- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2006

February, as we well know, is the shortest month of the year, at whose midpoint St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated. How very fitting then that National Geographic devotes its February issue to love. But note the subhead: “Love: The Chemical Reaction.”

Yes, the cover story is devoted to a discussion of what constitutes love, whether love is quite the same as passion, and what we experience when we “fall in love.” Indeed, as writer Lauren Slater puts it, “love and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have a similar chemical profile.” Or, as she postulates: “Love and mental illness may be difficult to tell apart. Translation: Don’t be a fool. Stay away.”

The article goes on to say that studies around the world confirm that passion usually ends. “No wonder some cultures think selecting a lifelong mate based on something so fleeting is folly.”

Dopamine is released in our brains, it seems, when we are in the grip of a burning passion. That state soon passes to the relative calm of an oxytocin-induced attachment. (Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes feelings of connection and bonding.) Prairie voles, the article notes, are animals with high levels of oxytocin that mate for life. If scientists block oxytocin receptors in these little creatures, they cease to be monogamous and tend to roam. Be warned.

• • •

Steven Spielberg’s film “Munich” may not be faring as well at the box office as the director’s other films, but it certainly has produced considerable editorial comment. The most recent, presented at some length, comes with Gabriel Schoenfeld’s piece “Spielberg’s ‘Munich.’ in the February issue of Commentary.

The author cites the book by Canadian writer George Jonas who, two decades ago, published “Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorism Team,” from which Mr. Spielberg drew liberally for his film and to which he gives full credit.

However, the film apparently does not keep faith with Mr. Jonas’ book. The film’s principal protagonist, Avner, is bitter and disillusioned, having decided to leave Israel behind him. In the book, Avner is described as being disillusioned by how he has been treated by what he terms Israel’s “power elite.” In no way is he ambiguous about having been part of the Mossad team ordered to hunt down and kill the terrorists thought to be responsible for the 1972 massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes.

Indeed, in the foreword to a 2005 reissue of “Vengeance,” Avner himself states, “I make no apologies for the mission my team and I carried out in the 1970s — and, indeed, am proud that I was able to serve my country in this way.”

• • •

Interestingly, the winter issue of Azure (subtitled “Ideas for the Jewish Nation”) carries an article on a remarkable man in “The Handler.” Forty years ago this past May, the Syrians publicly executed Mossad agent Elie Cohen as an Israeli spy. Both the importance of the information he supplied to the Israeli army — crucial to Israel’s capture of the Golan Heights in 1967 — and his death turned him into a national hero. Until now, though, one question has remained unanswered: Why did he get caught?

Now his Mossad handler has revealed exclusively to Azure writers Ella Florsheim and Avi Shilon what actually happened. It all makes for an extraordinary story, one that could make for a singular film. It is worth noting that the Syrians have refused to return Mr. Cohen’s remains to Israel, even when the two countries were engaged in peace talks.

• • •

On other matters pertaining to Israel, the New Yorker of Jan. 23 and 30 leads with a detailed article by Israeli columnist Ari Shavit: “Sharon’s Journey.” The article investigates why Ariel Sharon, one of his country’s fiercest hawks, came around in recent years to accepting compromise.

Mr. Shavit recounts knowing Mr. Sharon as far back as he can remember, although he only got to meet and talk at any length with him in 1999. He describes Mr. Sharon as feeling a “profound uncertainty about the Jews’ ability to maintain sovereignty, and to hold onto the land and to preserve it.”

He adds that Mr. Sharon spoke of the Arabs with great envy because he felt they knew much better how to keep their honor and their land: “If there is something I respect about the Arabs, it’s the fact that they never change their position.”

• • •

Want to read a weird article? Look at “The Secret Odyssey of Larry Wachowski” in the Jan. 26 issue of Rolling Stone. Mr. Wachowski and his younger brother Andy are college dropouts who wrote the screenplays for and directed three Matrix films that earned millions for them and more than $1 billion for Warner Bros. Another Wachowski film, “V for Vendetta,” is scheduled for release in March, but it seems uncertain if the brothers will ever direct another film, given the direction Larry’s life has taken.

• • •

The Atlantic starts off the year with its January/February issue dedicated to the magazine’s upcoming 150th anniversary. After summarizing all the high points, the editors conclude pessimistically in a letter to readers that “It was not certain that the American idea would have a future” in the years before the Civil War. “It still isn’t.”

• • •

To end on a more cheerful note, you might get a charge checking out the Jan. 23-30 issue of New York magazine, which touts a cover story on sales and bargains with “Read This Magazine and Save a Fortune.” Who can resist a come-on like that?

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