Several leftwing creative and academic professionals have protested the decision of Israel’s national theater, Habima, to perform the show “A Simple Story,” written by Shahar Pinkas based on a S. Y. Agnon novel by the same name, in the JCC of Kiryat Arba, Hebron, next month, Ha’aretz reported Monday. The protesters called on Habima to cancel the performance, scheduled for November 10. Habima will also perform the same show on March 8 at the Ariel auditorium.
Haim Weiss, who teaches at Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, wrote on his Facebook page: “As far as I was able to verify, this is the first time the Habima theater will perform in Kiryat Arba. The willingness of the theater, its workers and actors to take part in the normalization of the occupation by turning Kiryat Arba into yet another town where they perform is very troubling.”
Weiss asks, “Was it the financial difficulties the theater is facing and the hope that appearing in Hebron would cause the Culture Minister and other Ministers to support them, that led to the decision on performing in Kiryat Arba-Hebron?”
Last April, Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) issued a directive whereby theatrical institutions that perform in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will receive a 10% increase in their state budgets, while institutions that refuse to include these communities in their schedule will suffer a 33% cut. The Israeli Civil Liberties Association has appealed the directive to the Supreme Court.
Weiss, who urged his Facebook friends to protest the decision, said it would be a great shame should Habima appear in “one of the most racist and violent bastions of the occupation.” He attached a picture of a banner advertising the November show, saying it was “symbolic that the banner for this shameful show was hung on a barbed wire fence.”
Written in 1935, “A Simple Story” describes the tribulations of a young man in Jewish community in a small town in eastern Europe, who loses his sanity over his love for a woman he could not marry. The novel is also a poignant social criticism of the bourgeois values of European Jews, who chase after food, drink, honor and avarice.
PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of the Special Cabinet Meeting
“This is the first day in the State of Israel without the late Shimon Peres. Shimon Peres was among our greatest leaders, who left behind him a long trail of unique achievements. On behalf of the entire Jewish People, the citizens of Israel and the Government of Israel, I convey deep condolences to Shimon’s family.
Shimon Peres lived a life rich in deeds, which symbolize the history of a revived Israel – the life of an ancient people that marches, revived, on its land, the power of our people to defend itself, and is building up its homeland with sweat and courage.
When Shimon, as a youth, went to the Ben Shemen agricultural school, he wrote: ‘The goal of my life is to serve my people.’ He realized this goal. He believed with all his heart in the goals of Zionism and was a man of inspiring vision. Shimon accompanied the state since before its birth, stood by the cradle, and made sure that it could stand on strong legs. He was at the side of David Ben-Gurion during fateful decisions, at a time when the young Israel was fragile and its military strength had yet to be realized. Shimon greatly contributed to the building up of our strength. He made a unique contribution to the strengthening of our security both openly and in areas that are best left unspoken.
One of the summits of his life was the successful operation to free those of our people who had been hijacked to Entebbe. As Defense Minister in the government of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon played a crucial role in the decision to dispatch our planes and commandos into the heart of Africa. But alongside this, alongside all of his work on behalf of the security of Israel, Shimon Peres never stopped striving for peace and believing in peace. His hand was always extended toward historic reconciliation with our neighbors. Even if this reconciliation tarried, he taught us not to give in to despair but to cling to the hope and to continue working.
Shimon Peres was an MK for almost 50 years. He served as a minister in various governments in many and varied portfolios. He twice led our country as Prime Minister. He opened our international links, contributed to stabilizing the economy and worked greatly on behalf of immigration from the USSR and Ethiopia.
We all know that political life was not always kind to Shimon. Alongside his achievements, he also knew disappointment, he also knew difficult moments, he also knew pointed criticism. But through his great strength of will Shimon continued to move forward, imbued with the aspiration to advance the development of the country that he loved so much, and imbued with the aspiration to bring peace.
There were many things that we agreed on and the number of these grew over the years. But we also had our disagreements, which are a natural part of democratic life. Even in these instances, the respect that I felt for Shimon was never impaired. On the contrary, as time passed our relations became closer. I esteemed him. I loved him. During his tenure as President, we had many personal meetings, often lasting deep into the night. These were fascinating, in-depth meetings in which I learned to recognize the man, to recognize his life’s story and to listen to his thoughts.
Only two months ago I came with my wife to launch the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. We shared a common vision – a vision of progress and technology. Shimon saw the presence of Israel at the forefront of scientific and technological progress, and rightly so, as a key to human welfare, the key to peace. At that meeting I was stirred by his curiosity, his ability to mobilize a vision of the future world. After the ceremony, we sat for a long time. We arranged to meet again, to continue to promote the common vision of technology and innovation – and yes, also peace.
