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A New Work of Fiction Suggests Living Forever Isn’t Everything It’s Cracked Up to Be

Jan. 31 2018

Dara Horn’s novel Eternal Life traces the aftermath of a supernatural deal between two 1st-century lovers—Rachel and Elazar—who, to save the life of their ailing child, strike an agreement that requires them to live forever. By the 21st century, the two have married others, had innumerable children, and watched spouses and offspring die countless times. Reviewing the book, B.D. McClay writes about the tension that informs the narrative:

Hannah, Rachel’s granddaughter by her most recent marriage, announces that she’s on a team of scientists trying to figure out how to help people live forever, a project that fills Rachel, initially, with horror. But if Hannah can isolate the causes of aging and death, Rachel reasons, can’t she also help people to die? And if Rachel can safely let Hannah in on her secret, might she be able to explain why it’s good that people die?

This is a little too much for a fairly slender novel to juggle, and Eternal Life doesn’t quite have the magic of Dara Horn’s previous books. . . . Despite its flaws, [however,] Eternal Life is frequently moving, especially in its early chapters as Rachel remembers her long life, the sorrows that cut deeply even after centuries. “What reasons,” she wonders, “are there for being alive?”

It’s not an easy question to answer. . . . In a sense, Dara Horn’s other novels [like The World to Come and A Guide for the Perplexed] do a better job of answering [it]. Perhaps death isn’t real, and neither is life as we know it; perhaps we are surrounded and sustained by eternity, and by love, and incorporated into a complex and beautiful story that we could never ourselves anticipate, playing roles we’ll never really understand. Perhaps we can only feel that eternity when we know we’ll have to leave the stage. But we don’t, at least in Horn’s books, leave the stage for nothing. We leave it for reality, for more life. At the risk of sounding circular, the meaning of life isn’t, indeed can’t be, death; it’s life.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Dara Horn, Jewish literature, Mortality

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations