WELCOME

search results(33) clear filters

Humanities
NEWS

Archaeologists uncover bittersweet end of 1,800-year-old...

Why would Crusaders decorate a staircase with the carving of a menorah? This archaeological mystery — almost two millennia in the making — was recently solved, seven years after the Jewish symbol was discovered in a Hebrew University excavation of ancient Tiberias. The massive menorah, originally carved on a basalt tomb door, is tangible evidence of the city’s dramatic historical periods in the past centuries, under the world’s three major monotheistic religions.
Menorah carved into the door of a Jewish tomb, circa 150-350 CE found in Tiberias. (Tal Rogoveski)
The 68×78-centimeter (27×31 inch) seven-stemmed menorah was uncovered in a dig led by the Hebrew University’s Dr. Katya Tzitrin Silverman, which has been ongoing since 2009. The door the menorah decorated was typical of a Jewish tomb from circa 150-350 CE, said Silverman in conversation with The Times of Israel on Monday. After the fall of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem, Tiberias was a center for Jewish life. It is thought that the Sanhedrin, the court of Jewish law and scholarship, sat in Tiberias from circa 190 CE. Following Muslim conquest in 635 CE, the city became a seat for the early caliphate. It was during this period, archaeologist Silverman said, that the menorah door was reused as the base of a mosque, which was built on an earlier mosque, said Silverman. Because the door was not found in situ, researchers cannot exactly pinpoint its provenance. However, said Silverman, it is clear that the use of this door by the Muslims in building a mosque was highly intentional. The mosque, she said, also contained reused pagan and Christian pillars, which were put on display as corner pieces. These materials taken for intentional secondary use are called “spoila,” said Silverman. They are trophies, a way of clearly stating, “We’re building our structure on the backs of those who came before us,” she said. “There is an expression of victory and inheritance” in their use, she said. Interestingly, said Silverman, during the team’s excavations, it was discovered that there was a church located next to the mosque which used the spoila. According to an inscription found at the church’s nave, it was still in use until at least the 10th century. “There was only a street between them,” she said, adding that although they’ve found remains of what appears to be a pagan temple, the team has not yet found a synagogue on the site of the ancient religious hub. “It’s strange to think that in Israel we have one of the most important excavations for early Muslim mosque architecture,” said Silverman.
Where the menorah was discovered.
The mosque that was built was upon the menorah was destroyed in an earthquake in 1068. Subsequently, its building materials were reused by the Crusaders and so our menorah became the decoration for a staircase in a room in a sugar factory. Calling it Israel’s “first industrial revolution,” Silverman said that after the crop was introduced under Muslim rule, by the Crusader period, the whole area of the Jordan and Ginosar Valleys was cultivated for sugar production. The heart of residential Tiberias had by this period moved north and the sugar production was done on the outskirts of the city. Silverman said that the menorah’s meaning as a Jewish symbol is not likely to have been understood during the Crusader period. Its use as a step in a secular sugar factory was, if anything, “pragmatic” — a bittersweet end to the menorah, which started its life on a Jewish tomb.
Read the source article at The Times of Israel
Humanities
NEWS

Ancient Temple Built by the Descendent of A Vast Biblical...

