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December 25, 2014 / 3 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘History’

Café el-Fishawy, Cairo

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Some 240 years ago, a man named al-Fishawy began serving coffee to his friends in an alley of Cairo’s Khan al-Khalili district each evening after prayers. The al-Fishawy’s gatherings grew larger and stretched longer, and the rest is history.

Qahwat al-Fishawi (Fishawy’s Café) is the most renowned café in the Arab world and a monument to the traditional Egyptian way of relaxing with friends—and the occasional stranger— over coffee, tea and tobacco.

We pray for the residents of Cairo to be able to emerge from their current strife and to return to their sweet and harmless (except for the tobacco thing) way.


Failing in Order to Succeed

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The rabbis teach that we can only truly understand Torah when we allow ourselves to fail at it (Gittin 43a). Unless we push ourselves to reach for deeper understanding, where we inevitably get it wrong before we can get it right, we will not grasp the very essence of the Jewish enterprise. Rashi here seems to think that it’s the public shame of getting it wrong (and the concomitant rebuke) that strengthens one’s intellectual rigor. It is not hard to think about giving constructive feedback (“rebuke”) when it comes to moral matters, but do we care enough about ideas that we (respectfully) challenge others when ideas are misinterpreted or misapplied? How much do we really value the marketplace of ideas and the assurance that we as individuals and as a society get it right?

History is full of examples of leaders who acknowledged that persistence in the face of failure was more important than individual failures. President Abraham Lincoln, whose army suffered many crushing defeats in the early years of the Civil War, said: “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.” A century later, Robert F. Kennedy echoed the optimistic spirit of youth when he said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Besides for being tragically assassinated, what these presidents have in common in that their causes lasted, their legacies carried on, and they are remembered as being among the greatest and most successful men to occupy the Oval Office.

Very often, one can be lured by the traps of conformism (just follow others’ ideas or practices) or isolationism (just follow one’s own marginal ideas and practices). Our job as Jews is to break free from these ploys for mediocrity. We must challenge ourselves and the status quo to reach higher by engaging with societal ideas but without blindly accepting them.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement) and founder and intellectual-spiritual leader in his own right, was anything but a conformist. He not only told his followers to be happy, but he also encouraged them to do silly things, highly unusual for a religious leader. Rebbe Nachman stated that each person had to fall in order to rise, and stressed the universality of this concept:

[E]ach person who fell … thinks that these words weren’t spoken for him, for he imagines that these ideas are only for great people who are always climbing from one level to the next. But truthfully, you should know and believe, that all these words were also said concerning the smallest of the small and the worst of the worst, for Hashem is forever good to all.

However, Rebbe Nachman went further, stating that it is “a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination.” Even the tendency to evil could serve G-d, as people worked through these passions and eventually overcame them. To Rebbe Nachman, it seems, spiritual stasis is the only unacceptable path.

We must be willing to learn and debate with others. Ideas matter. Inevitably that will lead to some level of shame when we get it wrong, but the promise land afterwards is much greater. It offers a culture of more honest, informed, connected individuals who are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of truth and who are willing to be wrong in order to get it right. Our great rabbinic and presidential leaders wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jewish Survival in the Face of Existential Threats: a Focus on Women

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Women have exercised their inherent gift of intuition and bravery to influence the course of Jewish history from the earliest time recorded.

The dramatic confrontation between Sarah and Avraham over the choice of successor, in effect a struggle over the survival of Judaism, was reenacted a generation later between Rivka and Yitzchak. In the face of his own preference, Rivka, just like Sarah, was intrinsically directed to choose the optimal heir to Yitzchak.

Egyptian Exile and Exodus are pivotal landmarks in the history of our people’s struggle for survival. References to Galut Mitzrayim (Exile in Egypt) and Yetziat Mitzrayim (Exodus from Egypt) are central to the entire corpus of Jewish socio-ethical teaching. Against such background, the rabbinic dictum that “It is to the credit of the righteous women that our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt” (Sotah 11) is quite remarkable. Our rabbis recognized the roles women played in making redemption possible.

The Hebrew midwives, who at the risk of their lives defied the edict of Pharaoh “and let the children live” (Sh’mot 1:17), were rewarded for their great courage, and “G-d granted a bounty for the midwives, and the nation multiplied and grew very mighty” (Sh’mot 1:20). The other women also did their share to ensure survival by keeping their appearance attractive and boosting their husbands’ morale.

