The Guardian and antisemitism

Shiraz Socialist

It should not need saying, but it does: people can be as angry as they like at the Israeli government, but to attack a synagogue, threaten children at a Jewish school, or throw a brick through the window of a Jewish grocery store is vile and contemptible racism. It cannot be excused by reference to Israeli military behaviour. The two are and should be kept utterly distinct.

Some may counter that that is impossible, given the strong attachment of most Jews to Israel. But this is less complicated than it looks. Yes, Jews feel bound up with Israel, they believe in its right to survive and thrive. But that does not mean they should be held responsible for its policy, on which some may disagree and over which they have no control.

Nor should they be required to declare their distance from Israel as a condition for admission into polite…

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Digital Reconstruction of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus


Dr. Steven Fine, who heads Yeshiva University’s Center for Israel Studies, is leading a project to digitally reconstruct the Arch of Titus in Rome, complete with the colors that were originally on the monument. The project is starting with the menorah, part of the Temple treasures that were taken away when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.

Earlier this month, a Yeshiva University-led team of international historians and scientists descended upon the first-century Arch of Titus in Rome’s city center. Equipped with cameras and high-tech 3-D scanners, they looked for traces of color on one of the marble arch’s three iconic, 1,900-year-old bas reliefs – the famous depiction of Roman soldiers carrying the seven-branched, solid-gold Temple Menorah, the Table of the Showbread, and Temple Trumpets, following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. in a triumphal procession through Rome….

 “Technological breakthroughs in the last 10 years have allowed us to do two things,” says Dr. Bernard D. Frischer, the project’s co-director for technology and a professor of art history and classics at the University of Virginia. “To find more color that is not visible to the naked eye, and do it in a way that is non-invasive, that does not require that we take physical samples from the monument.”….

With the on-site survey of the Menorah relief completed, experts are now using the scans to create a 3-D “state” model of the relief as it appears today, while a professional restorer digitally “reconstructs” the relief’s broken or missing pieces. Once the tests for color traces are analyzed, the relief will be digitally “painted” in what experts believe was its original color. Both Fine and Frischer expressed the hope that the $8,000 pilot project’s test results will warrant a full-scale study of the entire arch in the near future.

Posted in Archaeology, Jews | Tagged , , ,

Another interesting find: ancient Roman treasure near Kiryat Gat

Israeli archaeologists find ancient Roman treasure

Nir Hasson | June 5, 2012 | Ha’aretz

A precious cache of gold from the second century CE was discovered in a development-led archeological excavation near Kiryat Gat. The cache contained 140 gold coins, golden jewelry, makeup vessels, a bejeweled ring, and more.

The archeologist found a Roman home on the site. “In the house’s garden we discovered a hole that was dug up and covered again,” Saar Ganor from the Antiquities Authority described the moment of discovery. “We started digging and a meter into the hole we found the cache, I swung the pick and 140 gold coins simply poured out, it was an amazing moment.”

The contents of the cache

The objects in the cache had trace remains of a fabric, which leads the archeologist to believe that they were wrapped in a fabric and hid in the garden. “It seems that someone hid it there in great haste, planning to come back later and recover it, but didn’t,” Ganor said.

The coins in the cache make its dating quite accurate. The coins were minted in the reigns of Roman emperors Nero, Nerva, and Trajan. The oldest of the coins is dated to 54 CE; the newest was minted in 117 CE.

The archaeologists hypothesize that the valuables were cached for a reason related to the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 CE) as the Judean foothills, where the coins were found, played a central role in the revolt. The house’s residents may have had to flee their home because of the revolt, and decided to hide their valuables before making their escape….

Posted in Archaeology

Bulla with “Bethlehem” on it found in Jerusalem

Haaretz writes today about another cool archaeological discovery, this time in the City of David excavations.

Israeli archaeologists find earliest evidence of Bethlehem’s existence in Jerusalem dig: Ancient clay seal, dating to the First Temple period, bears the name Bethlehem in ancient Hebrew script; artifact located by researchers sifting soil removed from Jerusalem’s City of David.

A piece of clay was found during archaeological excavations at the City of David, in Jerusalem, bearing the name of the city of Bethlehem in ancient Hebrew script. The piece of clay dates back to the First Temple period (1006 – 586 BCE), making it the first tangible evidence of existence of the city of Bethlehem in ancient times.

The artifact, called a “bulla,” is a piece of clay typically used as an official seal on a document or object. Impressed with the seal of the sender of the document, an intact “bulla” upon deliver was proof that a document had not been opened by anyone unauthorized to do so….

Three lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the artifact, including the words “Bat Lechem,” an ancient name for Bethlehem.

The artifact is of significant importance because that the area of biblical Bethlehem has yet to be archaeologically excavated, making the “bulla” the only proof of the city’s existence found outside of the bible. Elik Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said “There’s a difference between reading the name of a city in the Bible, and reading that name written in ancient Hebrew script on an artifact.”

Shukron provided some historical background for the object. “It seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (it is unclear if the king referred to here is Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem.The ‘bulla’ we found belongs to the group of ‘fiscal bullas’ – administrative ‘bullas’ used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE,” said Sukron….

“After many years of digging here, it’s the first time I found written evidence from the time of the First Temple that links Bethlehem to Jerusalem in an amazing way,” he said, adding that it was a very “exciting and important thing for this place [Jerusalem].”