BY  Experts working at the Horvat ‘Amuda site have said the drone images allowed them to pinpoint their dig.Drones flying over a military training area in Israel have revealed the location of an ancient temple built by the biblical Idumean people some 2,200 years ago.Subsequent excavations of the structure, spotted in military aerial photographs, uncovered a number of cultic jars and vessels and a rare hellenistic altar for the burning of incense decorated with the image of a bull.Experts working at the Horvat ‘Amuda site have said the drone images allowed them to pinpoint their dig, the Times of Israel reported.“This technology helped us choose where to focus our excavation probes, and, indeed, it very quickly emerged that this was in fact a unique discovery,” Oren Gutfeld of the Hebrew University, and Pablo Betzer and Michal Haber from the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.The temple discovered in the Lachish region military training area is just one of handful of Idumean buildings recovered in Israel. The ancient people settled across the holy lands until the civilization was wiped out by the Babylonians in B.C. 700.Trading across the region in the time of Alexander the Great they were eventually assimilated into the area’s Jewish population. The ancient carved city of Petra in modern Jordan remains one of the most prominent examples of remaining Idumean culture and architecture.Excavations at Horvat ‘Amuda revealed a series of rooms, one of them containing two stone incense altars. The bull image adorning one of them also showed the architecture of what appears to be a temple or a similar structure like a palace. "[This] may have symbolized a deity worshipped by the Idumeans,” Israel’s Archaeological Authority said in a statement. It added that as well as painted bowls, juglets and oil lamps made of delicate pottery the altar was a rare and significant find.The temple appears to have been dismantled on purpose rather than destroyed. Experts believe this may have occurred in around 112 B.C. during the conquests of the Hasmonean king, John Hyrcanus I.The Hasmonean dynasty that ruled Judea and the surrounding area at the time sacked Maresha, a nearby Idumean stronghold, home to 6,000-10,000 people. As part of the conquests locals were forced to convert to the Jewish faith or leave the area.Numerous archaeological discoveries have been made in and around Horvat ‘Amuda including remains dating from the Jewish revolts against the Romans in the second century.Read the source article at Newsweek
Alumni

SPOTLIGHTS

Lanita Warner

READ MORE
Humanities
NEWS

First time in Israel: Ancient deer bones discovered near Sea...

In an unprecedented find, Israeli archeologists recently unearthed the first evidence of ancient deer bones on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, near the Jordan Valley. According to researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Earth Sciences and the Geological Survey of Israel, the remains are approximately 9 million years old. The discovery was initially made by two doctoral candidates at the university, Alexis Rosenbaum and Dotan Shaked-Gelband, who were reconstructing the lake’s stretch to characterize the composition of its ancient waters, the university said Monday. “The bones were partly submerged in a coastal sediment, and it is assumed that the animal apparently died on the shore of the lake and was eroded,” the researchers said in a joint statement. “The presence of an ancient deer is not rare in assemblages during the same period, but this is the first time such remains have been discovered in Israel. The reason for this apparently lies in the processes of extinction and burial.” The researchers added that the presence of the deer is also “indicative of a rich world of terrestrial animals” known from other areas of the Levant and the Mediterranean basin. “Moreover, the development of freshwater bodies during the Miocene Epoch (23 million to 5.3 million years ago) in the Mediterranean basin allowed the distribution of reindeer from Asia to the West,” they noted. The researchers said that studies of this type are of great importance in understanding regional climate change in recent years, as well as the development of the Mediterranean Sea.Read the source article at Jpost
Leadership

SPOTLIGHTS

Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer

READ MORE
Humanities
NEWS

4,000-Year-Old Jar of Headless Toads Discovered in Jerusalem...