Within this context the Midrash focuses on the role of Miriam whose admonishment prompted her own father to resume his marital duty. And so, the birth and survival of Moshe, the Divine instrument of Israel’s redemption, was the consequence of intuitive acts by a number of women which included, besides Miriam and Yocheved, even Pharaoh’s daughter who, by adopting Moshe and providing a Hebrew nurse for him, completed the first phase of Israel’s redemption.

Regarding the next phase of redemption, Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, our rabbis claim that the women were given the Torah first because it is they who teach their children “the ways of the Torah.” The teachers of “the way” to the next generation hold the secret of a people’s survival. They are the bridge to the Jewish future.

The Biblical precedent established a pattern for women of later generations to have a historically defined role as the vanguard in the struggle of Jewish survival. At every crucial juncture women have stepped into the historical vacuum to provide roles as unseen movers based on their prophetic intuition and their ability “to tune into” the existential self of the Jewish people.

From Rebbetzin Recha Freier who spearheaded a movement which evolved into the Youth Aliyah, a major instrument of rescue for Jewish children during the Holocaust, to Rivka Gruber, teacher, librarian, and social worker, who, after her two sons fell in Israel’s War of Independence, became the founder of a string of settlements in the Sharon Valley, women have been silent movers, creating educational, social, health and welfare infrastructures for the Jewish community.

And how about the women in our present situation of surrounding existential threat, the war of terror in Israel?

That chapter is being written even as we speak. Do you remember the name Chava Shatsky? How could you? She is one among innumerable heroines whose children were murdered by Arab terrorists, one name among hundreds. Her 15 year-old daughter Keren was killed by an Arab terrorist in the Karne Shomron mall on Motzei Shabbat, February 16, 2002.

I happen to remember because of a personal connection. Reading in The Jewish Press that Karen and the other casualties were pupils in Kedumim’s Ulpana Lehava, where someone from my family taught English, I immediately contacted her to offer my emotional support. When I started to speak and my words drowned in tears, it was she who comforted me. Yes, Keren was her pupil, she said, and Keren’s mother, Chava Shatsky, was the chairman of the department at Lehava.

“You must speak to Chava,” she advised me. “Chava will give you chizuk, strength… she gave chizuk to all of us. In our grief over Keren, the faith of Keren’s mother gave us all strength,” the young teacher said. When I expressed profound amazement, she continued: “Yes, it is amazing. Yet there are many other women who react similarly. And these women are the guarantee that we will make it,” she said with pride.

The young teacher’s words helped me. They helped me cope with the grief and face the future. Indeed, these heroic mothers, like Jewish women throughout our history of confrontation with existential threats are the guarantee that we will make it.

Oldest Alphabetical Written Text Found near Temple Mount

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Hebrew University archaeologists have found the oldest known alphabetical inscription from Jerusalem, dating back to the period of Kings David or Solomon, 250 years before the previously oldest known written text.

The inscription was found near the Temple Mount but is not in Hebrew and was from the pre-Temple period, in the language of one of the peoples who occupied Israel at the time, according to the archaeologists.

Reading from left to right, the text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which translate to m, q, p, h, n, (possibly) l, and n. Since this combination of letters has no meaning in known west-Semitic languages, the inscription’s meaning is unknown.

The archaeologists suspect the inscription specifies the jar’s contents or the name of its owner. Because the inscription is not in Hebrew, it is likely to have been written by one of the non-Israeli residents of Jerusalem, perhaps Jebusites, who were part of the city population in the time of Kings David and Solomon.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar unearthed the artifact, in the Canaanite language and engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site. He said it is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and is an important addition to the city’s history.

The previously oldest known script, in Hebrew, was from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the 8th century BCE.

The inscription was engraved near the edge of the jar before it was fired, and only a fragment of it has been found, along with fragments of six large jars of the same type. The fragments were used to stabilize the earth fill under the second floor of the building they were discovered in.

An analysis of the jars’ clay composition indicates that they are all of a similar make, and probably originate in the central hill country near Jerusalem.

According to Prof. Ahituv, the inscription is not complete and probably wound around the jar’s shoulder, while the remaining portion is just the end of the inscription and one letter from the beginning.

This jar fragment from the time of Kings David and Solomon is the earliest alphabetical written text ever discovered in Jerusalem.

This jar fragment from the time of Kings David and Solomon is the earliest alphabetical written text ever discovered in Jerusalem.

The Saga of Ancient ‘Palestinian Susiya’ – The Town That Never Was

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

The Palestinian Authority, with direct financing of the  European Union and blind acceptance of lies as facts by media, is swallowing up the southern Hevron Hills, a huge area between Kiryat Arba-Hevron and Arad-Be’er Sheva.

