A Matter of Faith: Ferrara Manuscript Outlines Orthodoxy and Heresy Between Jewish and Christian Traditions

A 17th-century Italian manuscript sheds light on an important example of Catholic book censorship in the modern age


The Italian manuscript A General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books (henceforth Response), now kept by the National Library of Israel, provides an important example of Catholic book censorship in the modern age. Written by an anonymous Jewish author in Ferrara during the seventeenth century, this document focuses on religious disputes concerning the accusation of blasphemy made by the censors of the Roman Inquisition against rabbinical literature.

The accusations made against Hebrew texts refer especially to Talmudic works whose reading could lead to negative interpretations of Christianity.

In order to effectively forbid these texts, Catholic censors needed to control any source of Jewish culture which could be spread easily among Christians. The printing of books and documents in the modern age revealed itself to be an excellent means of canonization. The main problem concerning Hebrew texts in the modern era was related to their availability as they were often limited to Jewish communities. The view held by the Catholic Church regarding Jews and Judaism was strongly conditioned by the polemic work “Pugio Fidei,” or, in English, “Dagger of Faith,” written by the Dominican friar Ramon Martí. It’s possible to identify two interpretative lines about Judaism in this document: the first interpretation is founded on the idea that holy Jewish books are full of useful evidence of religious truths, thanks to the many resemblances with Christianity, while the second traces a negative connotation of Hebrew texts, with emphasis on the Talmud. The negative inclination in the Pugio reclaims the traditional thesis on the vanity of Talmudic literature, that is seen as a blasphemous attack on Christians. The success of the negative narrative posed about Judaism led to the censorship of Jewish texts.

Since the above-mentioned manuscript is a “general response” to the Roman Inquisition, let us now examine its structure in order to better understand its content.

A page from within the manuscript, “General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books.” In the margins, there are long quotes and citations in Hebrew. From the National Library of Israel collections.

General Analysis of the General Response: A Philosophical and Philological Profile

One interesting aspect worthy of consideration in the manuscript is the use of philosophical reasoning to argue the theory that Hebrew texts do not contain negative remarks about Christianity. In order to support this thesis, the anonymous author of the code presents eight “universal reasons” that would demonstrate the unfoundedness of the accusations against rabbinic literature.

The first universal reason explained by the author focuses on the importance of prayer in Jewish tradition, whose history is proved through important textual references from Flavius Josephus or from Philo of Alexandria, who describes the devotion of Jewish prayer in his “De Legazione ad Caium Imperatorem”. These references serve as fundamental proof of the benevolence Jews had towards other nations and their leaders, even during and after the destruction of Jerusalem, as Josephus’ Bellum Iudaicum shows. Words like “idolaters” and “heretics” begin to appear in the first two pages of the manuscript to exhort the readers to understand that such terms refer to Babylonians and Romans, who are seen as idolatrous pagans. Hence, definitions such these can’t and mustn’t be seen as reffering to Christians, according to the author.

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The second universal reason is founded on a syllogism. It states that all people who follow the seven laws of Noah will partially enjoy Heaven. As Christians follow the seven laws of Noah, they, according to Jewish beliefs, will partially enjoy Heaven. The consequence of this reasoning confirms again that Christians cannot be percieved as idolaters or heretics by Jews, also because they share a common concept of blasphemy. In fact, in both Christian and Jewish holy texts it is forbidden to be involved in actions that offend God, including idolatry, homicide, adultery or theft.

A General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books
A page from within the manuscript, General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books, from the National Library of Israel collections.

It’s also clear that, although Christians share some religious beliefs with Jews, they don’t necessarily observe all the same rules. For example, the precepts regarding the eating of meat from a slaughtered animal aren’t part of Christian orthodoxy, but yet Christians still are till given the opportunity to achieve  “eternal happiness”. This is possible because they are seen as “good and pious.” The author focuses his attention on the meaning of the expression “good and pious”, and dedicated his third  in argument to this point. Since Christians believe that the seven laws of Noah came from God, the requisite of being “good and pious” is fulfilled. In addition, it is not necessary to follow all the seven laws given to Noah as long as one of them is observed with “good intention.” Moreover, the author explains a passage from the ninth psalm of David, recalling that these verses describe the fate of those who are not “good and pious,” pointing out that the expression “all people who leave God”  (Obliviscuntur literally means “they forget” and can be interpreted as “ they leave” in a figurative sense) is meant for those who are neither good nor pious, seeing as they deny the glory of God.

