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January 22, 2017 / 24 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘MFA’

Israel’s Government Recruits Citizens to ‘Fight Ebola’

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Israel’s government is recruiting individuals and non-governmental organizations to help combat the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

The Foreign Ministry is set to establish the Israel Forum to Combat Ebola this coming Sunday at its offices in Jerusalem.

The meeting is being held under the auspices of MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation – in cooperation with SID-Israel, the Israeli branch of the Society for International Development, a global forum of individuals and organizations working in the field of sustainable economic and social development.

Representing the government, MASHAV is calling on Israelis to join the global effort to help West Africa fight the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that is threatening the continent. All NGOs interested in participating in efforts in the field and pooling resources to fight the epidemic are invited to attend the meeting, which is being sponsored by the Israeli Fund for UNICEF (IFU) and SID-Israel.

So far, the Ebola outbreak has most affected the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Eight neighboring countries are also at risk as the virus could quickly spread across borders unless there are rapid measures taken to control it.

Because of the seriousness of the situation, the United Nations and other international organizations are providing emergency aid along with governments and societies around the world, to prevent the spread of the epidemic.

MASHAV has already begun to provide assistance in the Middle East. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has asked the organization to step up its efforts, which to date have included the deployment of mobile field hospitals to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The field hospitals include isolation units and protective gear to allow medical professionals to quarantine and care for their patients.

Hana Levi Julian

Foreign Ministry Summons Swedish Ambassador to Jerusalem

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has summoned Sweden’s ambassador to Israel to Jerusalem in the wake of the statement by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven this weekend that his government will recognize the Palestinian Authority as a sovereign country.

In a statement issued Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that he “regrets that the new prime minister was quick to issue statements regarding the position of Sweden on recognition of a Palestinian state. He apparently has not yet had sufficient time to study the matter and to understand that it is the Palestinians who have for the past 20 years been an obstacle to reaching an agreement with Israel.”

Liberman added that “Prime Minister Stefan Löfven must understand that no declaration and no measure by an external party can serve as a substitute for direct negotiations between the parties and a solution that will be part of an overall arrangement between Israel and the entire Arab world.

“If what concerns the Prime Minister of Sweden in his inaugural address is the situation in the Middle East, he would better focus on the more urgent problems in the region, such as the daily mass murder taking place in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.”

Sweden’s prime minister told lawmakers Friday that formal recognition of the entity as a sovereign nation is a statement to present the “two state” solution as fact.

Muslims account for nearly 10 percent of Sweden’s population and the country has accepted nearly 100,000 refugees this year alone from Iraq and Syria. It is no coincidence that in Sweden, as in other European nations, the overwhelming Muslim demographic in leftist parties tends to tilt government policies in favor of the Palestinian Authority.

Turkish-born Mehmet Kaplan was recently appointed to be Sweden’s new Minister of Urbanization, according to Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency.

Kaplan was among those arrested for attempting to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza in a “humanitarian aid” flotilla of six ships in May 2010. He was present on the Turkish IHH-sponsored Mavi Marmara vessel, which when searched was found to be carrying no aid items whatsoever and instead bore armed terror activists primed and ready for battle.

Hana Levi Julian

Israeli Aid Missions Providing Relief to Hurricane Sandy Victims

Friday, November 9th, 2012

An Israeli delegation of trained rescue volunteers is departing to New York today, Friday, November 9, to assist victims devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The delegation is headed by Shahar Zahavi, CEO of IsraAID, the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) that has facilitated aid and relief program across the world, including in Haiti, Japan, Turkey, Kenya and South Sudan.

The 12-person delegation will be offering rescue, rehabilitation, and communal resource services to New York residents of Far Rockaway and Long Beach, as well as the Atlantic City-Margate area along the Jersey Shore. They will also be identifying areas with vulnerable populations and allocating resources to older people and families with young children who have suffered significant damages to their homes and have no power.

Financing for the mission comes from young Israelis and from Israeli businesses, alongside partner companies in the United States, which are supplying the Israeli crew with water, food, gasoline, clothing, blankets and storage facilities to distribute to people who have been evacuated from their homes.

According to spokesperson Tova Hametz the IsraAid delegation’s mission is to “rehabilitate, rescue, bolster morale and bring physical resources in the most effective, organized and expedient way.” She added that Zahavi has much experience in relief work following his mission in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

According to Israel’s foreign office, a number of Israeli NGOs are working to bring relief and supplies including food, fuel and generators to both victims and emergency workers in New York and New Jersey. Among those NGOs are Israel Flying Aid and Israeli Humanitarian Aid-LATET. Those efforts have been coordinated with local police departments, the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Jewish communities in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

One of the Israeli volunteers, Joel Leyden, helped organize an aid convoy from Connecticut to Long Island, bringing food and generators to first responders, fire departments, police, and to homes. He and other Israeli volunteers also passed out Dunkin’ Donuts to people waiting at gas stations.

“We wore our blue-and-white-Israeli hats to make sure they knew this aid was coming from the people of Israel,” said Leyden, according to the foreign office website.

Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricanes and the second-costliest after Hurricane Katrina. The October hurricane killed more than 110 people in 10 states, left more than 8 million homes and businesses in the Northeast without electricity, and tens of thousands of Americans homeless.

Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency

MFA Boston Vs. The Metropolitan Museum: Does The Bible Belong In Art Exhibits?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium BC

Hung November 18, 2008-March 15, 2009

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, New York



Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum

Hung Sept. 21, 2008-Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

465 Huntington Avenue, Boston



When Ephron the Hittite discussed a real estate transaction with Abraham in Genesis 23:10 that would secure the late Sarah a burial plot beside Adam and Eve, what was he wearing? How had Hittite art and interior design changed by the time David secretly sent Uriah the Hittite, husband of Bathsheba, to the front lines to die in 2 Samuel 11? When Achan – the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah – stole from the booty of the decimated city of Jericho in Joshua 7:1, what color was the Shinarite (Babylonian) cloak that he poached?


These questions sound unusual, not because they are unimportant but because most readers of the Bible treat narrative details like irrelevant filler. But the Bible itself sanctions examinations of archeology and aesthetics. The book of Joshua not only specifies that the garment Achan looted was an “aderet” (loosely, a cloak) rather than pants or shoes, but also that the garment was “tovah,” or beautiful. Why should readers care if it was beautiful if they were not meant to consider its appearance?


The recently completed exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has the opportunity to merge biblical and artistic traditions. But when “Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium BC” did address the Bible, it did so in local descriptions of a few works rather than in the larger conception of the exhibit. By contrast, a recent exhibit of Assyrian art at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston did a far better job of contextualizing the show. In his introduction to the catalog, Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund director of the MFA, noted that British archaeologist Austen Layard, who uncovered the Assyrian ruins in the 1840s, found artifacts that showed the Lachish siege in Judah (addressed in Joshua 10) on the walls of Sennacherib’s palace and cuneiform tablets in Ashurbanipal’s library with a flood story.



“Advice to the king to stop fasting.” 4 May, 670 BCE From Nineveh. 7 cm x 3.5 cm x 2 cm. MFA exhibit.



The MFA catalog also records a variety of aspects of Assyrian culture that are particularly relevant to Jewish and biblically minded readers. The first traveler to observe the location of the ancient city of Nineveh was the 12th century rabbi, Benjamin of Tudela. Another Layard find yielded an artistic representation of the biblical king Yehu (who surfaces in 2 Kings Chapters 9 and 10) paying tribute to the Assyrian king. And the city of Calah from Genesis 10:11 surfaces in a discussion of the ninth century BCE king Ashurnasirpal II.


The MFA exhibit mentioned the Assyrian sun god Shamash (sure to relate to the Hebrew shemesh, or sun), and it turned to Solomon’s temple and its lion motifs to explain “the splendour of some furniture in the Ancient Near East.” Many of the objects in the exhibit contained texts in Akkadian, a language like Hebrew and Aramaic, and the letters aleph, bet, and gimmel appeared on several of the pieces.


