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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew University’

President Rivlin Receives New Ambassadors from India, Chile, Myanmar, Estonia, Lesotho

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

President Rivlin this morning (Wednesday) at his residence received the diplomatic credentials of new ambassadors to Israel from the India, Chile, Myanmar, Estonia, and Lesotho. Each ceremony began with the raising of the flag and the playing of the national anthem of the visiting country, included an honor guard, and – after the presentation of the credentials – the signing of the guest book, before the playing of Israel’s national anthem ‘Hatikva’.

First to present his credentials was Ambassador of India, H.E Mr. Pavan Kapoor. President Rivlin welcomed the Ambassador, his wife, and delegation and said, “The relationship between our two nations and our two states is being spoken about all over, and the cooperation between us is not only about innovation where we are trying our best to tackle problems in agriculture and water, energy, but also cyber and the need for security. I know that we can expand this cooperation and your appointment is an opportunity to look at ways we can do so. I convey my best regards to the President and Prime Minister, and I hope that the Prime Minster will be able to visit Israel and that I will be able to visit India in the coming months.”

Ambassador Kapoor thanked the President and said, “We are working to take our relationship further. We have received Israel’s help in a number of areas including defense, agriculture and water where we suffer a lot – in our country we either have droughts or floods, and we have a lot we can learn from Israel.” The Ambassador added, “We are looking forward to your visit and are working on dates for what I believe will be a landmark visit.”

President Rivlin thanked him and concluded, “The Indian and Israeli people have a lot in common, we know how to respect tradition and to be ready to learn and bring innovation to our lives for the benefit of our people and the whole world.”

Next the newly appointed Ambassador of Chile, H.E Mrs. Monica Jimenez De La Jara presented her credentials. The President welcomed her and showed her a picture of him as Speaker of the Knesset together with former President of the Chilean Senate and daughter of former Chilean president Isabel Allende taken at an international conference in Santiago. The President congratulated the Ambassador on her appointment and said, “I know that coming here from having served as Ambassador to the Vatican, you will feel at home in Jerusalem which is the center of the Holy Land. I welcome you also as a former education minister and we know that everything one can bring to our people begins with education. We are doing all we can in Israel; while 90 years ago we had only one university, now we have more than 6 universities and many colleges that are giving the opportunity to every citizen of Israel to study. We believe that the future of all people is together with education.” The President spoke of the relationship between the two governments and added, “From time to time we have some differences of opinion but we know that the relationship between our two nations and governments is strong. We can accept criticism – we do not accept boycott – but we can accept criticism.”

The Ambassador of Chile thanked the President for his warm welcome and said, “I am honored to have come from the Holy See to the Holy Land. I greatly appreciate being in a country with so much university activity. We have visited the Weizmann Institute, and the Hebrew University and we have plans to visit many more. We would like to have an academic delegation from Chile to reinforce the academic and research relations.”

She added, “I have worked all my life for peace. I know the situation in the Middle East is very difficult but Chile is ready with an open hand to do all it can to advance peace.”

Next, Ambassador of Myanmar, H.E Mr. Maung Maung Lynn arrived to present his credentials. The President welcomed him, his wife and delegation and said, “Mr. Ambassador, I remember as a student in High School when the Prime Minister of your country, U Nu, came to visit Israel, and then as a soldier in the IDF I remember Israel’s first Prime Minister Ben Gurion visited your country and brought back a great appreciation for your people and your culture. We are very proud of our connection and our relationship with your people. The Foreign Ministry started the idea of MASHAV in your country, the idea of connecting with other nations through learning together and sharing our knowledge about water for example. We also know that many Jews found shelter in your country until the outbreak of war. I want to congratulate you on the recent democratic elections in your country, which make Myanmar stronger.”

Ambassador Lynn thanked the President and noted, “It is a great pleasure to be here. I am here with my family and my daughter who will study here, and we have visited much of the country.”

Next, Ambassador of Estonia, H.E Mr. Sulev Kannike presented his credentials. The President congratulated him on his appointment and said, “We appreciate the wonderful relationship between our states and governments, and we appreciate your support for Israel in the international arena on so many issues, as well as the participation of Estonia in peace keeping efforts in the region. We appreciate also the understanding of Estonia on Holocaust education in your schools and among your people. In the field of cyber we are working together, in order to keep safe people in the region, and across Europe and the world.” The President added, “Please send my special wishes to your Foreign Minister who served as Ambassador of Estonia in Israel.”