For what concerns the goodness of Christians, in the manuscript it is written that the Ten Commandments they follow are thought to have come from God and this proves a convergence between Jewish and Christian beliefs: the Ten Commandments given to Moses include many precepts shared with Judaism and given the fact that Christians follow many precepts of Mosaic Law with good intentions , consequently they can’t be described as heretics or idolaters.

A page from within the manuscript, General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books, from the National Library of Israel collections.

In the Response, the theme of religious observance is often reiterated through references to Don Isaac Abarbanel, a philosopher, statesman and biblical commentator, King David (in his fourteenth psalm), or the prophet Isaiah, whose verses are mentioned to affirm the need to follow even just one precept to avoid damnation. Proceeding in the analysis of the manuscript, the author explains that the rabbinic doctrine on intention in religious observance is surely influenced by the moral philosophy of Aristotle. His theory of purpose is founded on the notion of prudence, as explained in the sixth book of Nicomachean Ethics, where it is written that each moral virtue depends on prudence, defined as the “common form of virtues.”

The anonymous author presents a fourth universal reason, maintaining that there are three aspects to be considered for a correct evaluation of rabbinical texts including when these books were written, who wrote them, and for whom. Following this argument, words like “idolaters” or “heretics” are to be intended for those people living when “ancient rabbis” instituted their doctrines, and without any doubt, in that historical period, Christianity wasn’t yet established. In particular, Babylonian and Roman ceremonies are seen by the ancient Jewish sages as examples of idolatry and blasphemy. In addition, a certain passage from Saint Augustine (De Civitate Dei, 23) is mentioned, which describes both the Babylonian captivity of the Jews and the destruction of the 2nd temple of Jerusalem under the Roman Empire. The first event happened before the emergence of Christianity, while the second was the result of an expansionist policy led by the Roman Empire when Christians communities were persecuted as well.

A page from within the manuscript, "General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books," from the National Library of Israel collections.
A page from within the manuscript, General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books, from the National Library of Israel collections.

The author also states that most of the content reffering to rabbinical texts is unclear, containing many ambiguous terms and figures that are easily misunderstandable, and for this reason they are percieved as offensive by Christians, even if they not addressed to them. Additionally, the author describes Christianity as a religion which is very close to Judaism, since it shares many common beliefs. He even argues that Judaim holds a benevolent attitude towards Christianity. The word “idolaters” therefore appears to be associated with “gentiles.” The term “goyim” refers to a non-Jewish nation and in the manuscript, this definition is used in reference to the Babylonians people. The author’s fifth argument make the case that none of these words refer to Christians, since Christians were called “Nazarenes”, and this epithet is significant since it distinguishes “orthodox” Christians from Arian Christians, who are mentioned as heretics in the manuscript/

This point is strictly related to the sixth argument brought forth by the author, in which he writes that the above-mentioned terms are so generic that they can easily refer to other nations or groups of non-Christian people:  these words even can be associated to communities inside Judaism.

Given the fact that the above-mentioned epithets are ambiguous, it cannot be concluded that they are addressed to someone in particular, as illustrated by the seventh argument; furthermore, blasphemy is assumed to be founded on a malicious intent, therefore something that is never verified cannot be presumed without evidence, in accordance with the eighth argument.

A page from within the manuscript, "General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books," from the National Library of Israel collections.
A page from within the manuscript, General Response to the Desecration of Sanctity in the Hebrew Books, from the National Library of Israel collections.

After the presentation of all the eight “universal reasons,”  the last page of the manuscript seems incomplete;  nevertheless, it makes sense to affirm that the anonymous author of this code managed to discuss all the eight points of his reasoning with historical, theological, philological and philosophical references that together contribute to a better perspective on the relationship between Jewish and Christian traditions.



German Police Transfer Max Brod Papers to the National Library of Israel

Among other items, the collection includes a diary of Brod's, written when he was Kafka's closest friend in Prague. Thought to be lost in recent years, the diary has drawn interest from literary scholars around the world.


