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Podcast: Matti Friedman on China’s New Haifa Port

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This past fall, Israel’s international shipping port in Haifa completed renovations, and it recently went operational. Almost all of Israel’s international trade comes and goes by sea, and Haifa’s is the busiest of the country’s ports.

The Haifa port is also where the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet—based in Naples, Italy—comes to call when it needs fuel, and when it seeks to project power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, it sits at the very center of Israeli trade and industry and is a vital part of its military and diplomatic relationship with the United States.

The company that won the tender to operate the port for the next 25 years is the Shanghai International Port Group—the state-owned corporation responsible for the public terminals at the Shanghai harbor. Which means that Chinese cranes, Chinese software, and Chinese managers are now responsible for roughly half of Israel’s freight.

To get Israelis more used to working so closely with China, and to introduce China in the right way to the Israeli public, China Radio International—also a government enterprise—has dispatched the man who runs its Hebrew desk to mount a charm campaign. Widely known as “Iztik ha-Sini,” “Chinese Itzik,” he runs a popular, funny, and captivating YouTube channel, where he has produced hundreds of online videos that Israelis love. In this podcast we are joined by the Israeli journalist Matti Friedman to learn more about the port in Haifa, its executives in Shanghai, and the propaganda mission that is dazzling Israeli citizens.

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: Jay Greene on Anti-Semitic Leanings Among College Diversity Administrators

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According to Hillel International, there were 244 anti-Semitic incidents at American campuses reported during the 2020-2021 school year. That’s up from 181 incidents the year before, perhaps an especially significant increase given that many students did not convene in person, but instead attended classes online in 2020. In light of such a trend, one might hope that the ballooning number of academic administrators hired by colleges and universities to foster a welcoming atmosphere for students of diverse backgrounds would be sensitive to anti-Semitic attitudes. But, according to a new report, a great many university officers seemingly hired to combat anti-Semitic discrimination sympathize with anti-Semitism themselves.

The author of that report, Jay Greene, joins this week’s podcast. He analyzed the public Twitter feeds of hundreds of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) professionals at 65 different universities and found that, of their over 600 tweets about Israel, 96 percent of them were critical. That in itself might not constitute anti-Semitism. But, as Greene explains in conversation with Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver, neither does it inspire confidence in how those who are charged with handling anti-Semitic concerns on campus might approach them.

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: Our Favorite Broadcasts of 2021

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In 2021, 49 different guests appeared on the Tikvah Podcast over the course of 44 new episodes. Our conversations touched on some of the most important and interesting subjects in Jewish life, including discussions with leaders of Israel’s haredi community, a course developer who is deploying technology to teach people Yiddish, diplomats and strategists shaping foreign-policy debates in Israel, Europe, and America, elected officials and diplomats, historians and social scientists, theologians and rabbis, academics and authors, reporters and entrepreneurs. Each guest, in conversation with Mosaic’s editor, Jonathan Silver, trained his or her unique perspective on some timely or enduring question that stands before the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

In this episode, we present some of our favorite conversations this year. Guests featured in this year-end episode include the Israeli rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, the foreign-policy analysts Benjamin Haddad and Michael Doran, the Wall Street Journal editor Elliot Kaufman, the social scientist Nicholas Eberstadt, the Jewish educational leader David Rozenson, the Yiddish expert Meena Viswanath, the tech CEO Sean Clifford, the novelist Dara Horn, and the eminent writer Cynthia Ozick.

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: Three Young Jews on Discovering Their Jewish Purposes

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In a previous podcast, Professors Benjamin and Jenna Storey explored a habit of mind that frustrated their very best students, a sentiment they called restlessness. As the Storeys saw it, their exceptional students had countless life and career options open to them, and yet they had so little cultural and vocational formation that they couldn’t discern what path to take, or the purposes to which they should dedicate their talents.

This week’s podcast features three young people who are beginning to rise in their professions with confidence. Smart and personable, they could have launched themselves into any number of fields. Instead, they chose to dedicate themselves to serving America, the Jews, and Israel. Just a couple of years ago, Tamara Berens, Talia Katz, and Dovid Schwartz were all fellows at the Beren Summer Fellowship, an experience that helped guide each of them. On this week’s podcast, in conversation with Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver, they give us an inside look at the fellowship, and at how it helped them clarify―to themselves and to one another―the Jewish purposes they’re meant to serve.

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: Annie Fixler on Cyber Warfare in the 21st Century

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According to a new report, in 2020 2,400 U.S.-based healthcare facilities, local governments, schools, and other institutions were victims of ransomware—a form of cyberattack in which a hacker holds a person’s data hostage and demands a ransom to permit them to access it again. Ransomware has become such a problem that in October the U.S. State Department formed a new office to confront it, and in November the Treasury Department announced that it will partner with its Israeli counterpart on a joint task force to address this and other cybersecurity issues.