Ambassador Kannike thanked the President and said, “I am happy to convey the greetings of my President who visited Israel in 2012. Bilateral relations between Israel and Estonia are almost without problems. We understand each other very well, and this is important for us. In July next year Estonia is taking over the Presidency of the European Union and I hope this will help us improve not only our bilateral relations but also our multilateral relations. I also express my appreciation for Israel’s work in cyber security and startups – an area in which Estonia is also working hard.”

Ambassador of Lesotho, H.E Mrs. Lineo Irene Molisa-Mabusela then presented her credentials as non-resident Ambassador to Israel. President Rivlin congratulated the Ambassador on her appointment and stressed, “The relationship between our two nations is very important to us and despite any crises, we have maintained uninterrupted relations.” The President spoke of the important cooperation between the nations in the fields of agriculture and water innovation, he said, “We would like to see more of your students come to study through MASHAV especially here in Israel.” The President added, “Israel would be pleased to return to its observer status at the African Union.”

Ambassador thanked the President and said “Allow me to pass the warmest wishes of His Majesty and the people of Lesotho. We are appreciative of the wonderful relations between our two countries, and we would like to work to open new channels of communication including in the fields of healthcare, agriculture, water and many others.”

Jewish Press Staff

Study of Israeli Jews and Arabs Causing Rethinking of Heart Disease

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

The idea that plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) is protective against coronary heart disease has been part of medical conventional wisdom for five decades. HDL-C has traditionally been considered the most important component of so-called “good cholesterol” HDL. However, drug trials that increased HDL-C have failed to support a causal role for the amount of cholesterol carried in HDL in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

With advances in the separation of lipoproteins by size and functionality, research has intensified to identify HDL measures that may be better predictors of coronary heart disease than the traditional HDL-C. Recent evidence suggests that small, dense, protein-rich particles in HDL may be more atheroprotective than large, buoyant cholesterol-rich particles.

To explore this further, 274 Arabs and 230 Jews residing in Jerusalem were recruited for a new study by researchers at the Braun School of Public Health in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine. This work, led by Prof. Jeremy Kark of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, was undertaken by Dr. Chobufo Ditah, a physician from Cameroon, as his thesis for the Braun School’s International Masters of Public Health (IMPH) program.

(Dr. Ditah, who received the Faculty of Medicine’s award of excellence for his MSc thesis and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the IMPH program, credits the Pears Foundation of Britain for enabling him to study at the Hebrew University. The IMPH program is made possible by donors who provide full scholarships to students from low-income countries, with the Pears Foundation endowing the largest number of scholarships and underpinning the associated alumni network. Dr. Ditah currently serves as a Medical Referent with the humanitarian NGO Doctors Without Borders, overseeing the implementation, evaluation and reorientation of medical interventions in host countries.)

The researchers used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to identify the numbers and sizes of plasma HDL particles, and helical CT-scanning to identify calcification in their coronary arteries, reflecting the overall burden of coronary atherosclerosis. With these data in hand, they looked for associations between the concentrations and sizes of different HDL particles, and coronary artery calcification.

Their findings, published in the prestigious journal Atherosclerosis, showed a statistically significant inverse association of both the number of HDL particles (HDL-P) and the concentration of small and medium-sized HDL particles (MS-HDL-P) with coronary artery calcification, after adjusting for age, statin use, smoking, and other factors. There was no association between large HDL-P and coronary artery calcification in either population group. The association with HDL-C was weaker and inconsistent between men and women.

“Our findings indicate that HDL-P and MS-HDL-P are better independent markers of coronary artery disease, as reflected by coronary artery calcification, than HDL-C, at least in this bi-ethnic population of Israelis and Palestinians,” said Dr. Chobufo Ditah.

“With a better understanding of HDL’s complexity and a better ability to measure its components, it is now possible to move past HDL-C to more refined measures that better reflect HDL’s role in coronary heart disease risk. Based on the accumulating evidence, incorporation of MS-HDL-P or HDL-P into the routine prediction of coronary heart disease risk should be considered,” said Prof. Jeremy Kark.

“These findings support previous reports, based on studies in other population groups, suggesting that small dense HDL particles are protectively associated with risk of coronary heart disease. The consistency of this finding in a new population of urban Arabs and Jews, using different disease outcomes and different separation methods, add more strength to those findings,” added Dr. Ditah.