The most interesting piece in the show might have been one that the exhibit did not relate to the Bible. A two-and-a-half-inch tall clay tablet with cuneiform script on it, dating from 670 BCE, offers advice to King Esarhaddon to stop fasting. Balasi and Babu-ahhe-eriba, senior court officials and astronomers, suggest that the king, who was ill, should eat after having fasted for three days. “He should be encouraged,” the catalog translates, “by the fact that Jupiter has just risen heliacally and will be visible for a whole year.”


It is interesting that the MFA, after diligently noting the biblical context to so many of the works, does not make the connection between the piece from the city of Nineveh, the fasting king, and the book of Jonah. According to 2 Kings 14:25 Jonah lived during the time of King Yeroboam, whose life scholars date to the eighth century BCE. After Jonah had petitioned Nineveh to repent, and after the king of Nineveh did indeed call for a public fast (Jonah 3:7), it would make perfect sense for a future king of Nineveh, less than 100 years later, to have kept a tradition of fasting.




Milky chalcedony, perhaps with allusions to the Song of Solomon. 3 cm (h) x 1 cm (d). Mesopotamia, Middle Assyrian, 13th century BCE Pierpont Morgan Library, NY. Metropolitan Exhibit.



Biblical references at the Met’s show are much harder to come by, and emerge only several times in the 450-page catalog. A three-inch tall milky chalcedony from 13th century BCE Middle Assyria – in the collection of New York’s Pierpont Morgan Library – shows a deer jumping in a forest, which could be an “echo” of Song of Solomon 2:8-9, where the narrator’s beloved, compared to “a roe or a young hart,” leaps “upon mountains and skips upon hills.” A 1250-1050 BCE bronze stand, about five inches by four inches by five inches, features an image of a man playing his harp, which might be King David, though it might also be Homer or Kinyras (“the legendary musician-king of Cyrpus”).


A more plausible biblical connection arises in a gold pendant found in the Uluburun shipwreck, a Late Bronze Age ship discovered in Southern Turkey in 1984. The pendants, which contain images of suns and moons, might be the subjects of Isaiah 3:18-23, where the prophet condemns the “haughty” daughters of Zion, who “walk with stretched necks and winking eyes.” God smites the tops of their heads, and also takes away “their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels.”



Medallion with four-rayed star and four curved rays, perhaps referring to quote from Isaiah. 10.3 cm x 11 cm x .1 cm. Uluburun shipwreck. Late Bronze Age, c.a. 1300 BCE Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archeology, Turkey. Metropolitan exhibit.



The catalog also mentions the cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), which were used to build Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 5:5-6) and the House of the Forest of Lebanon (for which the catalog erroneously cites 1 Kings 11:21 when it means 1 Kings 10:21). Another Solomonic reference might have eluded the curators. Many of the vessels in the Met show have animal imagery, including lions, bulls, ducks, dolphins, dogs, and several kinds of birds. It seems pretty likely that Hiram, the Phoenician king of Tyre who helped build Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 7, was drawing from this tradition when he created the washbasin (called yam, or sea, in the text). The basin rested upon a base, which was made of 12 oxen. The base also had lilies on it (another prominent Near Eastern form), as well as lions.


“Beyond Babylon” must be commended for gathering an important body of Near Eastern art and for its important catalog. But if the exhibit had at least entertained the possibility, as the MFA Boston show did, that the Bible could play an important role in the show’s vision, it could have not only shed more light on some of the pieces, but also brought a new awareness to biblical passages. For example, when the Israelites left Egypt after 10 terrifying plagues, they “borrowed” from their former taskmasters “vessels of gold, vessels of silver, and clothing.” Perhaps the vessels had bull horns on them or were eagle-shaped, and perhaps the clothing included caps with boar tusks woven together as armor. We can only hope that a future show will not be afraid to ask these questions.


Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, and resides in Washington, D.C.

Menachem Wecker

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts//2009/03/18/

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