parallel may be drawn between modern westernized secular Jewry and its alleged counterpart in the Hellenistic and Hellenistic-Roman periods. It is easy to prove that there exists no factual base for this equation, although it is current in some Jewish circles.

The book displays a deplorable lack of knowledge and scholarly competence on every page. One would assume that a writer whose "modest" aim is to depict the struggle between Judaism and Hellenism from its beginning, throughout the ages, up to our own times, would possess a broad knowledge of classical antiquity, Latin and Greek, Talmudic literature and western intellectual history. Furthermore, such an undertaking requires a keen critical sense, an application of sound judgement and a broad understanding of historical development. Unfortunately, the writer lacks all these qualities. His book is poorly written and lacks logical structure. Its various parts and chapters are loosely connected by some kind of erratic association. The attentive reader is constantly confronted with inconsistencies and contradictions. The author claims, for instance, that his aim is not to write a cultural history of what really happened, and that he is not concerned with Greece "as it really was", but only with its ideal image. But later on, we read that his intention is to describe the relations between Judaism and Hellenism "as they really were, with all their complexities". As a result, the reader never knows for sure whether he is moving in the world of facts or in a hall of mirrors and projections. This ambiguity is never resolved throughout the book.

Most historical facts are incorrect. Quotations and paraphrases from secondary literature display a lack of comprehension. Quotations from primary sources in Greek and Latin are full of orthographic and grammatical mistakes, which proves that the author does not have even a smattering of the classical languages. There is good reason to believe that the author has never read any writing of an ancient author in extenso even in translation. Quotations from ancient authors have been picked out at random from secondary writings and lumped together with complete disregard for context and meaning. The text and annotations contain numerous references to books and articles. But the names of their authors and their titles are so badly mutilated by numerous orthographic mistakes that they are of no use to those who try to benefit from them. Many times the author mentions scholarly books and articles he has never read, in order to convey the false impression of possessing an extensive erudition. On the other hand, he paraphrases (often wrongly) works of outstanding scholars without mentioning them in the text or in the annotations.

Summing up, one can only deplore the lack of judgement of those who decided to publish a book of such poor quality.


Moshe Shokeid 

Who is to Blame for the Moroccans' Predicament?

Some Comments on Eitan Cohen's book:

The Moroccans – The Negative of the Ashkenazim, Resling Publishing, Tel Aviv 2002 (in Hebrew) 

The author employs a radical approach, opposed to contemporary popular critical sociological theories that attribute most of the difficulties experienced by Middle Eastern Jews to the paternalistic and discriminatory treatment inflicted on them in Israel by the veteran Ashkenazi agencies of absorption. Cohen, a Moroccan by birth, claims that Moroccan Jews carried with them a cultural tradition that negated institutional modes of organizational rationality. Characterized by individual freedom of action and the Moroccans' endorsement of charismatic leadership, their social habits have been in contradiction with the political institutional order, the social order and the social codes of Ashkenazi Jews. Thus it was a clash of cultures rather than the conflict between two socio-economic classes that determined the painful meeting of the Moroccans with Israeli veterans. The review comments on the strengths and weaknesses of Cohen's representation of the "Moroccan problem".


John Glucker 

Socrates' Pyjamas

This article is a response to a Hebrew article, 'Phaedo's Hair' by Dr. Tzachi Zamir, published recently in the Hebrew philosophical quarterly Iyyun. I point out in it that, although some Greek words appear in the article, Zamir's treatment of some of them renders his knowledge of Greek extremely dubious, to say the least. His main thesis – that by stroking Phaedo's hair, Socrates gives the lie to his whole philosophical way of life, which consists in rejecting the material world and aspiring to pure immaterial truth – is supported by 'meta' considerations of his own making, bearing no relation to what we have in the major part of Plato's Phaedo. The arguments, which do occupy the major part of the dialogue, are briefly dismissed in one paragraph, en gros, as unconvincing – although some of them, we are told in the text of the dialogue, convinced everybody except Simmias. The implication is that Plato wasted his time on all these arguments – indeed, on most of the dialogue – while the dialogue's main point is that Socrates yields to the realities of the material world in the very brief episode of stroking his friend's hair. Zamir also adds that, since Simmias and Cebes compare themselves to frightened children, they – and all present in Socrates' cell – are also children in the sense of being resolute and unhesitating in their beliefs, as children usually are; and that Plato himself, by writing in dialogue form and making only others speak, was the prototype of the 'quoting philosopher', uncommitted to anything, thus creating the long tradition of mysology in Western philosophy. One could cite some other absurdities of that ilk. I regard this article as a dangerous specimen of a hermeneutic approach now becoming all too fashionable, according to which the text matters very little, and one can pick and choose from it whatever one wishes to emphasize, misinterpreting it in the process to suit one's 'higher' insights. This seems to be what Zamir calls 'exegesis' and 'metaphilosophy'.


Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz 

Missed Poetics 

While Aharon Shabthai's translations of Aristophanes' Ecclesiazousai (Schocken Publishing House, Tel-Aviv 2003) generally flows and conveys the unrestrained and hilarious spirit of the comedy, there are some flaws both in the introduction and in the translation itself. Shabthai presents the play as a serious proposal by the playwright in favor of transferring to women the management of state affairs, but in presenting it as such, he ignores the ironic implications of this 'feminist' revolution. Although the women abolish private property and replace the institution of marriage with sexual freedom, the members of both genders are to continue in their traditional roles: the women will cook and sew for the men; the men will enjoy life. Moreover, there are some factual errors in Shabthai's historical background, while his reliance on J. Henderson's introduction to his English translation occasionally becomes misleadingly selective. The translation itself is not without shortcomings: it uses low speech when an elevated style is required, and vice versa; it overcomes the problem of jokes and puns based on names and issues by ignoring them and replacing them with Israeli slang; it omits some words, while adding others which are not in the original text; it uses rhyme, something the ancients Greeks did not do; and finally, it misconstrues the syntax of some phrases. The Hebrew reader will undoubtedly enjoy reading the translation, but, as this review indicates, a certain amount of the original poetics is lost.

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