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October 10, 2015 / 27 Tishri, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘History’

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.

Who’s Denying Whose Heritage?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

I learned from here that:

Prof. Mustafa Kabaha [Kabha], Department of History and Philosophy at the Quds Open University [his Ph.D., Aranne School of History, Tel-Aviv University and that ‘Quds Open University’ is just the Israeli Open University], said that the Israeli occupation seeks to blur and thieve the Palestinian identity and history…Israeli authorities started renaming the Palestinian towns, cities and streets in order to impose the Israeli ideological, religious, and national control over the Palestinian territories in an attempt to falsify the land’s history…Kabaha revealed that there is an Israeli committee specifically charged with Judaizing and changing the Palestinian Arab names.

P.S.  I have his book –  The Role of the Press and Journalistic Discourse in the Arab Palestinian National Struggle, 1929-1939 – on my shelf, actually.

About that committee – no revelation required.  It is well known.

But as to who is a-thieving, and stealing and expropriating historical identity, first of all, “Palestinianism” is a model of disinventivity nationalism.  Not only do they invent their own narrative but they disinvent Jewish history.

The Tomb of Rachel. Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs. The Temple Mount. Jerusalem Denial.  The whole UNESCO campaign.  All, and the entire Land of Israel, have been the subject of incessant Islamic reinvention.

My home town – Shiloh – became Seilun and the Pal. Minister for Archaeology denies its past.

With “intellectuals” and “academics” as he, they aren’t going anywhere fast.

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History of Israel: Snow in the Summer

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Has it ever snowed in Israel in the summer?

Two people have reported snow in the month of Sivan (late May-early June), though in both cases, it was hearsay.

The first is Rabbi Moshe Basula (Moses ben Mordecai Bassola), who visited the ancient synagogues in Bar’am in the early 1500s and wrote as follows (translation mine):

On the lintel of the smaller entrance it is inscribed in Hebrew “May G-d give peace to this place and to all the places of Israel.” And I was told that on another stone which had fallen down was written “Don’t be surprised about snow in the month of Nissan, we’ve seen it in Sivan.”

The Hebrew inscription is unusual, as most inscriptions in Byzantine synagogues are in Aramaic. The synagogue was researched in the late 19th century, but by 1907 there was nothing left of its stones. The local Arab villagers had destroyed it completely and ransacked it for building materials. The “snow” inscription was never found. The lintel inscription is on display in the Louvre.

The synagogue entrance, circa 1882
The inscription


The second to report snow in the summer was Joseph (Yehoseph) Schwarz, the father of Jewish research of the land of Israel. In his book “Tevu’ot ha-Areẓ” (The Bounty of the Land, published in English as well), he says as follows (translation mine):

In 1844 it snowed a bit on the night and morning of April 11 (22 of Nissan) [… Schwarz then goes on to bring various examples of snowy years…]. In 1754 there was a lot of snow and it was very cold, and so 25 people died in the Galilee in Nazareth of the cold, and I heard from an old man that the snow continued that year until the month of Sivan [late May], and there was barely a minyan that year on Shavuot in the synagogue here in Jerusalem, because that night it snowed so much that barely anybody could go out for morning prayers.

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Opportunities and Risks Ahead for Turkey

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington on May 16 comes at a pivotal time when the Middle East is riddled with extraordinary conflicts that have the potential of exploding into a regional war. The time is also ripe for creating a geopolitical realignment that could eventually usher in stability and progress.

Turkey can and in fact should play a constructive role, provided that the Erdogan government takes a hard look at the opportunities that exist to contribute to building a structure of peace and stability. The Erdogan government, however, must also consider the risks entailed should it remain stuck in grandiose old thinking.

The Turkish government managed over the past few years to create the perception that Turkey’s rise has been based on a sound foreign policy doctrine of “zero problems with neighbors” along with solid economic development policies, while continuing social and political reforms consistent with Islamic values.

A close look at the reality, however, suggests a somewhat different picture that raises serious concerns among Turkey’s friends and quiet jubilation among its enemies.

According to the Human Rights Watch 2011 World Report, the government increasingly breaches what it has committed itself to, including unjustified prosecutions for alleged speech crimes, the arbitrary use of terrorism laws, prolonged pretrial detention (especially of journalists and editors), and the systematic intimidation of any individual or party that objects to, or opposes, government policy.

The government also reversed course with the Kurds, carrying out a clampdown on the legal pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), arresting Kurdish notables and intellectuals for links with the PKK, and until recently resuming the old policy of massive retaliations against PKK attacks.

On Turkish foreign policy, if one takes a look at the situation country by country, the picture looks surprisingly different than “zero problems with neighbors.” There is hardly any neighboring country with which Turkey does not have some kind of problem.

Now is the time for Ankara to take some corrective domestic and foreign policy measures consistent with what the country has and continues to aspire for but fails to realize.

As the Turkish Parliament is writing a new constitution, there is no better time to seek political equilibrium and enshrine human rights in all aspects, especially the rights of the Kurds. Now that the PKK has agreed to abandon violent resistance in favor of a negotiated settlement, the government can institutionalize such reforms without losing face.

The Kurds and other minorities should enjoy equal rights to speak their language and live their culture with no reservations or discrimination, which is the essence of democratic governance.

