Very few contemporary public figures have had as many successes in as many fields as Michael Oren. A writer-statesman in the model of Thucydides, Oren was Israel’s ambassador to the United States during the Obama years, and was before that a historian of the Jewish state, the author of perhaps the best single book on the Six-Day War. He’s also worked in think tanks, been a professor at Ivy League institutions, and served as an MK in the Israeli parliament. Now, with the recent publication of The Night Archera collection of short stories, Oren returns to the genre of fiction, a pursuit that animated his younger years.

This week on the podcast, Oren joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to discuss how his varied career fits together—how the writing of fiction relates to the writing of history, how the study of history relates to the practice of diplomacy, how diplomatic service and writing both require the same aptitudes of perception, and how all of this came together in the service of Zionism and the state of Israel.

Most of our podcast guests, especially those focusing on religious issues, tend to look at the world in a traditional way―meaning, their habits of mind tend to be traditional and conservative.

Many of our podcast guests, especially the rabbis and religious leaders who help us think about Jewish theology, tend to look at the world and speak out of the more conservative and orthodox orientation. But this week’s guest is—at least professionally—an outsider to that world. Joel Kotkin is not a rabbi or theologian but a social scientist, and he has turned his attention to the world of religion.

In the water-scarce Middle East, water that can be used for drinking and agriculture is of premium importance. The entire ancient civilization of imperial Egypt grew up around the Nile River and its basin, and much of the east Africa still depends on it. Although Israel has made amazing advances in hydrotechnology, it too must treat water as a scarce resource, and that makes the politics of the Nile, along with the policing of the Red Sea, a question of real strategic significance to the Jewish state and the regional order of the Middle East.

In this week’s podcast, Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver is joined by Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, to discuss the strategic importance of the Nile River, the policing of the Red Sea, and what they mean for Israel and the regional order of the Middle East.

American democracy is a nation of nations. Muslims, Christians, and Jews, women and men from every nation on earth have made themselves into Americans. Nevertheless, a unique majority culture developed within this nation of nations: a kind of big-tent, denomination-less, Protestant Christianity. In that culture, the dominant Jewish anxiety was assimilation into Christianity. Today however, America’s widely shared cultural pieties are no longer overtly Christian. There remain pockets of Christian vitality, but those pockets are now minorities in a new kind of American culture, one characterized less by its religious sensibilities and more by its secular liberalism. In a short essay called “Christmas, Christians, and Jews,” published in National Review in 1988, the writer Irving Kristol suggested that the democratic principles of civility and prudence should govern how American Jews and Christians relate to one another. But are those principles, and the other habits of mind American Jews adopted to resist melting into America’s old Christian-majority culture, adequate for resisting assimilation into America’s new secular culture? That’s the question Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, and the Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, takes up in conversation with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver. They also explore what the principles that Kristol suggested require today – not only of American Jews, but of Christians too – as they figure out how to address themselves to a secular liberal culture that can be hostile to traditional faith. Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

When the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah each winter, what are we celebrating? The story of the holiday is the tale of rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been occupied and defiled by the Seleucid Greeks, who—with the aid of Hellenizing Jews—were not content only to have conquered the land, but also demanded that the Jews living there relinquish their religious way of life.

And with that tradition so close to being snuffed out, monotheism itself was nearly snuffed out. The stakes were great, and each and every believing Muslim, Christian, and Jew who walks the earth today owes some measure of debt to the small remnant of a small people who resisted the mightiest military empire on earth.

From the Iran Deal to the rise of and fall of ISIS, from Israel’s year of inconclusive elections to a pandemic that has ravaged globe, the second decade of the 21st century has been history-making for both the United States and Israel. And for the better part of these last 10 years, Ron Dermer has served as the Jewish state’s ambassador in Washington, D.C. He is not the first native-born American who emigrated to Israel, rose to political prominence, and was then sent back here on behalf of his chosen nation. But his intimate understanding of America and the sensibilities of its citizens—both Jewish and non-Jewish—has helped him in his service and made him all the more effective.

Ambassador Dermer is now preparing to leave his post and return home to Jerusalem. Before he goes, he joins the Tikvah Podcast to discuss what he’s done, what he’s proud of, the basis of the U.S.-Israel relationship today, and why he remains hopeful about the alliance between America and Israel in the 21st century.

