Century Marks

Century Marks

Learning Arabic

Arabic is an official Israeli language. About half of Israeli Jews have heritages stemming from Arabic-speaking countries. Despite this, only about 10 percent of Israeli Jews understand Arabic well, even though one poll indicated 58 percent of Israelis think it is important to learn the language. The Israeli school system teaches a formal version of the language, not the dialect used on the streets. Gilad Sevitt has attempted to rectify this gap with a series of free YouTube videos teaching Arabic with the name Madrasa (school in Arabic). The language instruction videos have become popular, especially with 18- to 34-year-olds. Palestinians, Jordanians, and Saudis have also used it in reverse, to teach Hebrew. Groups have formed on Facebook and in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to study the videos together (The Christian Science Monitor, July 17).


By its own admission, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is not known for its sense of humor. But at the Republican National Convention last month, CAIR members passed out packets of a medicine called Islamophobin, supposedly to treat Islamophobia. The full-strength formula purportedly treats blind intolerance, unthinking bigotry, irrational fear of Islam, and election year scapegoating. The packets contained ordinary chewing gum (Reuters, July 18).

Political nuances

Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine holds some complicated positions as a Catholic and Democrat. A social justice–oriented Catholic trained by Jesuits, he says he is personally pro-life, yet he defends a woman’s right to choose abortion. He is personally opposed to the death penalty, but as governor of Virginia he said he would obey the law. Eleven persons were executed during his tenure as governor, including six blacks. He speaks fluent Spanish, having learned it during a yearlong missionary assignment with the Jesuits in Honduras. His position on gay marriage and adoption has also changed over time. He now supports both, saying he knows some gay and lesbian couples who are great parents (America, July 22).

A place to meet

“Independent bookstores are more than the sum of their books,” says Betsy Burton, cofounder of the King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City and president of the American Booksellers Association. Independent bookstores are “safe havens, centers of community where people go to see friends and neighbors—or strangers who are interesting to meet and talk to—but they’re also refuges populated by booksellers who are not just interesting, and interested, but empathetic.” Burton recalls the morning of 9/11 when her bookstore was mobbed by people not buying books but looking for a place of support, empathy, and community. Independent bookstores, says Burton, are more inclusive than churches, more communal than cultural events, and more intimate than bars (Publishers Weekly, July 15).

Toxic males

Nearly all mass murderers are men—98 percent by one count. Gender is the most common feature among mass murderers, not race, religion, nationality, political persuasion, or history of mental illness. Toxic masculinity, when faced with disappointment, can turn to hostility and violence toward others. Collecting and using guns is a way for men with grievances to show their dominance over others. While women tend to blame themselves for failure, men tend to project their failures onto others (Atlantic, June 16).