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Podcast: Shany Mor on What Makes America’s Peace Processors Tick

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The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has in the last several decades sucked up more American attention, time, and resources than nearly any other conflict in the world. Presidents, cabinet secretaries, national-security officials, and diplomats have poured themselves into solving the problem. These resources have been expended not only because of how Americans perceived the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s strategic importance to the United States, but perhaps more so because it is a conflict that engages and symbolizes the way Americans see themselves acting in the world.

Despite that huge effort, Americans haven’t succeeded in bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians to any kind of settled arrangement. Furthermore, as the Israeli researcher Shany Mor writes in his February 2021 essay in Mosaic, American policymakers seem insistent on returning to the same frameworks of analysis and strategy that have failed systematically time and again. Now Mor joins Mosaic‘s editor, Jonathan Silver, to explain what’s gone wrong, and to talk about why so many American peace processors think the way they do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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


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Podcast: Yehoshua Pfeffer on How the Coronavirus Prompted Him to Rethink the Relationship between Haredim and Israeli Society

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In the last week of January 2021, thousands of Israeli haredim protested and rioted in Bnai Brak, a predominantly haredi city located east of Tel Aviv. The rioters were angry at the government’s efforts to enforce a lockdown―not Israel’s first―meant to suppress COVID-19. Several days later, over 10,000 haredim congregated to mourn the passing of an eminent rabbi, again in violation of the lockdown. For all the frustration that Israel’s haredim feel, their refusal to comply with the lockdowns has generated an equal measure of frustration and resentment among non-haredi Israelis.

Haredim make up a significant part of Israel, and the Coronavirus has brought long-simmering tensions between them and the rest of the Israeli public to a boiling point. This week, Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver speaks with the Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a haredi leader and the editor of the Tikvah’s haredi publication Tzarich Iyun, to explore how his community might repair their relations with their fellow Israelis. In a recent essay, one discussed here, Pfeffer offers a framework for good citizenship, rooted in traditional religious sources, which he hopes can serve as the foundation for a renewed ḥaredi civic virtue.

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


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Podcast: Gerald McDermott & Derryck Green on How Biblical Ideas Can Help Bridge America’s Racial Divide

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Three times a day in prayer and each week on the Sabbath, Jews sustain and renew their special covenant with God. While no other nation has the same covenant as the Jews do, the idea of covenant—that a group of people can band together in obligation under God’s sovereignty—has inspired many other nations. From its earliest history, the people of America understood that they relied on divine Providence, and developed a civic culture that made it, as G.K. Chesterton famously put it, “a nation with the soul of a church.” Covenant, in other words, has always been at the heart of America’s national self-understanding.

It is the recovery of this Jewish idea, argue the Christian leaders Gerald McDermott and Derryck Green, that can help heal America’s racial divide. In a new book, McDermott, Green, and other contributors suggest that a return to America’s founding notion of covenant can help bring about racial reconciliation. Now, in conversation with Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver, McDermott and Green explore the idea of national covenant, how it has resonated throughout American history, and how it can help Americans once again see each other as equally made in the image of God.

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


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Podcast: Emmanuel Navon on Jewish Diplomacy from Abraham to Abba Eban

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For much of its history, the Jewish people hasn’t had a state. The Israel described in the Hebrew Bible had emissaries and military power, and the modern state of Israel has a foreign ministry and an advanced military, yet there’s nearly 2,000 years of stateless history in between. Throughout that time, however, Jewish diplomacy has been constant. Even without a state, the Jewish people has integrated, separated, argued, and made amends with the other nations of the world. And, as a new book shows, there’s much to be learned from that long experience today, in the state of Israel and out.

On this week’s podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver speaks with Emmanuel Navon, the author of The Star and the Scepter: A Diplomatic History of Israel. Navon puts Israel’s diplomatic history in the context of the entire history of the Jews, beginning with the Hebrew Bible. In doing so, he and Silver try to dig up some eternal truths about the nature of the Jewish people.

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


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Podcast: Michael Oren on Writing Fiction and Serving Israel

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Very few contemporary public figures have had as many successes in as many fields as Michael Oren. A writer-statesman in the model of Thucydides, Oren was Israel’s ambassador to the United States during the Obama years, and was before that a historian of the Jewish state, the author of perhaps the best single book on the Six-Day War. He’s also worked in think tanks, been a professor at Ivy League institutions, and served as an MK in the Israeli parliament. Now, with the recent publication of The Night Archera collection of short stories, Oren returns to the genre of fiction, a pursuit that animated his younger years.

This week on the podcast, Oren joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how his varied career fits together—how the writing of fiction relates to the writing of history, how the study of history relates to the practice of diplomacy, how diplomatic service and writing both require the same aptitudes of perception, and how all of this came together in the service of Zionism and the state of Israel.

