The “It Ain’t the Heat, It’s the Fluidity” Edition

Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

Miriam Herschlag, Don Futterman and Noah Efron discuss three topics of incomparable importance and end with an anecdote about something in Israel that made them smile this week.

Phase Change?
As summer heats up, there’s an escalation of the protests and counter-protests. Looks like it’s going to be a scorching summer.

Israel’s “Constitutional Moment”?
Is it time for Israel finally to write a founding document, a constitution, 75 years after the country was created?

Tradition, Tradition … Tradition!
Are more and more Israelis religion-fluid and Yiddishkeit-queer? A new report says it is so.

Should We Keep Our Purchases Out of Our Protests?
For our most unreasonably generous Patreon supporters, in our extra-special, special extra discussion: Do we want our shopping malls to have political opinions, or are we better off keeping our buyin’ separate from our decryin’?

All that and Yitzhak Rabin on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, a newscaster newscasting with advanced ALS, and the amazing music of 21 year old indie phenom, Alma Gov!


  • Shuv la-Tzet La-‘Avod (with Avner Toueg)
  • Mah La‘asot ‘Im ha-Ze’ev
  • Bein ha-Etzbaot
  • Me’uhar Midai

Previous Episodes

2 comments on “The “It Ain’t the Heat, It’s the Fluidity” Edition

  1. Arthur Stein says:

    Would it be possible for you to post the text of your translation and analysis of Rabin’s column in Maariv that you talked about on the most recent podcast? It is a fascinating document that bears analysis and discussion.

    1. Noah Efron says:

      The text is a pretty messy reading draft that I don’t have time to really clean up, but I’ll paste it below. If you want a link to the original Hebrew newspaper article, let me know. And thanks for writing (and for listening)!


      I have taken, lately, each day to browsing a bit through the papers from fifty years ago, the summer of 1973, because I am trying to understand a little what things looked and felt like here, back then, before the Yom Kippur War, a moment that in so-many-ways seemed to change everything, being the beginning of the end, I think, of the governing of the country by the old socialist, labor types who had run things, more or less, since Zionism started, and being the beginning of the beginning of all that has come since then, and just this morning I saw that fifty years ago today, on the 13th of July, 1973, there was a big and major article in Maariv – maybe 50 column inches, maybe more — called, “The Slow Path to Peace” by the man who, until just a few weeks earlier had (for five years) been Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Yitzhak Rabin. And the article has a picture of Rabin palling around with Henry Kissinger at the White House — Rabin is 51 and Kissinger is 50, but both men look young and strong, neither one of them is yet at the height of his power, really – and Rabin writes how when he first became ambassador, he met Kissinger at a party, and Kissinger said QUOTE everywhere in the world, wars break out in situations where there had been peace, at least formally, but in the middle east, wars break out between countries that are already at war, ENDQUOTE from which Rabin concludes that the normal rules of politics, diplomacy and war and peace, they none of them really apply when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is sui generis, its own thing, and that is how he starts his long article on the slow path to peace.
      Rabin goes on and writes, that two fundamental changes have taken place since the six day war, and because of it. The one is: Israel is now secure. QUOTE There is no reason to call up our [reserve] forces when we hear threats and see the redeployment of enemy troops along the cease-fire lines. Before the Six-Day War, every time the Egyptians moved their forces in Sinai, Israel had to call up the reserves, out of concern that we give ourselves enough time and space. Now there is no need for a deployment like that, so long as Israel is in place along the length of the Suez Canal. ENDQUOTE The second fundamental change is that the Soviet Union no longer seems likely to join the Arabs in attacking Israel. Besides these two big changes for the better, Rabin goes one, there are two smaller, but still important changes, first QUOTE the disappearance from the scene of the figure of Nasser ENDQUOTE Egypt’s warlike President and, Second, QUOTE the fact that the Palestinian Terror Organization that hoped to forment a popular uprising or a real guerilla war — meaning guerrilla fighting undertaken by the people seeking to get what they call the right for national self-determination — has failed, at least for now. ENDQUOTE owing to Israel’s wise open-door policy allowing Palestinians in the occupied territories to visit and work in Israel, and owing to King Hussein’s driving the terrorist organizations out of Rabat Amon back in Black September, 1970. QUOTE The arab guerilla organizations need their own Hanoi to operate, and their Hanoi could only be Rabat Amon. For now, at least, the Palestinians are out of the picture.
      For all these reasons, Rabin writes, Israel is in the best circumstance it has been in for a long time, forever, really. As for what will happen now, he says, QUOTE the key to war and peace in the middle east lies in the relationship between Egypt and Israel, though alongside that, stable and durable peace will not be reached without solving the problem of the Palestinians ENDQUOTE
      Rabin goes on and says, for now, there are four ways things can go. (1) Return to hostilities. (2) some dramatic breakthrough leading to a comprehensive diplomatic solution. (3) Slow progress in stages from war to peace, or (4) The continuation of the status quo.
      That said, Rabin continues, QUOTE Israel cannot achieve a comprehensive diplomatic solution by forcing peace on its neighbors using military might. ENDQUOTE Egypt might want to use its army to, say, drive Israel out of Sinai, but QUOTE Israeli military strength is sufficient to prevent [Egypt] from achieving its aims militarily.
      In this circumstance, Rabin writes, QUOTE the most fundamental thing [that Israel must achieve] is causing Arab countries to accept the existence of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state that can survive. ENDQUOTE to get to this, Rabin writes, Israel has to do several things.
      QUOTE To frustrate the hope of the arabs that they can achieve anything practical and diplomatic using force.
      To frustrate the Arab belief that the road to peace goes through Moscow,
      To frustrate the hopes of the Arabs and the Russians that the UN can impose a solution against the will of Israel and the United States. …
      Hence, the way to peace is to strengthen Israel. ENDQUOTE, diplomatically and militarily.
      What’s more, Rabin writes, QUOTE Israel must demonstrate that the options for peace are open – by refraining from annexing the territories and leaving the future of the territories to negotiations between the sides, whenever the Arab nations agree to negotiate with Israel without prior conditions. The combining of deterrent military force with keeping those options open, that is essential. ENDQUOTE.
      All this, Rabin writes, adds up to QUOTE a reality and a climate that … open up a gateway to hope for progress – slow as it may be – towards peace [pause] in the distant future. ENDQUOTE And with that, the long article on the Slow Path to Peace ends.