Participants in this research are affiliated with the following institutions: Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine; Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine; Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem; Mankon Sub-Divisional Hospital, Cameroon; LipoScience, Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, USA.

JNi.Media

Hebrew U’s Dr. Yosef Buganim Honored for Stem Cell Research Breakthroughs

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Dr. Yosef Buganim, a research scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the prestigious journals Science and Science Translational Medicine, and the Boyalife industrial research consortium, for his work in stem cells and regenerative medicine (see Dr. Buganim’s essay Back to basics).

Dr. Buganim is a young researcher who recently joined the Department of Molecular Biology and Cancer Research at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC). Part of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, IMRIC is one of the most innovative and multidisciplinary biomedical research organizations in the world.

Awarded for the first time this year, the Boyalife Science & Science Translational Medicine Award in Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine honors researchers for outstanding contributions in stem cell research and regenerative medicine around the globe.

AAAS, Science, and Science Translational Medicine joined efforts with Boyalife, an industrial-research consortium formed in Wuxi, China, in 2009, to sponsor the award. Composed of prominent researchers, the judging panel was co-chaired by a Science and a Science Translational Medicine editor.

At his Hebrew University laboratory, Buganim uses somatic cell conversion models to identify and investigate the elements that facilitate safe and complete nuclear reprogramming.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT, he used single-cell technologies and bioinformatic approaches to shed light on the molecular mechanisms that underlie the reprogramming of somatic cells to iPSCs.

Regenerative medicine is a developing field aimed at regenerating, replacing or engineering human cells, tissues or organs, to establish or restore normal function.

Embryonic stem cells have enormous potential in this area because they can differentiate into all cell types in the human body. However, two significant obstacles prevent their immediate use in medicine: ethical issues related to terminating human embryos, and rejection of foreign cells by a patient’s immune system.

In 2006, Japanese researchers discovered that it is possible to reprogram adult cells and return them to their embryonic stage, creating functional embryonic stem-like cells. These cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and constitute a solution to these two obstacles.

In addition, these cells provide a good basis for modeling diseases and finding medical solutions, because they can be reproduced from different patients and different diseases.

Despite these cells’ enormous potential, their quality is still not sufficient to be used in clinical practice, and there is a need to find the best protocol that will enable production of high-quality iPSCs that will not endanger patients.

Dr. Buganim’s laboratory has made two major breakthroughs in this area, representing a major step forward in the field of regenerative medicine and transplantation.

Project A: To improve the quality of embryonic stem cells, Dr. Buganim and colleagues conducted bioinformatics analyses which pointed to four new key genes capable of creating iPSCs from skin cells, of superior quality to stem cells in current use. These cells produced in his laboratory (in this case mouse cells) are able to clone a whole mouse at a much higher percentage (80%) than other iPSCs (30%). This test is the most important one determine the quality of the cells.

Project B: Many women suffer recurrent miscarriages and abnormal development of the placenta, which causes fetal growth restriction and in some cases produces children with mental retardation. Dr. Buganim’s lab found the key genes of the placenta stem cells and by expressing them in surplus in skin cells, created placental iPSCs. These cells looked and behaved like natural placental stem cells.

Various tests showed that these cells have cell-generating capability in a Petri dish and inside a placenta that develops following a transplant. These cells have potential for use in regenerative medicine in cases of problematic placental functioning.

JNi.Media

Hebrew U’s Dr. Yosef Buganim Awarded for Work in Stem Cells

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Dr. Yosef Buganim, a research scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the prestigious journals Science and Science Translational Medicine, and the Boyalife industrial research consortium, for his work in stem cells and regenerative medicine (see Dr. Buganim’s essay Back to basics).

Dr. Buganim is a young researcher who recently joined the Department of Molecular Biology and Cancer Research at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC). Part of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, IMRIC is one of the most innovative and multidisciplinary biomedical research organizations in the world.

Awarded for the first time this year, the Boyalife Science & Science Translational Medicine Award in Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine honors researchers for outstanding contributions in stem cell research and regenerative medicine around the globe. AAAS, Science, and Science Translational Medicine joined efforts with Boyalife, an industrial-research consortium formed in Wuxi, China, in 2009, to sponsor the award.  Composed of prominent researchers, the judging panel was co-chaired by a Science and a Science Translational Medicine editor.

At his Hebrew University laboratory, Buganim uses somatic cell conversion models to identify and investigate the elements that facilitate safe and complete nuclear reprogramming. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT, he used single-cell technologies and bioinformatic approaches to shed light on the molecular mechanisms that underlie the reprogramming of somatic cells to iPSCs.