It has been widely reported that, in late November of 2020, the Israeli prime minister secretly flew to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with the kingdom’s crown prince. That these two leaders met at all is noteworthy; that they might have discussed the possibility of normalizing relations between the Jewish state and the wealthiest and most influential Arab country is momentous.

It is easy to see what Israel stands to gain from peace with the Saudis. But what’s in it for Saudi Arabia? What would they gain, and what would they risk losing?

After a decades-long, worldwide campaign to free Soviet Jewry, in the late 1980s the borders of the Soviet Union were finally opened, allowing its Jews to immigrate to the State of Israel. This period saw approximately one million men and women from the former Soviet Union leave and resettle in the Jewish state. They came in fulfillment of Zionist aspirations, in search of material opportunities, and in pursuit of greater freedom.

At the time that the Russians arrived, Israel had fewer than five million citizens, and these new immigrants brought with them an entirely new set of cultural assumptions and practices. And they posed a religious challenge as well, as a great many of them qualified for Israeli citizenship, but did not qualify as Jewish under the requirements of Orthodox law.

The year 2020 has been one of real suffering. The Coronavirus has infected tens of millions the world over and has taken the lives of a quarter of a million Americans. It’s decimated the economy, shuttered businesses, brought low great cities, and immiserated millions who could not even attend funerals or weddings, visit the sick, or console the demoralized. This podcast focuses on how to think Jewishly about suffering and about the sources of Jewish fortitude in the face of tragedy and challenge. In his October 2020 Mosaic essay, “How America’s Idealism Drained Its Jews of Their Resilience,” Shalem College’s Daniel Gordis examines recent experiences of Jewish suffering and how different Jewish communities responded to it. In doing so, he makes the case that Jewish tradition and Jewish nationalism endow the Jewish soul with the resources to persevere in the face of adversity. Liberal American Jewish communities, by contrast, have no such resources to draw upon. He joins Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay and more. Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

In November of 1945, the American Jewish Committee established a new, independent magazine of Jewish ideas, with the goal of explaining America to the Jews and the Jews to the America. This month, Commentary marks 75 years of publishing about everything from culture, politics, and history to foreign affairs, Israel, and Jewish thought. During that time, it has proven to be one of America’s most influential journals of public affairs and central fora for great Jewish debates. The late Irving Kristol is said to have called it the most important Jewish magazine in history. He was probably right.

In the history of American Jewish letters, Commentary is responsible for bringing Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, and Cynthia Ozick to the attention of the reading public. During the Cold War, the magazine fought against the then-reigning foreign-policy paradigms of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Not one, but two separate Commentary essays helped secure their authors’—Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jean Kirkpatrick—appointments as United Nations Ambassadors. And in the field of Jewish and Zionist ideas thought, the magazine has over the years published such leading Jewish scholars as Gershom Scholem, Emil Fackenheim, Leon Kass, and Ruth Wisse.

Last week marked the 140th birthday of one of Zionism’s most remarkable and prophetic leaders: Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky. The intellectual father of the Revisionist school and the ideological forerunner of today’s ruling Likud party, Jabotinsky exhibited more foresight during his lifetime that nearly any of his contemporaries. He was, for example, foremost in sounding the alarm about the danger to European Jews a decade before the Holocaust.

His prescience is also on display in a pair of essays he wrote in the 1920s: “The Iron Wall” and “Ethics of the Iron Wall,” in which he laid out a security doctrine for dealing with the Arab population of Palestine. Even a century later, these essays read as if they could have been written just yesterday.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the freedom of religion is protected by two separate guarantees: a prohibition on the establishment of an official church and an individual right to the “free exercise” of religion. The First Amendment thus protects not only the right of the faithful to believe as their consciences dictate, but also the right to live their lives in accordance with these beliefs.

Since 1990, the legal contours of the free exercise clause have been defined by a landmark Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith, which significantly narrowed the protections afforded to people of faith. In the time since, both the legal and the cultural landscape have changed significantly, and the Court will have a chance to revisit Smith’s holding in the upcoming case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.

During this year of lockdowns, shuttered businesses, and working from home, people have made time for many new habits and hobbies, from baking bread to reorganizing closets. In this podcast, Jewish literary and political scholar Ruth Wisse, one of our era’s great masters of Jewish letters, offers her own suggestion for how to spend at least some of that time: reading the greatest works of modern Jewish literature.

Those works to her are:

The Coronavirus pandemic has undermined years of economic growth and sent hundreds of thousands of Israelis onto the unemployment rolls. How can Israel—the legendary “start-up nation”—recover from this economic crisis?

