Bet on the Bright Side/Pioneers in Reverse

Bet on the Bright Side

Timing, as they say, is everything, whether the arena is stand-up comedy, professional athletics or high-stakes investing. One financier admired for his business acumen – and knowing just when to strike – is U.S. mega-tycoon Warren Buffett. Once again, he may be on to something that the rest of us just don't see, since last weekend he bought an 80 percent share in Iscar, the Israeli metalworks conglomerate, a deal that cost him a record $4 billion.

But as far as timing is concerned, this particular bit of international business may benefit Israel in significant, nonfiduciary ways, no matter how things work out for Mr. Buffett. Since the Palestinians elected Hamas to run its government, the world has split between those who wish to cut off all ties with the terrorist organization and those who argue for working with them in the hope of ameliorating their murderous, anti-Zionist worldview. Buffett's plunking down of billions of dollars would appear to be a vote of confidence in Israeli potential, along with a subtle rebuke to the Palestinians to get their house in order before they can expect any similar sort of confidence-raising munificence.

It's long been argued that once the intifada-bred violence diminished, Israel would take off and fast become a financial giant. But few foreign investors have been willing to risk their employees' lives and, perhaps more important, their precious cash in such volatile terrain.

Perhaps Buffett's significant stake in Iscar – his vote of trust – will lead the way to further investments. And then, maybe leaders of Hamas will get the message, mend their ways and buckle down and guide their people – which means building the business infrastructure that will benefit the entire region.

Pioneers in Reverse

We've heard the continuing reports of how Jewish life and culture are being attenuated by the dreaded combination of assimilation and intermarriage. (Or is it intermarriage, then assimilation?) Whatever the case may be, there is a more contemporary culprit in the picture these days, mentioned only rarely, but highly potent in its effect – suburban sprawl.

Those who have fallen victim to its allures are the homeowners who've chosen to live in what appears to be the ever-expanding exurbia, and have thereby stretched the bonds of communal life to the breaking point, or even beyond it.

But the appearance of another eruv story in this week's paper seems to point to a smaller, countervailing force occurring in regional Jewish life. (It's small only in terms of numbers of people, while its ability to change minds may be significant indeed.)

What a new eruv means is that Jews have decided to live active Jewish lives within a circumscribed area. That alone is a cause for rejoicing. But it says something larger about Jewish life here. It says that these people are finding it easier to live this kind of deep Jewish existence in the older and more traditional Jewish neighborhoods closer to Philadelphia (or directly in Center City), where the communal bonds were first laid down and then strengthened over the course of the last century.

The bonds have frayed in recent years as many have pulled up stakes, wanting to live what appear to be secluded, secular lives far out in the nether regions. But the appearance of eruvs – in Elkins Park, in Center City, in University City, in Merion, and now the expansion of the eruv on the Main Line – means, in a quiet but forceful way, that some Jews have decided to go against the grain and establish themselves in the old "homesteads" as practicing Jews.

May the efforts of these new "pioneers" be applauded.

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