מקס ברוד ושירים בכתב ידו

On Tuesday, May 21st, 2019, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police (BKA) handed over thousands of stolen, previously unknown papers from the Max Brod Archive to National Library of Israel officials at an event at the Israeli Ambassador’s residence in Berlin. Max Brod was a close friend of Franz Kafka, and the man responsible for bringing his famous works to light.

Max Brod
Max Brod

The event is part of the renewal process undertaken by the National Library and the expansion of the Library’s international cooperation initiatives, including a range of joint projects with German research and cultural institutions.

The National Library Chairman David Blumberg and CEO Oren Weinberg arrived in Berlin in late May, 2019 to present the the Library’s collections and goals to leading members of German society. As part of this special visit, the two participated in an event at the residence of the Israeli Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, during which Mr. Weinberg presented the renewal process underway at the Library, including the ongoing construction of the new National Library of Israel Campus adjacent to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), to a group of German public figures as well as cultural and media personalities.



The culmination of this event was the handing over of thousands of papers, including letters, drafts of plays, diaries and other manuscripts written by the author, composer and playwright Max Brod, by a senior representative of the German police to the heads of the National Library.

Max Brod in pictures

Back in 2013, the documents were offered for sale to the German Literature Archive in Marbach and other potential buyers in the country.  Following the attempted sale, the authorities were notified and it became clear that the some 5,000 pages of documents were part of Brod’s private archive, and had been stolen from the home of his secretary. Alongside Brod’s personal papers, the collection includes a 1910 postcard signed by his close friend Franz Kafka.

Brod, an accomplished writer and composer, was a confidant of Franz Kafka and is primarily responsible for Kafka’s success as one of the 20th century’s most influential writers, having published many of his works after the author’s death in 1924.

Legal proceedings in Israel and Germany resulted in a verdict by the regional court in Wiesbaden declaring that the stolen papers should be transferred to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem where they will be made publicly available. Three large suitcases containing the materials were transferred to Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) for temporary safekeeping. These are the documents that are now being handed over to the National Library of Israel.



In accordance with Max Brod’s own wishes that his collections, including Kafka’s writings, be made accessible to the public and kept in a public archive, the National Library has been working in recent years to make this a reality. As part of this activity, many of Brod’s manuscripts were collected, including personal diaries. Among these is a diary written when Brod was Kafka’s closest friend in Prague. In recent years, the document was thought to be lost and had drawn interest from literary scholars around the world. Other diaries in the collection describe Brod’s extensive relationship with members of the Prague Circle (a group of Zionist students in Prague who surrounded Franz Kafka and who were the first in the Zionist movement to formulate the idea of ​​a bi-national state in the Land of Israel). Many of the personal archives of the members of this group are also preserved in the National Library. Over the years the Library had become aware that items from the Brod estate had made their way, one way or another, to Germany, with the purpose of eventually selling them.



According to National Library archivist and Humanities Collection curator, Dr. Stefan Litt, who is tasked with reviewing the materials, “The correspondence found in the archive is extensive and impressive. It can be characterized as a type of ‘who’s who’ of the European cultural world in the first four decades of the twentieth century.”

The Chairman of the National Library’s Board of Directors, Mr. David Blumberg, said: “We are pleased that even after so much time has passed since these papers were stolen, there is now some closure and they will be coming to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, in accordance with Max Brod’s wishes. Brod was a prolific writer, composer, and playwright and his personal papers will now fittingly join the hundreds of personal archives held among the National Library collection, including a number belonging to figures from the famed “Prague Circle”, of which Brod and Kafka were members.”


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Columbus’ Crusade

A letter unearthed 500 years after Columbus' famous journey hints at an extraordinary venture that never materialized…


Columbus claims ownership of the New World. Print from 1893.

The rising waves pounded against the holds of the two ships that had embarked on their voyage a month earlier. They were now rocking from side to side and dipping in and out of the chilly waters of the Atlantic. The sailors working topside tethered themselves to the deck in order to avoid being thrown overboard into the depths. In his small cabin, the captain sat at his desk. He had already lost one of his ships, and now he feared for her two sisters. In an effort to stem the bad fortune that seemed to have befallen them, the captain decided to cast lots, in an effort to appease the will of God. Those selected by divine fortune would don traditional religious garb and make a pilgrimage to Santa Maria de Guadalupe.

