When I was in Australia last month, I came across a fascinating article about Talmud study in Korea. While this may be old news to some, it is nonetheless worth sharing for those who haven’t seen it:
Reports of the Talmud being a national classic in South Korea have been floating around for several years, but it’s now official: The country’s ambassador to Israel, Ma Young-Sam, told the “Culture Today” TV show that Talmud study is now a mandatory part of the country’s school curriculum. In addition, it is said, almost every home in South Korea boasts a Korean version of the Talmud, and mothers commonly teach it to their children, who call it the “Light of Knowledge.” Why? “We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews,” Young-Sam explained, according to a Ynet report. “Jews have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields – literature, science and economics. This is a remarkable achievement. We tried to understand: What is the secret of the Jewish people? How are they, more than other people, able to reach those impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent? The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud… We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands behind the rationale of introducing Talmud study to our school curriculum.”
The Israel National News article continues here, the original Ynet story is here, and there’s more here. Some bloggers have pointed out that what the stories call the Talmud is actually a watered-down collection of Talmud stories. Nevertheless, it remains a fascinating report and one more indication that Israel could cultivate much goodwill in Asia, a region in which its diplomats seem strangely reticent.
While I am not a fan of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, he was correct when, earlier this month, he warned Israeli political figures against apologizing to Turkey. Those who want to find a formula by which to apologize to Turkey say the importance of the Israel-Turkey relationship must trump any distaste about an apology, the issuance of which would be unjust.
The realist arguments of the pro-apology crowd misunderstand realism. No doubt, a strong Turkey-Israel relationship would be good for Israel. It was good while it lasted. A decade ago, Turkey acted on principle. Both Turkey and Israel were democratic. Turks had special affinity for the Jewish state. While Turkey today might be as much a driver of anti-Semitism as Saudi Arabia and Iran, prior to the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turks appreciated the Jews both for their contributions at Gallipoli and because they were the one component of the Ottoman Empire who never rebelled.
While President Obama insists only a “balanced” approach to the debt crisis that includes higher taxes is acceptable, the founder of one of America’s most successful retail businesses claims the president doesn’t have a clue about the economy. Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus told Investors Business Daily in an interview yesterday the president hasn’t the faintest idea of how jobs are created, but businessmen are intimidated into silence about the administration’s faulty policies. According to Marcus:
They are frightened to death — frightened that they will have the IRS or SEC on them. In my 50 years in business, I have never seen executives of major companies who were more intimidated by an administration.
While Marcus agrees resolving the current impasse on the debt is crucial, he dismisses Obama’s arguments that any solution must include higher taxes. According to Marcus, “Even brain-dead economists understand that when you raise taxes, you cost jobs.”
With efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations having failed, both sides are now waging a global diplomatic campaign: the Palestinians to recruit support for UN recognition of a Palestinian state, and Israel to mobilize opposition to this unilateral move. But since both sides view Europe as the key battleground, it’s critical for Israel to address one of Europe’s principal discomforts with its position: its demand for recognition as a Jewish state.
This discomfort contributed significantly to the failure of last week’s Quartet meeting: Senior European diplomats told Haaretz that the EU and Russia rejected Washington’s blueprint for negotiations in part because it called for a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one.
If there was any takeaway from the Republican presidential Twitter debate yesterday, it’s that there’s no reason for that sort of event to ever, ever take place again. The concept itself isn’t bad – candidates could promote themselves, get their ideas out to a young audience, show they have a grasp on basic technology, etc.
But answering serious questions with statements like “the federal govt kills jobs!” (@RickSantorum) or “Controlling the border and defending America are job 1 under the Constitution” (@newtgingrich), doesn’t sound presidential, it just sounds inane. “I ask 4 ur vote as I try 2 return ur voice to DC. If elected POTUS, I will represent u w/a titanium spine no matter the cost” (@TeamBachmann) is not a compelling closing argument. Not only were the candidates unable to give meaningful responses, there was also very little interaction between them. People watching got practically nothing out of the experience.
It’s too bad, because S.E. Cupp did a good job moderating, and it would have been nice to actually hear the candidates give full answers to the questions. And it’s not that they weren’t trying, the medium just made it difficult. It was a missed opportunity for the six campaigns involved and to those watching who hoped to get something out of it.
Engaging on Twitter is important, but Americans don’t want a president who debates the same way a 14-year-old text messages. Candidates who Tweet should stick to the usual campaign announcements, brief statements, or chatter with supporters. And when they want to debate, they’ll do much better with old-fashioned TV.
Being president of the United States is heady stuff. The immense responsibilities and the trappings of the office might turn even the most grounded of individuals into a bit of a narcissist. While not all of those who worked in the Oval Office have succumbed to this temptation, listening to President Obama lately it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that being the commander-in-chief has gone to his head a bit. The tone of his statements about the debt ceiling debate as well as his behavior in the negotiations has been consistently high-handed and condescending toward his opponents. In Obama’s worldview, he is the voice of reason while others are squabbling, small-minded midgets who just don’t get the picture he alone sees.
So it is little surprise that in an interview with a Kansas City television station quoted by the Associated Press, the president dismissed his prospective Republican opponents as more or less irrelevant. For Obama, the outcome in 2012 will be all about Obama. This is in keeping with the somewhat imperial style he has adopted lately, but it must be admitted that when it comes to what will happen next year, he’s not wrong.