“There cannot be a Beit Midrash without [a] novelty” (Hagiga, 3a).
The ‘Mahanaim‘ Journal is one of the first publications that sought to make Jewish culture more accessible to general Israeli society. According to the journal’s founders, their novel aspiration in publishing the journal was to create an academic-literary platform on Jewish subjects that is a unique combination of an academic-scientific publication (normally intended for the “chosen few” of the ivory tower) and an academic publication suitable for everyone and directed at all those thirsty for Jewish knowledge.
The journal was published by the IDF Chief Rabbinate from 1949. The first 18 editions primarily included articles on Jewish holidays that had been previously published in various religious journals together with a regular article written by Rabbi Goren. From the 19th edition, the journal was named ‘Mahanaim’ and was published continuously until 1972 under the editorship of Rabbi Menachem Hacohen (the founder of the Sapir Center for Jewish Education and Culture). Each edition included numerous articles and provided a broad and in-depth view of Jewish culture.
The early editions of the journal focused on Jewish holidays and offered information and new research on related subjects. In the mid-1960s, the range of issues presented in the journal was expanded to other relevant Jewish cultural issues including medicine in Judaism, the holy sites, legal topics, blood libels, and others. The articles published in ‘Mahanaim’ were written especially for publication in the journal by the best scholars and intellectuals. Among these were Rabbis Shlomo Goren, Mordechai Piron, Yosef Kapach, Mordechai Hacohen, the poet Uri Zvi Greenberg (who wrote poems especially for the journal) and Professors Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Hugo Bergmann, Yisrael Eldad, and Yigael Yadin.
A team of young board members operated alongside the editor, Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, who mentored them during their first writing and editing steps. Some of these subsequently became esteemed scholars and public figures in their own right, including Haim Be’er, Professors Israel Ta-Shma, Joseph R. Hacker, Benny Don Yechiya , , and David Glass.
The journal’s publication was renewed during the 1990s by the Sapir Center for Jewish Education and Culture, until the early 21st century under the editorship of Rabbi Menachem Hacohen. These editions raised significant contemporary Jewish culture issues for discussion with each edition being devoted to a specific issue, including Judaism and Islam, tolerance in Judaism, biblical commentators, Jewish art and more. The editorial board members of the journal published by the Sapir Center were Haim Be’er, Prof. Joseph Hacker, Prof. Aviad Hacohen, Rabbi Mordechai Piron, Rabbi David Rosen, Prof. Israel Ta-Shma.
The Sapir Center recently initiated the scanning of all the ‘Mahanaim’ editions which were then uploaded to the National Library website.