The lots decreed that the captain himself would embark on the trek to the famous monastery, if they ever made it back to Spain. He thought of his two sons in Cordoba who might soon become orphans, but one fear rose above all others: that word of his astonishing discovery would never reach the ears of the king who had sent him on his important mission in the first place. And so, he dipped his quill in ink, unfolded the piece of parchment, and began writing the story of the long and challenging journey he had begun the previous summer. When he finished, he stamped the parchment with wax and sealed it in a barrel. He threw the watertight barrel into the sea with a prayer that it would somehow reach its intended destination.

The barrel was never discovered, but Christopher Columbus and his crew somehow survived the storm and reached the port of Lisbon several weeks later.

Upon his return to European shores, the captain sent four long letters. First, he wrote to the Portuguese king, explaining the reason for his anchorage in Lisbon while he rested and resupplied for the continued voyage to Spain. Next, he sent a letter to the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, who had sent him on his journey (and who were responsible for the expulsion of Spanish Jewry just a year earlier). The final two letters were sent to Luis de Santángel and Gabriel Sánchez, key figures in organizing and financing the excursion.

None of the original letters have withstood the ravages of time, but we know of their existence from various sources. Columbus kept a daily log, detailing the voyage westward, his stay in the Caribbean (he believed he had reached the islands east of China and India), and the treacherous return voyage to Europe. In the log, he told of the letter in the barrel that he had cast out to sea. Later in the diary, he noted that he had arrived in Lisbon on March 4th, 1493, and that he had sent his first letter to the King of Portugal.

At one point, the diary was copied for Queen Isabella. But, the manuscript has since been lost. An edited version was composed by Bartolomé de las Casas, the Spanish historian and Dominican friar who gained fame as a social reformer in the 16th century. This version was also lost, and then rediscovered at the end of the 18th century. Until the rediscovery, all that was known of Columbus’ inaugural voyage to the West came from the letters written to Santángel and Sánchez.

In 1989, almost five-hundred years after the epic journey, a copy of a letter composed by Columbus was published. The letter was copied by an unknown source, but it most likely dates back to the 16th century. Some speculate that the copy was based on Columbus’ letter to Ferdinand and Isabella.

The letters to Santángel and Sánchez have been well studied, due to the fact that they were printed a few weeks after they were sent by Columbus. The letter to Sánchez was translated into Latin and titled Epistola de Insulis Nuper Inventis (“A Letter from the Newly Discovered Islands”). It was printed in Rome by Stefan Plannck in May, 1493. That year, the letter was also printed and circulated in Paris and Basel. The Basel copy also features woodblock prints, probably created by Columbus himself.


A woodblock print of Columbus’ ship from an edition of the letter printed in Basel in 1493

A short time ago, I received a message from a researcher in England who wanted to know if there was a watermark in a particular book in the National Library catalogue. Watermarks are a type of logo embedded on a page that can identify the paper manufacturer and the period in which it was printed. I found the watermark (a figure in the shape of a dragon or pegasus) and then had a closer look at the book itself.

Opening page of Epistola de Insulis Nuper Inventis, from the National Library collections. Click on the picture to view the complete book
Opening page of Epistola de Insulis Nuper Inventis, from the National Library collections. Click on the picture to view the complete book

If this relatively thin book, written in dense gothic letters, had not been an incunable, I probably would not have given it more than a few moments. An incunable is a book printed before the year 1501, during the first few decades following the invention of the printing press. When one of these incunabula comes your way, you give it the respect it deserves. I decided to look into the origin of the title and found that this was a printed copy of the very same Sánchez letter. This rare item had, apparently, reached the National Library in the early 1960s.

The letter began with Columbus summarizing the voyage on which he had been sent on behalf of King Ferdinand of Spain. The printer seems to have forgotten to mention Queen Isabella. This error was corrected in subsequent editions. Another mistake was the misprint of Raphael Sánchez as the finance minister’s name. It was later amended to Gabriel Sánchez.

The letter describes Columbus as having arrived in the Indian Ocean thirty-three days after leaving the Canary Islands. Today we know that it was not the Indian Ocean, but the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas. Columbus gave Christian names to the islands and continued on his way. At first, when he arrived on the island of Juana (today known as Cuba), he did not immediately realize that it was an island because of its vast size. When the locals informed him that he had yet to reach the continent, he continued his search until he landed on the island of Hispaniola (today known as Haiti). On arrival, he claimed the island in the name of King Ferdinand.