Israel, like America, is also confronted with problems in cyberspace. On this week’s podcast, Annie Fixler, the deputy director of the Center on Cyber Technology and Innovation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, joins Mosaic’s editor, Jonathan Silver, to explain the threats that cyber warfare poses to American life, and the role that Israel could play in helping secure both countries from malicious attacks, whether they come from lone-wolf hackers or enemy nation-states.

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: Victoria Coates on the Confusion in Natanz

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On Saturday, December 4, 2021, an explosion occurred near Iran’s nuclear facility outside the city of Natanz. Afterward, two nearby villages were evacuated. Was the explosion the result of a weapons test? An accident? Sabotage? No one yet knows what took place in the mountains of northern Iran that day. And whereas civilians and observers can afford to wait for more information, national-security professionals are forced to act and react to events like this in real-time without a lot of information. If there’s an explosion near the nuclear compound of an adversarial nation, what do you do?

Natanz and its uncertainty is the point of departure for this week’s podcast. Victoria Coates, the former deputy national security adviser for Middle Eastern and North African affairs, shares her experience making decisions under pressure and with imperfect information.

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: Judah Ari Gross on Why Israel and Morocco Came to a New Defense Agreement

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In November, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Morocco, where for the first time he was accompanied by uniformed Israeli military personnel. Gantz’s visit comes on the heels of visits in the last year by Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, both of whom prepared the way for full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Building on Israel and Morocco’s burgeoning diplomatic relations, the purpose of Gantz’s recent visit was to negotiate a memorandum of understanding focused on their security cooperation. Judah Ari Gross, the military correspondent for the Times of Israel and this week’s podcast guest, accompanied Gantz on his trip. In conversation with Mosaic Editor, Jonathan Silver, he explains here how this historic agreement happened, what it means, and how it serves each nation’s interests.

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 Avi Helfand on Jewish Life and Law at the Supreme Court

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There aren’t enough public schools in Maine. By some estimates, about half of Maine’s school districts don’t have the facilities or faculty to educate the students who live in them. The state’s solution is to give families who live in such districts money to send their children to others school—either a different public school further away, or a private school. But Maine doesn’t make that funding available to families who choose to send their children to religious schools. In just a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Carson v. Makin, a case that could affect the way that Maine, and the rest of the United States, deals with the funding of religious schools.

On this week’s podcast, the legal scholar Michael Avi Helfand joins Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver to discuss the amicus brief that he filed for this case, and to explore whether Maine is acting in a way that is consistent with the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections. This particular case also allows for Helfand to question more fundamental legal heuristics, such as the supposed distinction in American case law between a legal entity’s religious “status,” and its “use” of religion.

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: Nicholas Eberstadt on What Declining Birthrates Mean for the Future of the West

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Until recently, America was an outlier: despite rising affluence, its birthrate remained high, unlike in other countries where more riches have brought fewer children. That’s no longer the case today. America is now in demographic decline. Writing in National Review, the political economist and demographer Nicholas Eberstadt observes that: 

U.S. fertility levels have never before fallen as low as they are today. In 2019—before the coronavirus pandemic—America’s total fertility rate (TFR—a measure of births per woman per lifetime) was 1.71, roughly 18 percent lower than the roughly 2.1 births per woman required for long-term population stability. By then, U.S. fertility levels were so low that even Mormon Utah had gone sub-replacement. And U.S. fertility levels were even lower in 2020. With a TFR of 1.64, America was well over 20 percent below replacement.

Eberstadt goes on to note that there’s reason to believe that the U.S. fertility rate may drop even further in the coming years. He joins this week’s podcast to discuss why this is happening, what it means for American society, whether it can be reversed, and, if it can’t, how America can cope with it.

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: Suzy Weiss on the Childless Lives of Young American Women

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Today, a number of young American women are pursuing the stuff of dystopian novels: the prospect of a childless future. These young women don’t just choose to avoid motherhood—they actively embrace that choice as a marker of their identity. Some embrace the label “child-free,” with the implication that they don’t want to have children themselves, but are okay with other people doing so, while others are positively “anti-natalist”—they don’t want to have children and they also think that it’s immoral for anyone else to do so. Many of these women have even turned to surgical procedures to ensure they will never become mothers.

It’s difficult to estimate how large this group is, but it’s likely quite small. Nevertheless, despite its small size, it reveals something about American culture and its attitude toward the tradeoffs of family. How does someone who is ideologically committed not to have children see the world? This week, the writer Suzy Weiss joins the show to discuss a recent article of hers that tries to answer that question. In conversation with Mosaic’s editor, Jonathan Silver, she explains how the child-free think, what motivates them, and what their existence says about mainstream American society.

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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