From the Newsletter | How Shofars Became a Favorite of Christian Nationalists

By | Apr 07, 2022
From the Newsletter

This piece is adapted from Moment’s flagship newsletter, Moment Minute. Sign up here.

Wars ripple outward, and the vibrations from this one are already being felt. One place where those vibrations are surprisingly intense is Israel, where a fierce public debate is raging over how to handle the many refugees—Jewish and otherwise—who immediately began arriving from Ukraine once Vladimir Putin’s invasion began.

Every country argues over how to handle refugees. But Israel’s internal debate has an extra twist: Refugees from Ukraine who are Jewish or have one Jewish grandparent have the right to settle in Israel under the Law of Return, while others fleeing Ukraine do not. The issue is far from hypothetical—some estimates put Ukraine’s Jewish population before the war as high as 200,000, and a lot of those Jews are now on the move, along with innumerable other Ukrainians. What should be done for them, and by whom? Is the legally enshrined preference for Jewish refugees regrettable, or is it commendable?

Our columnist Shmuel Rosner, as usual, sets the debate in a wider perspective, pointing out that the argument is just one in a long series of controversies that ask the question, “To what extent do we want to ensure that a Jewish majority is maintained in Israel, and by what means?” In all such cases, he suggests, values are in conflict, and most people find themselves somewhere in the middle.

For more on the particulars of the Ukrainian refugee saga, Eetta Prince-Gibson tours the landscape here. (Also, Israeli politics this week are in flux, and the players could change without notice, so stay tuned.)

Meanwhile, other ripples from the war in Ukraine—or, at least, fears of it—may have contributed to the lopsided victory won by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for a fourth term. Orbán, who is considered by some to have invented the concept of “illiberal democracy,” has become an improbable beacon for elements of the American right wing: Tucker Carlson is a big fan, and the next meeting of the conservative jamboree CPAC is to be held in Budapest. Orbán’s increasingly tight grip and his history of cozying up to Putin alarmed many observers, uniting six opposition parties against him in advance of the April 3 elections and inspiring Hungarian expatriate and acclaimed journalist and author Kati Marton to start a campaign against him. But the war may have actually benefited Orbán, discouraging voters from risking a change, and increasing his supermajority. Marton spoke to Moment before the election and pledged that the efforts of her group, Action for Democracy, will go on well beyond it.

Finally, back at home, our columnist Sarah Posner notes a bizarre phenomenon that could figure in the January 6 hearings: the increasing tendency of some far-right American evangelical Christian groups to express their sense of “spiritual warfare” by, of all things, blowing shofars. They’ve done this at rallies, on marches, even while storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6—as attested by copious documentation. Posner has seen this tendency growing for years, and while she used to just find it “a sacrilegious annoyance,” she writes, she’s beginning to think it’s something “more serious”—the tendency to see Donald Trump as a “salvific figure in an ultimate victory over liberal democracy.”

While we can’t blame this one on Putin or the war in Ukraine, the general amplification of quasi-religious fervor on the right—noted by The New York Times in a Wednesday article—does seem to track with the rise in illiberalism. How much further will it go? Keep reading Moment to put it all in perspective.

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