Turkey’s failure to reconcile the hundred-year old dispute over the Armenian genocide continues to poison its relations not only with Armenia but also with the United States, which takes a strong supportive position on the Armenian grievances.

It is time to end the conflict with Armenia as the one hundredth anniversary is near (2014) and is bound to reignite a major controversy within and outside Turkey. Instead of taking such a categorical stance refuting the entire the issue of the Armenian genocide, Turkish leaders should take heed of what both the Old Testament and the Quran preach: “The children should not be held responsible for the sins of their fathers.”

Turkey, in this regard, should express deep regrets about the Armenian genocide during World War I for the tragic events that occurred a century ago. This may not go far enough with the Armenians, but it offers a good beginning that may lead to reconciliation.

The discord with Greece over Cyprus has only worsened with the dispute over gas exploration near Turkish territorial waters. Turkey must find a solution to the Cyprus conflict; not doing so will further strain its relations with Greece. Realpolitik must trump nationalism which can serve national interests; otherwise it will only harden over time and further limit any room for a negotiated settlement.

Although Turkey and Iran enjoy strong trade relations, Ankara still has not made up its mind about Tehran’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Their bilateral relations are strained by Ankara’s decision to host a base for a NATO missile defense system and the conflict over Syria’s future.

Moreover, Turkey must come to terms with the fact that Tehran’s and Ankara’s national interests do not coincide and that the two countries are on a collision course. Syria has become the battleground between Sunnis and Shiites and thus the emerging political order in post-Assad Syria will have a great impact on their overall ambitions.

Capitalism and the Jews

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Is there a connection between capitalism and the Jews, or is this just an anti-Semitic canard? In the second part of this week’s Goldstein on Gelt show, Douglas Goldstein meets Professor Jerry Z. Muller of the Catholic University of America, who answers this question and more when he discusses his new book “Capitalism and the Jews.”

Obama and the Red Line

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Political metaphors may simplify or symbolize actual or anticipated events but take a toll on political responsibility and sincerity. Throughout history, including the “line in the dirt” challenge of Colonel William Travis in March 1836 at the Alamo, lines have been drawn in the sand as indicators of intentions or actions. Individuals since Julius Caesar, who in January 49 B.C. violated the rule that Roman generals were forbidden to bring their troops into the territory of the Roman Empire and invaded with his army from the area of Gaul, have taken decisive action and crossed the Rubicon.

The most recent metaphor in American politics is the “red line,” supposedly a stronger warning than these other metaphors that an action or behavior will not be tolerated. A “line” is more definite and durable than “sand” or the flowing Rubicon, and has an analogy with a geographical line. The present dilemma for President Barack Obama, and to a lesser extent for Hillary Clinton, who in August 2012 similarly spoke of a red line but now is no longer secretary of state, stems from his use of this metaphor on a number occasions regarding Syria.

The problem for Obama is that in August 2012 he unequivocally said the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a “red line for us…. There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculus, or calculations, significantly.”

Of course one can appreciate, as Obama said to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, that though information has filtered out in Syria, “we have to make sure that we know exactly what happened… I think having the facts before you act is very important.” This was clearly a not very subtle reference to the actions of President George W. Bush in justifying the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 because of the information of supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the country, information that turned out to be inaccurate or not corroborated.

It is understandable that no imminent attack is envisaged or that quick military action against Syria is improbable, or perhaps has never been contemplated by Obama. Yet there are real problems with Obama’s position and lack of action following the rhetoric. First, there is the refusal to admit that the existing facts made known so far justify that action. Although three countries, Britain, France, and Israel, as well as U.S. intelligence agencies, have declared that chemical weapons have been used in Syria on at least two occasions, and Secretary of State John Kerry said they had been used in Aleppo and near Damascus, the Obama administration still maintains that this is insufficient confirmation.

Reservations about Syrian actions were expressed with cautious nonchalance by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on April 25, 2013 when he stated that “The U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.” Secretary Hagel still had “uncertainties about what was used, what kind of chemicals was used, when it was used, who used it.”

Obama has been even more reserved. The mantra, often repeated concerning Iran, that “all options are on the table,” is now applied to Syria. But Obama’s utterances of the last week suggest otherwise. It has long been clear that Syria has chemical weapons — sarin, mustard gas, and other military-grade agents that attack the respiratory and nervous systems. But a problem regarding Obama’s position is that sarin gas, a nerve agent that can be found in human tissue, dissipates within a short time. Asking for more time to investigate and find evidence thus is less likely to lead to success.

Nevertheless, Obama on April 26, 2013 said he was responding “prudently” and “deliberately” to evidence that Syria had used chemical weapons. Using language — “prudence” and “deliberate assessment” — more like that of Edmund Burke than of a liberal Democrat, Obama was seeking further proof of culpability for the chemical attacks. In view of the refusal of the Syrian government to allow United Nations inspectors or the head of the U.N. agency for disarmament into the country, a refusal backed by Russia, it is difficult to see how the indisputable proof can be found. In his conversation with the King of Jordan on April 26, the president spoke of the need to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this “potential” use of chemical weapons.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/obama-and-the-red-line/2013/04/30/

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