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

This podcast was recorded over Zoom at a virtual event for members of the Tikvah-Beren Collegiate Forum. You can learn more about the Forum here.


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Podcast: Joel Kotkin Thinks about God and the Pandemic

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Most of our podcast guests, especially those focusing on religious issues, tend to look at the world in a traditional way―meaning, their habits of mind tend to be traditional and conservative.

Many of our podcast guests, especially the rabbis and religious leaders who help us think about Jewish theology, tend to look at the world and speak out of the more conservative and orthodox orientation. But this week’s guest is—at least professionally—an outsider to that world. Joel Kotkin is not a rabbi or theologian but a social scientist, and he has turned his attention to the world of religion.

Kotkin recently published an essay in Quillette, “God and the Pandemic,” and he joins our Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to talk about that essay, and to assess what’s happening in American religious culture today as the pandemic continues to take its toll. Kotkin, looking at religious life empirically, examines the role of technology and human adaptability in the present religious environment, and he tries to think about the long-term effects COVID-19 will have on synagogues, churches, mosques and other religious communities across the country.

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


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Podcast: Dore Gold on the Strategic Importance of the Nile River and the Politics of the Red Sea

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In the water-scarce Middle East, water that can be used for drinking and agriculture is of premium importance. The entire ancient civilization of imperial Egypt grew up around the Nile River and its basin, and much of the east Africa still depends on it. Although Israel has made amazing advances in hydrotechnology, it too must treat water as a scarce resource, and that makes the politics of the Nile, along with the policing of the Red Sea, a question of real strategic significance to the Jewish state and the regional order of the Middle East.

In this week’s podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver is joined by Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, to discuss the strategic importance of the Nile River, the policing of the Red Sea, and what they mean for Israel and the regional order of the Middle East.

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


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Podcast: Yuval Levin Asks How Religious Minorities Survive in America—Then and Now

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American democracy is a nation of nations. Muslims, Christians, and Jews, women and men from every nation on earth have made themselves into Americans. Nevertheless, a unique majority culture developed within this nation of nations: a kind of big-tent, denomination-less, Protestant Christianity. In that culture, the dominant Jewish anxiety was assimilation into Christianity. Today however, America’s widely shared cultural pieties are no longer overtly Christian. There remain pockets of Christian vitality, but those pockets are now minorities in a new kind of American culture, one characterized less by its religious sensibilities and more by its secular liberalism.

In a short essay called “Christmas, Christians, and Jews,” published in National Review in 1988, the writer Irving Kristol suggested that the democratic principles of civility and prudence should govern how American Jews and Christians relate to one another. But are those principles, and the other habits of mind American Jews adopted to resist melting into America’s old Christian-majority culture, adequate for resisting assimilation into America’s new secular culture?

That’s the question Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, and the Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, takes up in conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver. They also explore what the principles that Kristol suggested require today – not only of American Jews, but of Christians too – as they figure out how to address themselves to a secular liberal culture that can be hostile to traditional faith.

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


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Podcast: Mark Gottlieb on Rabbi Soloveitchik’s “Everlasting Hanukkah”

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When the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah each winter, what are we celebrating? The story of the holiday is the tale of rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been occupied and defiled by the Seleucid Greeks, who—with the aid of Hellenizing Jews—were not content only to have conquered the land, but also demanded that the Jews living there relinquish their religious way of life.

And with that tradition so close to being snuffed out, monotheism itself was nearly snuffed out. The stakes were great, and each and every believing Muslim, Christian, and Jew who walks the earth today owes some measure of debt to the small remnant of a small people who resisted the mightiest military empire on earth.

In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by Tikvah’s Rabbi Mark Gottlieb to explore the deepest theological meaning of Hanukkah. Their conversation centers on an essay by 20th-century Modern Orthodoxy’s leading thinker, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. The essay, “The Everlasting Hanukkah,” can be found in a volume of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s writings entitled Days of Deliverance.

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


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Podcast: Ambassador Ron Dermer Looks Back on His Years in Washington

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From the Iran Deal to the rise of and fall of ISIS, from Israel’s year of inconclusive elections to a pandemic that has ravaged globe, the second decade of the 21st century has been history-making for both the United States and Israel. And for the better part of these last 10 years, Ron Dermer has served as the Jewish state’s ambassador in Washington, D.C. He is not the first native-born American who emigrated to Israel, rose to political prominence, and was then sent back here on behalf of his chosen nation. But his intimate understanding of America and the sensibilities of its citizens—both Jewish and non-Jewish—has helped him in his service and made him all the more effective.

Ambassador Dermer is now preparing to leave his post and return home to Jerusalem. Before he goes, he joins the Tikvah Podcast to discuss what he’s done, what he’s proud of, the basis of the U.S.-Israel relationship today, and why he remains hopeful about the alliance between America and Israel in the 21st century.

This conversation was recorded live at the Tikvah-Beren Collegiate Forum.

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


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