Unfortunately, this meeting will not take place. The prayer which I made on behalf of all citizens of Israel from the podium of the United Nations, the prayer that I offered for his recovery did not materialize. But our consolation is that so many things in the life of Shimon did come true. And the seven years of Shimon Peres’ presidency were a rejuvenation. He won the public’s bipartisan, cross-sector admiration. Love of the people was forthcoming and warmed his heart.
Shimon was a man of vision, he was a man of peace, he was also a man of letters, and without these two elements there can be no national revival. For all these reasons Shimon won worldwide international recognition. Heads of state sought him out and honored him. Many of them, along with us, will accompany him on his last journey to eternal rest in the soil of Jerusalem. Shimon’s work will yet remain with us for many generations. He will be enshrined in my heart always and etched in our hearts forever.
May his memory be blessed.”
President Reuven Rilvin
“This is a sad morning for all of us. There is not a chapter in the history of the State of Israel in which Shimon did not write or play a part. A man who was a symbol for the great spirit of this people. Shimon made us look far into the future. As one man he carried a whole nation on the wings of imagination, on the wings of vision, and we loved him dearly. We loved him even when we did not see things eye to eye, because he made us dare to imagine not what was once here, nor what is now, but what could be.”
Minister Miri Regev
“We are officially convening the ministerial Committee on Symbols and ceremonies, which today mourns the passing of former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres. We are preparing for a very large and complex funeral that will coordinate very many elements. Here today is the Director General of the Foreign Ministry and the Jerusalem District Police commander, as well as representatives from the Defense Ministry, Knesset, and the Prime Minister’s Bureau, among others. We are, in effect, working to coordinate the entire effort.
I would like to thank Minister Ofir Akunis and Minister Sofa Landver, who are present as members of the committee. We will work under the ‘Havatzelet’ protocol to facilitate a respectable funeral that will allow the citizens of the country and the world leaders who will arrive to pay proper respect to former President Peres. Therefore, as soon as the committee votes on its decisions, everyone will go to work in his area and we will meet from time to time on a more reduced basis to oversee coordination.
There will be several centers: The airport, to which the leaders will arrive. The second center is the Knesset. The third is Mt. Herzl, including the interment itself. There are many elements here that we will need to coordinate so that everything goes smoothly and respectably, despite all the constraints we are under and the complexity of the event. There is also, of course, Shabbat that we must take into account and see that we finish on time so that all of the police and other elements working on the event can return home in time for Shabbat.”
“Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, mourns the passing of the ninth President of Israel, Shimon Peres and offers its sincerest condolences to his family and all of the people of Israel.
Former President Peres was a dedicated supporter of teaching the legacy of the Shoah, so that the Jewish people – and all humanity – may have a brighter future. Shimon Peres worked tirelessly to further the causes of justice and peace for all humankind.”
Israel Atomic Energy Commission
“Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) Director Ze’ev Senir and the commission’s employees and retirees mourn the passing of former President, Prime Minister and Defense Minister Shimon Peres. His work is interwoven with the work of the IAEC since its founding.
Shimon Peres substantially contributed to the establishment of the Negev Nuclear Research Center and the foundation of Israel’s nuclear policy as a significant contribution in ensuring the national strength of the State of Israel. His legacy will accompany the work of the IAEC in the future as well. May his memory be blessed.”
The Likud party has been attacking its coalition partner Habayit Hayehudi party over the memorable debate in Sunday’s cabinet meeting of the establishment of a new Israeli Broadcasting Corporation. The official announcement from Likud called Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked the “favorites of the left and of [Yediot Aharonot owner] Noni Moses” who support the indefatigable efforts to harm the prime minister and the Likud rule. It was in response for Bennett’s and Shaked’s decision to abstain during the vote to postpone the date when the new corporation starts broadcasting.
One of the most celebrated quotes from Sunday’s debate, all of which reached unusually shrill tones, was from Likud Minister Miri Regev who reportedly cried out: “What’s the point in having a corporation if we don’t control it? The minister should be in control, or what, we’ll give money and then they’ll broadcast whatever they want?”
As the minister in charge of culture (and sport), Regev exhibited a particularly narrow understanding of freedom of the press and possibly of the entire concept of what a public corporation is. One of the fundamental principles of such corporations, outside Zimbabwe and, recently, Moscow, is that the ministers are strictly in charge of budgeting and monitoring public satisfaction of the corporation, but they are absolutely prohibited from dictating and controlling anything.
