Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Jew of the Week: Zelda Mishkovsky

Israel’s Hasidic National Poet

Shaina Zelda Schneersohn (1914-1984) was born in what is now Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, to a religious family of Chabad Hasidim. She was a first cousin of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. An only child, she made aliyah with her parents when she was 12. The family settled in Jerusalem, where Zelda went on to study at the city’s Bezalel Academy of Arts in the hopes of being a professional painter. She ultimately became a teacher and taught at school in Tel-Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. (One of her students was renowned writer Amos Oz). Meanwhile, she wrote poems and essays for local newspapers, and slowly gained a large following of fans. After marrying Hayim Mishkovsky, Zelda became a full-time writer and poet. She published her first collections of poems in 1967, blending themes from both Israel and Russia, infused with religious symbols and mystical concepts from Kabbalah and Hasidism, often mixing Modern Hebrew with Biblical Hebrew and Yiddish. The poems were hugely popular across Israel’s social, political, and religious spectrum. She went on to publish five more collections of poetry over the next two decades, each reaching bestseller status. She became affectionately known in Israel simply as “Zelda”, going on to win the Brenner Prize in 1971, and the Bialik Prize in 1978. Her poem “Each Person Has a Name” is publicly recited in Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day (which also happens to be her yahrzeit). Like her cousin the Lubavitcher Rebbe (with whom she kept a regular correspondence), Zelda never had children, but had many devoted students and foster daughters that she took into her home. She is recognized today as one of Israel’s greatest poets.

Purim Begins This Saturday Night – Chag Sameach!

Secrets of Purim

3 Quran Verses Every Jew Must Know

Words of the Week

We are immersed in an evolving, ongoing conflict: an Information World War in which state actors, terrorists, and ideological extremists leverage the social infrastructure underpinning everyday life to sow discord and erode shared reality.
– Renée DiResta

Jew of the Week: Rami Levy

Israeli Supermarket King and Palestinian Hero

Rami Levy (b. 1955) was born in Jerusalem to an impoverished Iraqi-Jewish family. After completing his military service, he took over his grandfather’s failing grocery stall at the local market. He decided to slash his prices and sell without profit for the first three months to attract customers. After that, he continued operating at wholesale prices, becoming Israel’s first official discount store. A few years later, he was able to open a bigger, second location, and in 1992 his first supermarket, Rami Levy Shivuk HaShikma, named after himself and the street where his first shop was located. He has since expanded to 44 locations across Israel. He also operates 4 locations in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) that, despite being boycotted by the Palestinian Authority, employ Palestinian workers at double the wages of other supermarkets in the area, and are hugely popular among Palestinian shoppers who appreciate the low prices. More recently, he opened a shopping mall on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where a third of the stores are Palestinian-owned. Rami Levy has supported Jewish settlements in the area and does not see them as a barrier to peace, because he strongly believes Jews and Arabs can coexist no matter where they live, and peace can be achieved through Palestinian economic development. He has been described as “the Israeli supermarket king that became a Palestinian hero”. Today, Rami Levy supermarkets are famous for their clever marketing and epic pre-holiday sales (for example, chickens, apples, and honey for less than a shekel per kilo before one Rosh Hashanah). The company went public in 2007, and has since expanded into clothing, real estate, and cellular communications, becoming Israel’s fourth mobile network. They are even trying to develop a home-delivery system using drones. Rami Levy Shivuk HaShikma is now the third largest supermarket chain in the country.

Recognizing and Fighting Fake News About Israel

Words of the Week

The state and progress of the Jews, from their earliest history to the present time, has been so entirely out of the ordinary course of human affairs, is it not then a fair conclusion, that the cause also is an extraordinary one—in other words, that it is the effect of some great providential plan?
– Alexander Hamilton

Jew of the Week: Josephus

Greatest Jewish Historian

An 1817 depiction of Josephus

Yosef ben Matityahu (c. 37-100 CE) was born in Jerusalem to a wealthy family of kohanim descended from the Maccabees. As a young man, he explored various philosophies and schools of thought, ultimately resolving to become a Pharisee and live a Torah-observant life. He traveled to Rome as part of a delegation to free Jewish captives. When the First Jewish-Roman War (or “Great Revolt”) broke out, Yosef was appointed military commander of the Galilee region. After several initial successes, he lost to the Romans during the siege on Yodfat. Pigeon-holed in a cave with 40 other soldiers, the group resolved to commit suicide rather than surrender. As Yosef would later write, the other soldiers all killed each other to avoid capture, but he chickened out and gave himself up to the Romans. He offered to be useful to the Roman general Vespasian (soon to become Caesar) and helped him navigate the Judean terrain. He also served as his translator and negotiator. After the war ended (with the destruction of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple), he settled in Rome, was granted Roman citizenship, and continued to work for the new Flavian Dynasty, taking on the name “Flavius Josephus”. For this treachery, Josephus was never looked well upon by Jews. Nonetheless, he spent much of his remaining years writing extensively about Jews and Judaism, dispeling myths about the mysterious people, and helping to portray them more positively. Today, Josephus’ works are a wealth of knowledge for historians and Jewish scholars. They provide eye-witness accounts of the Great Revolt, and a detailed explanation of Jewish life at the end of the Second Temple era, as well as a treasure trove of information about the Roman Empire. Though he did not mention Jesus, his writings have been used extensively by Christian scholars to understand the context in which Christianity emerged. His work has also been used extensively by archaeologists to make sense of ancient finds in Israel, most notably at Masada, and even to discover the tomb of King Herod. Among his books are Antiquities of the Jews, Wars of the Jews, and Against Apion, which was a defense of Judaism debunking the claims of the antisemitic Greek writer Apion Mochthos. Today, Josephus’ works are considered among the most important historical texts of all time.

Tisha b’Av Begins Tonight, Have a Meaningful Fast!

What is the Meaning of Tisha b’Av?

Why Was Jerusalem’s Holy Temple Really Destroyed?

Words of the Week

Should anyone of our nation be asked about our laws, he will repeat them as readily as his own name. The result of our thorough education in our laws from the very dawn of intelligence is that they are, as it were, engraved on our souls.
– Josephus