Review: “All Who Go Do Not Return,” by Shulem Deen

Shulem Deen can remember the moment he finally lost his faith. He was at home, wrapped in his prayer shawl, saying the morning prayers. This alone was a sign of his waning devotion. Deen lived in New Square, an all-Hasidic village in New York, and in New Square, men were expected to pray at the synagogue. But by this point in his life Deen was praying mainly out of habit and to avoid angering his wife, and, as he stands in his dining room, listening to the sounds of his five children getting ready for school, a thought comes to him, the conclusion to years of questions and doubt: “I no longer believe in any of this.”

All Who Go Do Not Return is the story of how Deen lost his faith and what happened afterward. The journey to this point is long, because for Deen, a Skverer Hasid, belief in God was not a matter of private opinion, but the foundation of every aspect of life. Continue reading “Review: “All Who Go Do Not Return,” by Shulem Deen”

“Fawdah”, the Show the American Jewish Community Needs

Early in October 2015, a video emerged showing Israeli soldiers, disguised as Arabs, infiltrating a Palestinian protest and shooting an unarmed protester in the leg. The Israeli army sends undercover units like this one to many Palestinian protests. The units are known as mistarvim, and they have been seen throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who respond to the protests. In this case, the Israeli army claimed that the soldiers shot the protestor in order to “disable the central suspect”.

This phenomenon is not well known in America, but it is familiar to Palestinians who have had experiences with the disguised soldiers, and to Israelis who have served in the occupied territories or heard stories about them. Recently, these units have become a popular topic of discussion because of a new television drama, Fawdah, which is about an elite unit of mistarvim. (Fawda is the Arabic word for chaos or disorder, and is also a code word used by the Israeli army when an operation is compromised). The show centers on Doron, who has retired from the unit but is dragged back in to serving in order to hunt down a legendary terrorist named Abu Ahmed, or “The Panther.” Abu Ahmed was previously thought to be dead, and Doron feels a personal responsibility to hunt him down. Continue reading ““Fawdah”, the Show the American Jewish Community Needs”