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan couldn’t help himself and made fun of the vociferous yet thin-skinned Regev. He told her, “Yes, live with it. There’s no law saying the public broadcasting authority will do what Miri Regev tells it to do.” The two Likud ministers continued to yell at each other (they both ranked in the top slots in the last Likud primaries), until Prime Minister Netanyahu had to shut them up.
Ayelet Shaked on Monday shot back at the Likud’s attack press release, saying that Likud should stop whining, and, anyway, they have their own daily newspaper (tycoon Sheldon Adelson’s pro-Bibi Yisrael Hayom).
Shaked was the second female politician in Israel yesterday who told a fellow lawmaker to stop whining. The other was Shelly Yachimovich, who said she’d had it up to here with her party chairman, Isaac Herzog’s whining about an insult she shot at him last May. She called him Bibi’s lap dog. He threatened to expel her.
But the media’s focus on Sunday centered on that cabinet meeting where Regev let the world know what’s her take on democratic institutions. And just to show you that you don’t have to know democracy to thrive in one, Miri Regev’s culture ministry on Sunday received control over the entire government advertising budget, which comes to about $80 million. That’s everything the Netanyahu government spends on ads, foreign and domestic, despite the fact that the bulk of those ads have nothing to do with the culture ministry.
Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud) told Army Radio on Monday that Regev’s statements were borderline fascistic and that she had warned Netanyahu none of those statements should be allowed to stick to the Likud party.
Incidentally, the reason the Netanyahu government has been attempting to establish a new broadcasting authority was because the current authority is considered inefficient and infested with leftists. But having been under the coalition gun for several years now, the IBA has gone a long way to become more efficient and to sprinkle all its high-ratings hours with rightwingers. So the Kol Israel one hears today is more balanced politically than what it was only a year ago.
Which is the reason Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) announced Sunday that he was going to advance a new bill to dismantle the new public broadcasting corporation in favor of the one Israel has had since the British mandate (1948).
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon summarized that unhappy cabinet debate in an interview with Army Radio, where he said, “This entire government has to go on vacation. They must urgently go on summer holiday, before the entire government would end up in hospital.”
The escape tunnel used by the so-called “Burning Brigade” to allude the Nazis has been pinpointed at the Ponar massacre site near Vilnius in Lithuania, using Electric Resistivity Tomography.
Some 100,00 people, of whom 70,000 were Jews originating in Vilna and the surrounding area, were massacred and thrown into pits in the Ponar forest near the Lithuanian capital during WW2. With the retreat of the German forces on the eastern front before the advancing the Red Army, a special unit was formed in 1943 with the task of covering up the tracks of the genocide. In Ponar this task was assigned to a group of 80 prisoners from the Stutthof concentration camp.
A scan of the site using Electrical Resistivity Tomography. / Courtesy. Photo credit: Ezra Wolfinger, Nova
A scan of the site using Electrical Resistivity Tomography. / Courtesy. Photo credit: Ezra Wolfinger, Nova
A scan of the site using Electrical Resistivity Tomography. / Courtesy. Photo credit: Ezra Wolfinger, Nova
At night the prisoners were held in a deep pit, previously used for the execution of Vilna’s Jews, and during the day they worked to pen the mass graves, pile up the corpses on logs cut from the forest, cover them with fuel and incinerate them. All the while their legs were shackled and they were certain that, upon completing their horrendous task, they too would be murdered by their captors. Some of the workers decided to escape by digging a tunnel from the pit that was their prison. For three months they dug a tunnel some 100 ft. long, using only spoons and their bare hands.
On the night of April 15, 1944 they escaped. The prisoners cut their leg shackles with a nail file, and 40 of them crawled through the narrow tunnel. Unfortunately they were quickly discovered by the guards and many were shot. Only 15 managed to cut the camp fence and escaped into the forest. Eleven reached the partisan forces and survived the war.
Since WW2, the exact location of the tunnel has been lost, even though a number of attempts were made to find it. Now, through the cooperative work of Dr. Jon Seligman of the Israel Antiquities Authority; Prof. Richard Freund of the University of Hartford; Paul Bauman of Advisian of Calgary, Canada; and the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, the tunnel has been rediscovered using Electrical Resistivity Tomography, from the pit used to imprison the captives, to an open space next to it.
Electrical Resistivity Tomography is a geophysical technique used in mineral and oil exploration for imaging sub-surface structures from electrical resistivity measurements made at the surface, or by electrodes in one or more boreholes.
Preparations for the ERT scan of the trench used to hold the victims before their execution. / Courtesy. Photo credit: Ezra Wolfinger, Nova
Dr. Jon Seligman, of the IAA, said, “As an Israeli whose family originated in Lithuania, I was reduced to tears on the discovery of the escape tunnel at Ponar. This discovery is a heartwarming witness to the victory of hope over desperation. The exposure of the tunnel enables us to present, not only the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the yearning for life.”
Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev said, “I congratulate the Israel Antiquities Authority on its participation in this international effort that turns history to reality. The exciting and important discovery of the prisoners escape tunnel at Ponar is yet more proof negating the lies of the Holocaust deniers. The success of modern technological developments, that have aided the Jewish people to reveal another heroic story the Nazis attempted to hide, profits all humanity.”
The memorial to the Holocaust at Ponar. / Courtesy. Photo credit: Ezra Wolfinger, Nova
The award-winning science series NOVA, produced by WGBH for PBS, will follow this excavation and the team, capture their stories, and restore the memory of this lost world in a new film slated to premiere in the US on PBS in 2017. The documentary will tell the story of the fate of the Jews of Vilna, Lithuania, now the modern city of Vilnius, through major archeological excavations of several sites in and around the city, including the larger excavation project at The Great Synagogue of Vilna. The discovery of the evidence of an escape tunnel at the Ponar pits sheds new light on a story of life, resistance and courage.
It is the intention of the partners to return to the site in the near future to expose the tunnel for public viewing as part of the memorial for the victims of Vilna and the surrounding area.
On Tuesday the PM’s office instructed the City of Jerusalem to issue a stop-work order against a project that has been under construction for two years, converting an ancient Ottoman structure near the compound’s wall into bathroom stalls and showers for use strictly by Muslim worshipers.
According to Israel Radio, Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday assembled Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, to discuss the offensive Waqf project on the Temple Mount, because it endangers rare archaeological treasures.
The move was appropriate, especially since the Waqf had been constructing those bathrooms, as well as carrying out other projects for two years now without a license. The only question was how come the PM’s office waited for two years to act, after being bombarded with complaints by archaeologists, including the Israel Antiquities Authority, regarding the irreparable damage caused by the Waqf?
It was Yehuda Glick, now an MK, who in 2014 caught Waqf officials red-handed in the act of drilling through the ancient stones of the holy site, using heavy machinery. “They saw me coming and immediately tried to hide. It set off warning bells for me and I started filming straight away,” Glick related back in 2014. “They tried to hide, and then shouted to the policeman who was there that I could not take pictures without their permission. The policeman ignored them.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Friday announced his retirement from his post and from politics. He wrote on his Facebook page: “This morning I informed the prime minister that following his conduct during recent developments, and because of my lack of confidence in him, I resign from the government and will be taking a time out from the political life. I will deliver a statement to the media at noon at the Kirya (the IDF command compound in midtown Tel Aviv).
It is expected that Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) will take up Ya’alon’s Defense portfolio as part of his deal with PM Netanyahu to enter his coalition.
Ya’alon’s retirement brings to the Knesset the next candidate on the Likud list, Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick, who has survived an assassination attempt in October 2014 by an Arab terrorist over his activity. Netanyahu was unhappy with Glick’s presence on his party’s list, and, in fact, refused to employ the “Norwegian Law,” which permits party ministers to resign from the Knesset to make room for rank and file MKs—just so Glick won’t become a Likud legislator. Well, now Ya’alon forced that bitter pill down Bibi’s throat. MK Glick will bolster the rightwing section of the Likud, and will make it tougher for Netanyahu to deliver concessions to the Arabs.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) issued a statement Friday saying, “Minister Ya’alon is a principled man who contributed a lot to the State of Israel. His place should have been next to the cabinet table. I am sad to see him retire from politics.”
American born Rabbi Yehuda Glick, Likud member since 1997, lives in Otniel. He was among the founders of former MK Moshe Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction in Likud.
Glick is chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, and former executive director of The Temple Institute, a group that supports the building of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount.
He is also active in pro-settlement forums inside the party. As such, Glick has been the coordinator of the lobby for implementing Israeli Law in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, which is headed by MK Miri Regev (Likud). Interestingly, openly gay MK Amir Ohana, who was ahead of Glick on the candidates list and has been upgraded to the legislator only a few months ago, served as Glick’s security guard after the assassination attempt.
Ha’aretz journalist Nir Hasson credits Glick as having put the Israeli left on the defensive by “uncovering the absurdity created at the Temple Mount” by a status quo that, by permitting Muslim prayer while prohibiting Jewish prayer, “discriminates against people because of their religion”
American political commentator Bernie Quigley compared Glick to Gandhi: “Earthy, wise, thoughtful, nonviolent and compassionate.”
Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner called Glick a non-violent man, and “the friendly face of the Temple Mount movement.”