Dan Senor, co-author with Saul Singer of the bestselling book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, is one of the world’s leading experts on Israel’s economy in general, and its tech sector in particular. He joins Mosaic’s editor, Jonathan Silver, for a discussion about how the Jewish state became a global technology juggernaut, the prospects for integrating the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors into the broader economy, and the outlook for an Israeli recovery after the devastation of COVID-19.

2020 has been a chaotic year, and last weekend, millions of Jews the world over celebrated Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year—and prayed that the coming year would be better than the one that just ended.

Of course, for religious Jews we’re now in the midst of the ten day period between Rosh Hashana and the day of atonement, Yom Kippur. During this interim period, known as the Ten Days of Repentance, we take a step back from our lives, reflect on our shortcomings, and resolve to return to walk a better path in the year ahead. In this podcast, our host, Jonathan Silver, digs back into the archives to bring you excerpts from our best conversations on faith, mortality, tradition, and obligation, and sin. Our aim this week is to bring you occasions to think theologically at a theologically heightened time of year. Excerpts are drawn from past discussions with Tara Isabella Burton, Rabbi David Bashevkin, Christine Rosen, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, and Rabbi Dovid Margolin.

Over the past four years, debates about America’s so-called “deep state”—the web of agencies, career civil servants, and unelected bureaucrats responsible for a growing amount of federal policymaking—have increasingly found their way into political discourse in the United States. Though these arguments occasionally take conspiratorial turns, at the core of the controversy is perhaps the most important question in political science: “Who rules?” The people or the bureaucrats?

In Mosaic’s September 2020 essay, writer and Tikvah alumnus Haviv Rettig Gur takes us inside the workings of another country’s deep state: Israel’s. And he makes a surprising and thought-provoking case—one that might seem counterintuitive to many Americans. He argues that while the Israeli bureaucracy is unelected and largely unaccountable, it is also an indispensable source of fiscal prudence and market discipline in a political system with profoundly distorted incentives.

Since 2015, the Israeli writer and translator Hillel Halkin has published a series of ten essays in Mosaic on the seminal Hebrew writers of the 19th and early-20th centuries. They dealt with everyone from Bialik to Agnon, Rahel to Ahad Ha’am. Those essays have now been brought together in Halkin’s newly published book, The Lady of Hebrew and Her Lovers of Zion. The act of writing such a book is an act of cultural preservation, safeguarding the literature, poetry, and essays through which the Jewish people sought to understand themselves as a modern nation in the modern world.

In this podcast, Halkin joins one of his longtime interlocutors, Professor Ruth Wisse, for a wide-ranging discussion about Israel, aliyah, tradition, religion, cultural fidelity, and, of course, Halkin’s new book. This conversation is but a snapshot of a long-running conversation between these two giants of modern Jewish letters.

Prisoner of Zion, human-rights activist, member of Knesset, chairman of the Jewish Agency. Lecturer, author, inspiration to millions. In his 72 years on earth, Natan Sharansky has lived several lifetimes. And in his latest book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People, he partners with the historian Gil Troy to reflect on the lessons he has learned throughout a life that’s taken him from the Gulag to the halls of Israel’s parliament.

In this podcast, Gil Troy joins Jonathan Silver for a conversation about his partnership with Sharansky, the Israel-Diaspora relationship, the Sovietization of American culture, and much more.

Though substantial progress is rarely made, peace in the Middle East is the holy grail of every American presidential administration and the subject of endless analysis and discussion. The amount of time and effort that government officials, foreign-policy experts, and diplomats have put into solving the conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors is probably incalculable. But this month, the United States managed to help them achieve a breakthrough, brokering what’s being called the Abraham Accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The path to this accord was not conventional. One of the key administration officials who led this effort, Jared Kushner, drew on his experience in the private sector to reevaluate the interests and alliances of the region. Until five years ago, Kushner had little political experience, but his team achieved something that has confounded peace-process professionals for decades.

One week ago, the president of the United States, the prime minister of Israel, and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates together announced the normalization of relations between the U.A.E and Israel. This is Israel’s first accord with an Arab nation since 1994, and it is the first time it has ever entered into such an arrangement with an Arab nation with which it does not share a border.

In this week’s podcast, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, explains how this happened, who made it happen, and the consequences it could well have for regional security, regional prosperity, and peace between Israel and her other Arab neighbors.