The latest chapter in the Palestinian Authority’s re-invention of history is taking place in Susiya, pronounced “Soos-eeya,” located two miles from the old borders of Israel, on the western edge of the Judean Desert that leads to the Dead Sea, and less than half an hour from Be’er Sheva, the capital of the Negev.

The Arab strategy: An Arab family erects a tent, illegally, near the archaeological site of the ancient town of Susiya. As time passes, the tent becomes a makeshift structure, which expands into several structures. With the support of extreme left-wing activists, the ‘ancient’ town of ‘Palestinian Susiya’ is invented, reported the Tazpit News Agency.

“This makes for a great human interest story, but for one setback – the ‘ancient Palestinian Susiya’ never existed. It shows up on no records,” Tazpit wrote.

Yigal Dilmoni, deputy director-general of the Yesha Council, told Tazpit, “Fifteen-year-old aerial photos clearly show that there was no Arab village at this site… The Arabs have come for the village of Yatta, and… repeatedly disseminate lies. ”

Last week, the Civil Lands Authority issued approximately 40 stop-work orders against projects funded by the European Union and intended to firm up Palestinian Authority claims to land where they never lived until Jews came to the area in 1983.

In that year, for the first time in 1,500 years, Jews began living in the southern Hevron Hills, setting up a community in nearby Beit Yatir, two miles to the south, and in Susiya, where the old Jewish town existed until approximately the 6th century.

Until 1983, the area experienced zero growth. Hot summers, cold winters, with occasional snow, and the lack of roads and water resources kept people away. Any land that was farmed by Arabs was done during the spring and summer and abandoned after harvest time, until the following year.

None of the land was ever registered as owned by anyone. During the Ottoman Empire, and under the British Mandate, the rulers of Hevron would sit in their living rooms and parcel out lands arbitrarily. That was the extent of “ownership.”

When Jews came to Beit Yatir, the Arabs followed. Three families from  Yatta, a city adjacent to Hevron, fled because of family crimes, such as rape, and set up camp on a hill adjacent to Yatir, Their village quickly became known as the “Thieves’ Village,” for obvious reasons. They claim, of course, that they have been living there from time immemorial.

As a resident of Beit Yatir, and a security officer at the time, I and my colleague reported theft after theft to the police –laundry on the clothes lines, tricycles, shoes left outside and anything else that was not nailed to the ground. Further down the road, our moshav’s tractors often were stolen and tracks always led to the Thieves’ Village.

The police, of course, did nothing.

Susiya was established in the same year. No Arab lived there. Nor did they live in the ruins of the old city of Susiya.

But when the Civil Lands Authority last week issued the stop-work orders, the first step towards demolition orders, the left-wing movements and the Palestinian Authority reinvented history.

“The Palestinian village of Khirbet [ruins of] Susiya has existed in the South Hebron Hills at least since the 1830.”

The International Solidarity Movement wrote last week, “The residents of Susiya include more than 30 families, who were all evacuated from their homes in the old Susiya village and forced to relocate 200 meters to the southeast, in 1986,”

It is a lie. They never lived there, not in 1830 and not in 1986 and not in 1996.  A handful of Arabs sowed the land in the spring, harvest the crop in the late summer and went back to Yatta. Period.

“Susiya has been the site of creative non-violent resistance for years, resistance that is continually met with brutality,” according to the ISM.

Part of the “non-violent resistance was the cold-blooded murder of my friend Yair Har Sinai in 2001. He was shot in dead in the head and the back by terrorists while, unarmed, he was tending his flock of sheep.

The police and army, of course did nothing for five years, even though his murderers were known.

The same pattern has repeated itself over the past 15 years.

Rabbis for Human Rights has helped the Palestinian Authority destroy Jewish farms. Across the street from our home on Yatir, the Talya family, converts from South Africa, planted and cared for dozens of acres of land for a decade. The leftists moved in one day, ripped everything out, helped the Arabs plant, and won support from the IDF.

Several years, our community’s children along with hundreds of other school students, celebrated Tu B’Shvat by planting planted more than 1,500 saplings on land adjacent to the our regional headquarters. A “rabbi” from the Human Rights group marched in, and announced that the children were illegal occupiers. The next day, the saplings mysteriously disappeared.

Why? Politics.

There is no law in the southern Hevron Hills. There is politics. There are IDF officers who want to advance in the ranks and have to adopt the government policy, which is “malign neglect” of Jews.

As security officer at the time, I was called by the Talya family to come to their farm becuase five Arabs had trespassed. When I arrived, I saw them surveying the land, well within the fence of the Talya farm which is legally zoned for Yatir agriculture.