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Cool archaeological find at Tel Megiddo

Haaretz reports:

In the summer of 2010, while digging in the area of the ancient palace at Tel Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University found a clay bowl containing a second clay bowl, inside of which was a small clay vessel, like some sort of ancient Russian nesting doll. The innermost vessel, which was packed with compressed dirt, was sent to the Weizmann Institute’s archaeology laboratory for a molecular analysis of its contents. Only after its return, six months later, did the archaeologists examine it.

The clay vessels that held the jewelry, which was discovered at Tel Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley.

To their surprise, the tiny clay pot was found to contain a precious treasure of gold and silver jewelry and semiprecious stones from 3,100 years ago. “This treasure began to pour out,” Prof. Israel Finkelstein of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures, related.

Finkelstein is a co-director of the Megiddo excavations, together with his TAU colleague Prof. David Ussishkin and Prof. Eric Cline of George Washington University.

The stash includes nine large earrings and a seal ring with a fish carved into it, all of them gold. The researchers also found more than 1,000 tiny beads made of gold, silver and carnelian, an orange semiprecious stone.

One of the earrings genuinely deserves to be called unique. It is shaped like a basket, inside of which is an ostrich and eight tiny animal figures, possibly goats. Nothing similar has ever been found in Israel or the entire Mediterranean region. The researchers believe its design was influenced by the Egyptian culture, which was dominant in the region at the time.

The archaeologists believe the collection dates from the early Iron Age, at around 1100 B.C.E. Megiddo was a Canaanite city-state under Egyptian rule at the time. At around 1130 B.C.E., the Egyptians withdrew from the area and Megiddo was destroyed. Finkelstein says the city thrived again later on.

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Why was the Dome of the Rock erased?

Jim Davila reports (in PaleoJudaica) about a pamphlet the Israeli military rabbinate passed out for Hanukkah, with a picture in it supposedly of Jerusalem in the days of the Second Temple. The accompanying photo, however, was a photoshopped image of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif with the Dome of the Rock removed and covered with a wispy ridge of clouds, while still preserving an image of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the right hand side of the page. The far northern edge of the Dome of the Rock plaza is also still there.

Haaretz reported:

Israel’s military rabbinate released an educational document ahead of the holiday of Hanukkah last month, featuring a photo of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount without the Dome of the Rock, Haaretz learned on Thursday.

The photo was featured in a packet prepared by the Military Rabbinate issued to Israel Defense Forces bases ahead of Hanukkah, under the section titled “The Festival of Jewish Heroism,” which included an article and a quiz on the Jewish struggle against Hellenistic rule.

The photograph is by Mikhail Levit, and I took it from Elder of Ziyon, who found the source. It is from a series of photographs of the Kotel by Levit (available on Jerusalem Shots). None of the other photographs erase the Dome of the Rock.

The IDF explained that the picture lacked the Dome of the Rock because it was “meant to illustrate Jerusalem during the period of the Second Temple. ‘As was explained to the reporter, the Dome of the Rock did not exist at that time, so there was no need for it to appear in the picture,’ the IDF said.” As Jim said, this explanation is “ridiculous.” The picture still has the Al Aqsa mosque in it, as well as the modern Kotel plaza with worshipers on the men’s and women’s sides – something that did not exist during the Second Temple period. No one could mistake this for a picture of Jerusalem in Second Temple times.

So the question is – why did the military rabbinate create a pamphlet for Hanukkah that used a photo that photoshopped away the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount? Was this genuinely an attempt to create an image from the Second Temple period? If so, why not photoshop in an image of the Temple and by the way eliminate the Al Aqsa mosque as well? Also – if this is depicting the Second Temple of Maccabean times, the Kotel shouldn’t be there at all, since it was only when Herod had the Second Temple rebuilt that the platform was expanded in size and the retaining walls were built to support it. Or why not just use a painting of the Second Temple and remove any doubt about what was being depicted.

Could the rabbinate’s use of this image be a hint towards the hope that the Dome of the Rock should be removed and replaced by the Third Temple? In that case, we might expect to see some kind of image of the rebuilt Temple.

It would be useful to see the entire pamphlet – perhaps that would answer these questions.

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Today in the Old City of Jerusalem

I arrived in Israel earlier this week, on Monday, and I’m just starting to get over jet lag. I walked around the Old City this afternoon with a friend, and we saw some interesting things – including the preparations for some kind of army ceremony at the Kotel (the Western Wall). I didn’t have my camera with me so I wasn’t able to get any photos of the scene.

The plaza was already pretty full of people. There were flags flying on the low wall that separates the prayer area from the plaza – I think they were of the army unit which was having the ceremony – יחידת שפיפון (according to Wikipedia it’s part of the paratroopers). My friend didn’t want to stay for the ceremony, although I was curious enough to want to stay, having never attended one before – she didn’t like the connection ceremonies like this make between the army and the Kotel. When I was visiting Israel in January 2003, I came across the preparations for a ceremony like this at the Kotel, but again didn’t see it (photo of that ceremony can be found below).

We then left the Old City to catch a cab back to our neighborhood. Just outside the Old City at the Dung Gate, we got a cab, and the driver insisted on taking a route through Silwan rather than driving on the road that hugs the Old City walls. We went down the very steep, unmaintained streets of Silwan and then up again into Abu Tor, and reentered the western part of the city. Below is a photo of Silwan, also from January 2003.

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