Editor’s Wrapup: Protection
Just as 9/11 thrust American fire-fighters into the spotlight as never before, so did the Second Lebanon War highlight the efforts of Israel’s fire brigades. Firefighters from all over the nation rushed north as Hez- bollah’s rocket barrages caused as many as 100 fires a day in forests and cities.
While Israel’s firefighters share the dedication of their American counterparts, according to Dina Kraft (page 58), they don’t get the same respect. Indeed, the recognition they received during the month-long war of 2006 has faded. In a country with hostile neighbors, there are many defenders—the army, police, intelligence services—competing for hero status.
If the 2006 war shined a light on the contributions of firefighters, it also revealed deficiencies in Israel’s defense capabilities. The war spurred the development of new or improved technologies for airline and tank security, defense against short-range rockets, robot-controlled air and surface vehicles and a radar system that uses radio-waves for seeing through walls. Hanan Sher surveys Israel’s recent military R&D.
Though few Israelis would quibble about the nation’s efforts at military defense, there have been times when the country took debatable actions to protect its culture. Many saw Paul McCartney’s Tel Aviv concert last September as a long-overdue answer to a decision more than 40 years earlier to bar the Beatles from performing in Israel.
Perhaps the most surprising thing the Jewish state ever defended itself against was Yiddish. In the early years of the state—anxious to secure the supremacy of Hebrew and to turn their backs on the trappings of exile—Israelis figuratively put mamaloshen into the dead language file. But, as Shoshana London Sappir reports (page 18), now that Yiddish is all but extinct, and Hebrew’s place in society is unchallenged, the attitude has thawed. To call the growing interest in Yiddish a revival might be an exaggeration, but there is no question that the Jewish tongue has been loosened.
—Alan M. Tigay