I called the authorities, and an officer asked me, “What are they doing?”

“They are  surveying the land.” I answered. “Today, they survey. Tomorrow, they claim it is theirs, and the next day they plant and build.”

His reply was, ”What do you care? They are not bothering you.”

The government looks the other way, preferring to set its red lines around Efrat and Maaleh Adumim.

Losing control of the southern Hevron Hills is a free pass to terrorists who use the back trails to smuggle weapons from Bedouins in the Negev, as far away as the Dead Sea and south of Arab. Terrorists also take explosives from the area and use the same route to travel freely and wait for the right moment to blow up Jews in urban centers, from Be’er Sheva to Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

The gradual erosion of Israel control over what is supposed to be Israeli-cojntrolled “Area C” has endangered the entire area. Thousands of Arabs have moved in, set up tents and built homes with the funding of hundreds of millions of dollars by the European Union.

Lacking any history of the area, most media swallow up the Arab story, hook, line and sinker.

Archaeologists Find 2,000-Year-Old Evidence of Siege in Jerusalem

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Archaeological excavations near the Western Wall have unearthed three complete cooking pots and a small ceramic oil lamp that are the first pieces of evidence of the Jewish famine during the revolt during the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is digging up history in excavations of the drainage channel that runs from the Shiloah Pool in the City of David to Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall.

“This is the first time we are able to connect archaeological finds with the famine that occurred during the siege of Jerusalem at the time of the Great Revolt,” said excavation director Eli Shukrun.

The complete cooking pots and ceramic oil lamp, discovered inside a small cistern in a drainage channel, indicate that the people went down into the cistern where they secretly ate the food that was contained in the pots, without anyone seeing them, and this is consistent with the account provided by Josephus,” he explained.

In his book “The Jewish War,” Josephus describes the Roman siege of Jerusalem and in its wake the dire hunger that prevailed in the blockaded city.

In his dramatic description of the famine in Jerusalem he tells about the Jewish rebels who sought food in the homes of their fellow Jews in the city. Josephus said that the Jews concealed the food they possessed for fear it would be stolen by the rebels, and they ate in hidden places in their homes.

“As the famine grew worse, the frenzy of the partisans increased with it…. Nowhere was there corn to be seen, men broke into the houses and ransacked them. If they found some, they maltreated the occupants for saying there was none; if they did not, they suspected them of having hidden it more carefully and tortured them,” Josephus wrote.

“Many secretly exchanged their possessions for one measure of corn-wheat if they happened to be rich, barley if they were poor. They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of the their houses, where some through extreme hunger ate their grain as it was, others made bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a table laid…”

The artifacts will be on display in a study conference on the City of David next Thursday.

‘Extinct’ Frog in Israel Becomes a Unique ‘Living Fossil’

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

An ancient frog can now be added to Israel’s history. The “painted frog,” though to be extinct, turns out to be a descendant of a one million-old frog.

The first amphibian to have been officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been rediscovered in the north of Israel after some 60 years and turns out to be a unique “living fossil,” without close relatives among other living frogs.

The Hula painted frog was catalogued within the Discoglossus group when it was first discovered in the Hula Valley of Israel in the early 1940s. The frog was thought to have disappeared following the drying up of the HulaLake at the end of the 1950s, and was declared extinct by the IUCN in 1996. As a result, the opportunity to discover more about this species’ history, biology and ecology was thought to have disappeared.

However, a team of Israeli, German and French researchers now report in the scientific journal Nature Communications on an in-depth scientific analysis of this enigmatic amphibian.

Based on new genetic analyses of rediscovered individuals and the morphologic analyses of extant and fossil bones, the conclusion is that the Hula frog differs strongly from its other living relatives, the painted frogs from northern and western Africa.

Instead, the Hula frog is related to a genus of fossil frogs, Latonia, which were found over much of Europe dating back to prehistoric periods and has been considered extinct for about a million years,

The results imply that the Hula painted frog is not merely another rare species of frog, but is actually the sole representative of an ancient clade of frogs, a group with a single common ancestor.

Plans to re-flood parts of the HulaValley and restore the original swamp habitat are in place, which may allow expansion in population size and a secure future for the Hula painted frog.

The combined research effort that led to the revelation and analyses of the previously considered “extinct” frog was conducted by Rebecca Biton, a Ph.D. student of the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, in cooperation with professors from the RuppinAcademicCenter, TelAvivUniversity, the Weizmann Institute of Science and other researchers from Israel, France and Germany.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/126526/2013/06/04/

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