Regenerative medicine is a developing field aimed at regenerating, replacing or engineering human cells, tissues or organs, to establish or restore normal function. Embryonic stem cells have enormous potential in this area because they can differentiate into all cell types in the human body. However, two significant obstacles prevent their immediate use in medicine: ethical issues related to terminating human embryos, and rejection of foreign cells by a patient’s immune system.

In 2006, Japanese researchers discovered that it is possible to reprogram adult cells and return them to their embryonic stage, creating functional embryonic stem-like cells. These cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and constitute a solution to these two obstacles. In addition, these cells provide a good basis for modeling diseases and finding medical solutions, because they can be reproduced from different patients and different diseases.

Despite these cells’ enormous potential, their quality is still not sufficient to be used in clinical practice, and there is a need to find the best protocol that will enable production of high-quality iPSCs that will not endanger patients.

Dr. Buganim’s laboratory has made two major breakthroughs in this area, representing a major step forward in the field of regenerative medicine and transplantation.

Project A: To improve the quality of embryonic stem cells, Dr. Buganim and colleagues conducted bioinformatics analyses which pointed to four new key genes capable of creating iPSCs from skin cells, of superior quality to stem cells in current use. These cells produced in his laboratory (in this case mouse cells) are able to clone a whole mouse at a much higher percentage (80%) than other iPSCs (30%). This test is the most important one determine the quality of the cells.

Project B: Many women suffer recurrent miscarriages and abnormal development of the placenta, which causes fetal growth restriction and in some cases produces children with mental retardation. Dr. Buganim’s lab found the key genes of the placenta stem cells and by expressing them in surplus in skin cells, created placental iPSCs. These cells looked and behaved like natural placental stem cells. Various tests showed that these cells have cell-generating capability in a Petri dish and inside a placenta that develops following a transplant. These cells have potential for use in regenerative medicine in cases of problematic placental functioning. The success of this project may enable women with placenta problems to give birth to healthy children and rescue pregnancies at risk of dysfunctional placenta (see Scientists Convert Skin Cells Into Functional Placenta-Generating Cells).

Alongside creating specific cell types (e.g. nerve cells in patients with Parkinson’s disease, ALS and Alzheimer) from a patient’s skin cells, a potential future use of iPSCs is the creation of whole organs (such as heart, liver or kidney) in a suitable animal model using cells taken from the patient.

JNi.Media

Helen Mirren Meets Arab and Jewish Students Seeking Peace through the Performing Arts

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Dame Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, Trumbo, The Queen, The Madness of King George) last Thursday met with Arab and Jewish theatre students at The Billy Crystal Program for Peace through the Performing Arts, at the Department of Theatre Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

At the university’s Garage Theatre, Dame Helen heard from Arab and Jewish students in the Department of Theater Studies what it’s like to act in both Arabic and Hebrew. They then gave a live performance in both languages. She also visited the Theatre Archive and Museum, where artist-teacher Emanuella Amichai, an award-winning choreographer and performance director, introduced her work Place-Identity, with Israeli-Arab student Elham Mahamid, which was performed last year as part of the closing event of the Jerusalem Art Festival.

Dame Helen Mirren holds one of the 10,000 reels of film at the Hebrew University’s Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive. Also pictured: Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson (L) and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof. Dror Wahrman. / Courtesy the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, photo by Dor Kedmi

Dame Helen Mirren holds one of the 10,000 reels of film at the Hebrew University’s Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive. Also pictured: Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson (L) and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof. Dror Wahrman. / Courtesy the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, photo by Dor Kedmi

At the Hebrew University’s Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, Dame Helen took a selfie with a picture of her good friend Billy Crystal. At the recent memorial service for Muhammad Ali, Crystal described the origins of The Program for Peace through the Performing Arts:

“[Ali] was an honorary chairman for a dinner in a very important event where I was being honored by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem… The most famous Muslim man in the world, honoring his Jewish friend. And, because he was there, we raised a great deal of money, and I was able to use it to endow the University in Jerusalem with something that I told him about. And it was something that he loved the theory of, and it thrives to this day. It’s called ‘Peace through the Performing Arts.’ It’s a theater group where [Jewish and Arab] actors, writers and directors all work together in peace, creating original works of art. And that doesn’t happen without him.”