Columbus described Hispaniola as a veritable paradise, with many rivers, towering mountains, diverse vegetation, fields, birds of song, and precious metals. Columbus went on to record that the residents of the island were healthy and highly-skilled, but easily frightened. Only after the Spanish crew offered them fabrics and other gifts did the residents agree to approach them. In return, the islanders gave Columbus and his team an abundance of gold and cotton. Columbus did not think the inhabitants were idolaters. They believed that goodness came from heaven, and saw Columbus and his crew as angels who came to them in unfathomably large vessels.

The locals moved from island to island in small rowboats. They carried goods to their neighbors on the other islands. They all spoke the same language, and Columbus noted that this could assist the Spaniards in their later attempts to convert the islanders to Christianity.

If Columbus considered the people of Hispaniola frightened and naive, the inhabitants of the nearby island of Quaris seemed particularly violent to him. He wrote that they enjoyed eating human flesh and robbing the inhabitants of neighboring islands. They armed themselves with bows and arrows and allowed their hair to grow long, a direct contrast to the residents of the largest island in the area, whose heads were completely shaven. This island was described as having more gold than any other.

Columbus ordered that a fort be constructed on the island of Hispaniola. There, he left some of his crew with enough food for a year. He added that he had left one of the ships with them (the Santa Maria), but “forgot” to mention that the ship was no longer seaworthy due to the fact that it had run aground while its crew and captain had fallen asleep.

Columbus concluded the letter by praising God for the success of the mission. He proposed the idea of organizing religious festivals to celebrate the discovery of the “lost souls” overseas.

Columbus’ official goal was strictly economic – to discover a shorter maritime route to India. A shorter route would have saved money on long and dangerous commercial excursions to the East. But what did the Spaniards intend to do with the surplus funds? The answer is found in the lost letter that Columbus sent to the King and Queen of Spain upon his arrival in Lisbon.

In the letter, Columbus promised that, thanks to the planned commercial success of his new route, in just seven years time he would be able to finance 5,000 cavalry and 50,000 infantry to embark on the conquest of Jerusalem. He adds, “That was the goal for which I took on this project.” If so, Columbus and the King of Spain planned a crusade to Jerusalem – a conquest unlike any attempted since the 13th century. This startling fact was revealed only after the discovery of the letter in 1989.

With the exception of the First Crusade, which reached Jerusalem in 1099, the conquests that followed all resulted in failure or only partial successes. What would have happened if a Spanish armada, armed with cannons and gunpowder, had sailed to the Land of Israel? One can only imagine, as the plan never came to fruition. Following Columbus’ discovery, the peoples of Europe became captivated with an even more fascinating destination – the New World, America.


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The Mother Who Stayed Behind to Defend Her Home During Israel’s War of Independence

Zipporah Rosenfeld, a fighter and a mother, faced an impossible dilemma: family or country?


Zipporah Rosenfeld immigrated to Israel from Europe as a survivor of the Holocaust. Like many of her generation who lived in the shadow of the catastrophe, Zipporah felt a sense of urgency to start her own family. She had met her husband Yehiel while still in Europe. After the war, the coupled decided to immigrate to Palestine and settle in Gush Etzion (the “Etzion Bloc”, in English), a cluster of settlements in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Their first child, Yossi, was born there. Despite the Etzion Bloc’s location in the midst of a hostile Arab population, its Jewish residents felt they had found a place they could call home. Over time, they began to develop economic ties and a life of co-existence with the neighboring Arab villages.

The Partition Plan put an end to all that. According to the border plan, Gush Etzion would remain outside the borders of the Jewish state. Yet, even with the sweeping approval of the plan by most of the member states of the United Nations, the Palestinian representatives and the Arab countries made clear they were willing to fight with any means at their disposal in order to prevent the partition plan from being implemented.

The Rosenfeld family, the Historical Archives of Gush Etzion
The Rosenfeld family, the Historical Archives of Gush Etzion

Over the years, there have been quite a few grievances aired surrounding the representation of the National Religious sector in the context of commemoration of Israel’s War of Independence. However, the group whose story has been suppressed perhaps more than any other is that of the religious Zionist women who bore the burden of caring for the children during wartime, with many risking (and sometimes even forfeiting) their lives in defense of their homeland.

