"Every new member of Israel’s Knesset gives a debut speech, and this year, with 48 rookies, the docket was full, with parliamentarians introducing their résumés, their proposed policies, and their hopes for the coming four-year term. One decided to ignore convention altogether. This member of Knesset used the allotted time to teach Talmud. A full third of the 19th Knesset are observant Jews, but it wasn’t any of them. It was a woman named Ruth Calderon, a Talmud scholar and the founder of two Jewish houses of study. She was elected to Knesset as No. 13 on the list of Yesh Atid, a new party headed by former journalist Yair Lapid that swept the recent elections, earning 19 seats on a promise to bring about a more equal Israel..." [more inside]
"Trading Faith for Wonder: On Judaism's Literary Legacy". The LARB reviews Jews And Words, by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger. [more inside]
Gil Cohen-Magen takes pictures of daily life among Hassidic and Holy Land communities.
Over the past three weeks, Israel has experienced what may perhaps be the largest, spontaneous / grass roots social protest of the secular middle class that it has witnessed in decades. Thousands of demonstrators in cities and towns throughout the country have been protesting cuts in government funding to health care and education, and massive, exorbitant rises in taxes and housing costs -- and demanding change. Tent cities have sprung up in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and in public gardens and parks throughout the country. And they may not be going anywhere: polls indicate Israeli support is "exceptionally high". [more inside]
Tzvia Greenfield is the first ultra-Orthodox woman to serve in Knesset, the Israeli legislature, representing the left-wing party Meretz. Her 2001 book Hem Mefahadim ("They are afraid,") an attack on rightism and insularity among the ultra-Orthodox, drew death threats. Despite her sharp criticism of the religious community ("The big issue here is a very delicate one. That is children. Large families thirty years ago was six children; now there's 13 or 14 - from one wife. I believes the glorification of bringing as many children as possible is a definite way of ensuring women can't bring their advantages into effect - subjugation.") she still lives an observant life in the ultra-Orthodox community of Har Nof. "They disagree with my ideas but they know me as religious and halachic person. They cannot see any blemish in my practice except for one thing- we have a dog." At least one haredi denies that Greenfield is Orthodox at all. (The dog comes up.)