The Billy Crystal Program for Peace through the Performing Arts is dedicated to promoting a humanistic society based on dialogic relations and peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Theater artists and students, both Jews and Arabs, participate in a wide range of laboratory classes, workshops, master classes and special projects and performances. This unique program functions as a social and cultural bridge encouraging understanding and identifying with the “other” through collaborative theatre work.

Dame Helen was welcomed at the Hebrew University by its President, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson; the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof. Dror Wahrman; Chair of the Department of Theatre Studies and Director of the Billy Crystal Program, Dr. Jeanette Malkin; Department Advisor, Dr. Olga Levitan; and Artistic Director of the Bilingual Workshop, Dr. Josef Sprinzak.

JNi.Media

Is Jerusalem Truly Israel’s Capital?

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

Since 2006 there are no foreign embassies in Jerusalem. This obviously reflects the reluctance of the entire world that does have diplomatic relations with the Jewish State to recognize its ownership of Jerusalem. It is a unique phenomenon in world affairs. Not only do the nations of the world not accept Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, the international community also regards about half of it, eastern Jerusalem, including the entire Old City, as part of the “occupied Palestinian territories,” and no one officially recognizes western Jerusalem as part of the territory of Israel either.

Under the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1947, Jerusalem was going to be an international territory administered by the United Nations. In the 1948 war, the western part of the city was occupied by Israel, the eastern part by Jordan. And since the international community relies on the 1947 UN partition plan regarding the legal status of Jerusalem, it refuses to recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of the city.

Israel, obviously, feels very differently about this matter: On December 5, 1949, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and in July 1980 Israel passed the Jerusalem Law, as part of its constitutional Basic Laws, declaring Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel.

Jerusalem, which for the first 19 years of the state was a remote, unsafe (Jordanian snipers), small and joyless (Tel Aviv ruled), was transformed after the 1967 liberation of the Old City and the holy sites, exactly 49 years ago Sunday. Today 10% of Israelis live in Jerusalem — 850,000, twice as many as live in Tel Aviv, three times as do in Haifa.

When King David conquered the city and purchased the top of Temple Mount, just under 3,000 years ago, the entire city area was probably about 60 hectares. Today it is about 2,000 times larger, with 125,156 hectares included in the Jerusalem municipality.

The first university in the Land of Israel, Hebrew University, was established in Jerusalem, in 1925. Today 17% of Israeli university students study there, and 26% of the Ph.D. candidates.

Many Israeli national institutions are located in the Government District in Givat Ram in Jerusalem, as a part of the National District. Some government buildings are located in the Menachem Begin District. The city is home to the Knesset, the Supreme Court, the Bank of Israel, the National Headquarters of the Israel Police, the official residences of the President and Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and all ministries except for the Ministry of Defense (Tel Aviv) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Rishon LeZion).

And so it is clear that no other issue separates Israel from the rest of the world as radically as that of Jerusalem’s status. Most Israelis born after 1967 naturally view Jerusalem as their unquestionable capital. Leftwing Israelis who would agree to handing over some or all of eastern Jerusalem to a future independent Palestinian entity, are probably not aware of the fact that the world does not differentiate between eastern and western Jerusalem, and regards neither as naturally belonging to Israel, never mind recognizing them as its capital.

JNi.Media

IAA Plans to Excavate Judean Desert Caves, Save Scrolls from Robbers

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

The Israel Antiquities Authority is promoting a national plan for comprehensive archaeological excavations in the Judean Desert caves, and for rescuing the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are among the earliest texts written in the Hebrew language. The plan is carried out in cooperation with the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev (Likud).

Israel Hasson, director-general of the IAA, said in a statement, “Tor years now our most important heritage and cultural assets have been excavated illicitly and plundered in the Judean Desert caves for reasons of greed. The goal of the national plan that we are advancing is to excavate and find all of the scrolls that remain in the caves, once and for all, so that they will be rescued and preserved by the state.”

Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev said in a statement, “The antiquities robbers are plundering the Land of Israel’s history, which is something we cannot allow. The Dead Sea scrolls are an exciting testament of paramount importance that bear witness to the existence of Israel in the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago, and they were found close to the Return to Zion and the establishment of the State of Israel in the Land of Israel. It is our duty to protect these unique treasures, which belong to the Jewish people and the entire world. I will work to increase the punishment against those that rob our country’s antiquities.”

The cave where the archaeological excavation is being conducted is situated c. 80 meters from the top of the cliff and c. 250 meters above the base of the canyon. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.