The Women of Religious Zionism and the Building of the Nation

Even before the war, National Religious women, including the women of Gush Etzion, took an active part in the building of the country. It was a significant departure from the traditional conception of the role of the religious Jewish woman. The women of Gush Etzion, like many National Religious women, welcomed their new responsibilities in building the nation. During the period of calm before the war, the women of the Gush trained and took up defensive positions when the men were out patrolling the surrounding area.


Women of Gush Etzion at target practice. Photo: Gal Rattner
Women of Gush Etzion at target practice. Photo: Gal Rattner


However, with the outbreak of fighting and the Arab Legion’s attack on Gush Etzion, most of the mothers and children were evacuated.


British armored vehicles used during the evacuation of women and children from Gush Etzion
British armored vehicles used during the evacuation of women and children from Gush Etzion, the Historical Archives of Gush Etzion

The female fighters who remained were all unmarried, with the exception of two, one of whom was eventually evacuated before the fall of the Gush. Zipporah Rosenfeld, the only mother who stayed behind to help in the defense of her home, was caught in a terrible dilemma.


A group of men and women manning a guard post during the siege on Gush Etzion
A group of men and women manning a guard post during the siege on Gush Etzion, the Historical Archives of Gush Etzion

When the fighting began, she hurried to send her only son Yossi along with the other evacuees from the Gush. She chose to remain with her husband and protect her home with her own body. Almost to the end, Zipporah debated whether to leave and join her little boy or stay and fight. “We left the decision until the ambulances arrived. I’m torn. I must decide between my duty as a mother and my obligation to my fellow members under siege” (Lilach Rosenberg-Friedman, Revolutionaries against Their Will, 324 [Hebrew]). As one of the fighters, she saw with her own eyes the severe shortage of people able to use a rifle, and therefore decided to delay her evacuation. Eventually, the siege by the Arab Legion prevented the possibility of evacuation and Zipporah and her husband Yehiel were killed in the final battle of the Etzion Bloc.


Yehiel, Yossi and Zipporah Rosenfeld before the start of the battles for Gush Etzion, the Historical Archives of Gush Etzion
Yehiel, Yossi and Zipporah Rosenfeld before the start of the battles for Gush Etzion, the Historical Archives of Gush Etzion

Along with Zipporah and Yehiel, another 127 soldiers were killed in the last and most difficult battle over Gush Etzion, which took place on May 13, 1948. Among the fatalities were twenty-two women, the highest number of female fatalities in a single battle in all of Israel’s wars. Dozens of women from across the Etzion Bloc were taken captive by the Jordanian Legion. They were taken with the remaining men to Umm al Jamal, a prisoner-of-war camp on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The women were released six weeks later, while the men only returned to the territory of the fledgling state nine months after being captured.



After the fall of the Etzion Bloc, the survivors were taken captive by the Jordanians. The women were released after six weeks, while the men remained in captivity for nine months
After the fall of the Etzion Bloc, the survivors were taken captive by the Jordanians. The women were released after six weeks, while the men remained in captivity for nine months,  the Historical Archives of Gush Etzion

Our collective national memory of the War of Independence reserves a place of honor for secular female fighters who sacrificed their lives for the nation. It is worth asking: What of the memory of the religious female fighters of the War of Independence? Why has the memory of fighting women — women like Zipporah Rosenfeld, who contributed equally to the war effort and who helped to strengthen the morale of the fighters on the battlefield—been relegated to the shadows? The pressing need for armed combatants in the period when the young state fought for its existence justified the enlistment of female fighters from the National Religious sector. The participation of women in battle did not stem from a change in the National Religious perception of the proper role of women in society, but from necessity. Indeed, immediately following the war, the leadership of the National Religious sector exerted heavy pressure to exempt religious women from army service.

The children of Gush Etzion’s founding generation, like Yossi Ron, the son of Zipporah and Yehiel – most of whom were evacuated with the outbreak of fighting – have been working for years to correct this historical bias and to remind all of us—the National Religious sector and the Israeli public in general—of the worthiness of remembering and cherishing the memory of the religious female fighters and those who fell in battle.

Pictures: The Historical Archives of Gush Etzion


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