      All this was in afternoon paper, just 85 days before, on Yom Kippur that year, October 6, 1973, the armies of Egypt and Syria attached Israel in a war that in its first day or two disproved most of what Rabin wrote and thought about Israel’s great military strength, and a war that left 2,521 Israelis dead and 8000 odd wounded, and probably 16,000 Egyptians and Syrians dead and 35,000 of them wounded, and a war that led Rabin, just 326 days after the article appeared, to become Israel’s fifth prime minister and a war that led, in the fullness of time, 1439 days after the article was printed, to Menachem Begin becoming Israel’s sixth Prime Minister, ending the long reign of Labor as Israel’s sole governing party, and a war that lead, to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat coming to Jerusalem and speaking to the Knesset, just 1591 days — four years and a bit — after Rabin wrote his article in Maariv about the slow path to peace.

      And what struck me most about this article when I read it this morning, this weird time capsule from 50 years ago, today, is how it brings together such real and profound wisdom and insight and such real and profound cluelessness about everything, in ways the contradictions of which could not possibly be seen back then but cannot possibly be overlooked today, a feeling like Israel is somehow invincible alongside some vague awareness that however strong the army may or may not be, it cannot, will not, get us to the future we want; a knowledge that our future depends on somehow persuading the Egyptians and the Jordanians to accept us, but a feeling like that is just somehow beyond them, that many years would need to pass before they can do that. A sense that the spirit of the Palestinians is crushed, but equally, some vague awareness that without Palestinians getting some kind of national self-determination, there will be no peace here for anyone. A belief that the lands conquered in the six day war are the key to our security, and still some idea that, only after they are returned, will we ever really be secure. What struck me most about this article was, at once, how much Rabin knew and how much he did not know.

      And also, how bad he was at seeing the future. Just 85 days later, less than three months, after Rabin wrote with such confidence about Israel’s great strength, and the Arab country’s weakness, there were generals who believed that Israel might in a week or two be destroyed by Egypt and Syria. Just a couple of years later, Rabin himself would allow settlements to be started on the lands he said should never be settled. Just a couple of years after that, Egypt’s president accepted the existence of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state, what Rabin believed would take generations. Less than two decades after that, Jordan would sign a peace treaty with Israel and Yasir Arafat would set up shop in the Mukataa, making Ramallah his Hanoi, and he and Rabin would negotiate a peace in stages, most of which tragically never came to pass. There was so much that Rabin did not see.
      And, still, Rabin saw something. He saw that peace could come, haltingly. He saw that Israel’s neighbors, some of them, could maybe come to accept a Jewish state. He saw and did not see the Palestinians.
      And, I don’t know, maybe it is perverse, but all this seeing how Rabin saw and didn’t see, it gives me hope. We are always all-of-us wandering wise and clueless, we are always all-of-us exhausted asleep on the deck of the African queen, always around the corner is a future that never entirely foreign to us, but is also never truly known to us.
      And in that future, there are possibilities. That is what I learned this morning, reading the paper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Listen on your favorite podcast app