The cave where the archaeological excavation is being conducted is situated c. 80 meters from the top of the cliff and c. 250 meters above the base of the canyon. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.

Last week, the IAA took a first step in the plan by commencing a complicated and extraordinary archaeological excavation in search of scrolls in Nahal Tse’elim. A team from the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery accompanied by researchers from the Caves Research Center of the Hebrew University and hundreds of volunteers from across the country is participating in the excavation, which is taking place with the support of the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs. The excavation is being directed by archaeologists Dr. Eitan Klein, Dr. Uri Davidovich, Royee Porat and Amir Ganor. For many years, IAA inspectors have been proactively enforcing the law in the desert, during the course of which they have made a number of seizures and foiled bands of antiquities robbers that sought to become rich through the detrimental exposure of items of great historical importance. However, these actions are a mere drop in the ocean and the IAA stresses that only by excavating all of the scrolls in the ground and transferring them to the state, will it be possible to ensure their well-being and preservation for future generations.

In November 2014, inspectors of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery apprehended a band of robbers, residents of the village of Sa‘ir near Hebron, in the act of plundering the contents of the Cave of the Skulls in Nahal Tse’elim. The suspects who were caught “red-handed” were arrested on the spot, interrogated, and later sentenced and served a prison sentence, and are required to pay the State of Israel a fine of $25,000. At the time of their arrest they were in possession of important archaeological artifacts that date to the Roman period, c. 2,000 years ago, and the Neolithic period, c. 8,000 years ago.

Access to the cave is complicated and for safety’s sake requires the use of rappelling equipment. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the IAA.

Access to the cave is complicated and for safety’s sake requires the use of rappelling equipment. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the IAA.

In 2009 an ancient papyrus that was written in Hebrew and dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE) was seized. The papyrus was confiscated in a joint operation by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police during a meeting with antiquities dealers in which the papyrus was offered for sale for the amount of $2 million. The investigation of the robbers revealed that this papyrus had also been discovered in Nahal Tse’elim. The contents of it, which mention the towns and settlements in the area of the Hebron hill-country, suggest that the papyrus was part of an archive of documents belonging to Jews who fled to the desert from the Hebron area after the Bar Kokhba uprising. Now, the IAA hopes to find similar documents.

The Cave of Skulls, where the excavation is taking place, is located about 80 yards from the top of the cliff, and about 750 ft above the base of the canyon. Because of the difficulty in reaching the site, the IAA obtained a special permit from the Nature and Parks Authority to construct an access trail, which requires the use of rappelling equipment for the safety of the participants in the excavation. More than 500 volunteers and field personnel from Israel and abroad were required for the undertaking, and they are sleeping and living in a camp in desert field conditions. Many requests by individuals offering to participate have been denied because of the lack of infrastructure to provide for such a large group of archaeologists, volunteers and interested parties. The current excavation season will end in another two weeks, assuming this will be sufficient time in order to extract the valuable archaeological information from the cave.

The ancient text that dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE), which was seized in a joint operation by the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police. Photographic credit: Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Leon Levy Digital Library, IAA.

The ancient text that dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE), which was seized in a joint operation by the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police. Photographic credit: Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Leon Levy Digital Library, IAA.

According to Amir Ganor, director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, “The excavation in Nahal Tse’elim is an operation of extraordinary complexity and scope, and one that has not occurred in the Judean Desert in the past thirty years. Despite the rigorous enforcement actions taken against the antiquities robbers, we still witness acts of severe plundering that unfortunately are possible in such large desert expanses. There are hundreds of caves in cliffs in the area, access to which is both dangerous and challenging. In almost every cave that we examined we found evidence of illicit intervention and it is simply heart-breaking. The loss of the finds is irreversible damage that cannot be tolerated.”

Israel Hasson, director-general of the IAA, added, “It is exciting to see the extraordinary work of the volunteers, who have lent a hand and participated in the excavation in complicated field conditions, out of a desire to join in an historic undertaking and discover finds that can provide priceless information about our past here. The time has come for the state to underwrite broad action so as to rescue the cultural assets of enormous historical importance while they still remain in the caves. Substantial amounts need to be allocated which will allow the IAA to embark upon a large-scale operation for studying the desert, including the caves, and excavating the artifacts. After all, the Dead Sea scrolls are of religious, political and historical importance to Jews, Christians and all of humanity.”

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/iaa-plans-to-excavate-judean-desert-caves-save-scrolls-from-robbers/2016/05/25/

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