In one of the rock-cut tombs, archaeologists made a rare discovery: a jar full of bones from nine headless toads. The toads had been decapitated before they were buried with the dead, possibly as a way to prepare the animals to be "eaten." Finding a tomb that's been sealed for thousands of years is always a treat for archaeologists —especially when that tomb contains a jar of headless toads. That's what archaeologists discovered inside a 4,000-year-old burial in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced yesterday (Sept. 25). The excavators think the jar might have been a funeral offering to feed the dead in the afterlife. In 2014, archaeologists were excavating at a Bronze Age cemetery of more than 60 rock-cut tombs in Jerusalem's Manaḥat neighborhood. They discovered a sealed tomb, and after they rolled back the stone that was covering its opening, they found one poorly preserved human skeleton. The person had been buried lying on their back among intact ceramic bowls and jars. Based on the style of the pottery, the researchers think the tomb likely dates to the early part of the Middle Bronze Age (about 4,000 years ago). [See Photos of the Burial and Headless Toad Remains] One of the jars held a heap of small bones from nine toads that had all been decapitated. "It is impossible to determine what role the toads played, but they are clearly part of the funerary rituals," Shua Kisilevitz, one of the excavation directors with the IAA, told Live Science. Kisilevitz added that during this period toads were a symbol of regeneration for people in Egypt (the neighbors and sometimes overlords of the ancient Canaanites who lived in the Levant). But it's also possible that the toads had a more practical function: At the time, the dead were often buried with offerings that would serve them in their passage to the afterlife. "Food offerings are a staple of burial customs during this period, and there is a possibility that the toads were indeed placed in the jar as such," Kisilevitz said. The fact that they were decapitated is another clue: One way to prepare toads for eating is to remove the head and edges of the limbs so that the sometimes-toxic skin could be removed, Kisilevitz added. While rare, the jar of toads isn't entirely unprecedented. Kisilevitz said she knows of a Late Bronze Age tomb at Wadi Ara in the north of Israel that also included a vessel with decapitated toads. Dafna Langgut, an archaeology researcher at Tel Aviv University, found that the vessels in the Manahat tomb came into contact with date palms and myrtle bushes, which do not grow naturally in this area. The researchers think it's possible that these trees and bushes were planted in a special orchard where funeral rituals for food offerings to the dead were held. The findings will be presented Oct. 18 at an archaeology conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.Read the source article at Live Science
Humanities

SPOTLIGHTS

Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity

READ MORE
Humanities
NEWS

Professor Hanoch Gutfreund

Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, alumnus and former President of the Hebrew University, Professor Emeritus of theoretical physics, and the Andre Aisenstadt Chair in theoretical physics received the 2016 Solomon Bublick Prize. As the Academic Director of the Einstein Center and the Albert Einstein Archives, where Einstein’s intellectual property resides, he is the university’s appointee responsible for Einstein’s intellectual property. He held many academic and administrative positions at the university, and currently heads the executive committee of the Israel Science Foundation and is the chairperson of the “Basha’ar – Academic Community for Israeli Society” association.Einstein_planned_giving   During 2015, the world celebrated the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s discovery of General Relativity. In recognition of this important centennial, AFHU spoke with Hebrew University Professor Hanoch Gutfreund. Professor Gutfreund discusses two theories of relativity: the special theory of relativity which Einstein formulated in 1905, his “miraculous year,” and Einstein’s 1915 presentation to the Royal Academy of Science in Berlin on the General Theory of Relativity. Einstein was also a founder of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Alumni

SPOTLIGHTS

Eric Stein

READ MORE
Alumni

SPOTLIGHTS

Alex Sorin

READ MORE
Alumni

SPOTLIGHTS

Helen Epstein

READ MORE
Alumni

SPOTLIGHTS

Max Epstein

READ MORE
Alumni

SPOTLIGHTS

Martin Zuckerman

READ MORE
Humanities

SPOTLIGHTS

Dr. Eyal Ginio

READ MORE
Humanities

SPOTLIGHTS

Professor Benjamin Pollock

READ MORE
Humanities

SPOTLIGHTS

Dr. Shoham Choshen-Hillel

READ MORE
Humanities
NEWS

Expressing Anger Can Make You Happier, According to Study |

Are your children getting on your last nerve? Did a coworker’s comment rub you the wrong way? There’s no need to plug the steam coming out of your ears. In fact, science now gives you full permission to let those emotions rip; you might actually be happier for it. If that seems counterintuitive, hear us out. A new study suggests that people tend to be happier if they can feel and express emotions as they want. That goes for unpleasant emotions like anger and hatred, too. An international team of researchers recruited 2,300 university students from the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, Israel, Poland, and Singapore. They then asked the participants to tell them which emotions they desired and which ones they actually felt, and then compared those responses to how the participants rated their overall happiness or life satisfaction. The results showed an interesting trend. While participants across the board wanted to experience more pleasant emotions, they reported higher life satisfaction if the emotions they experienced matched those they desired. More surprising still, 11 percent of people wanted to feel less of positive emotions, such as love and empathy, and 10 percent of people wanted to feel more negative emotions, such as hatred and anger. At first glance, these results might seem confusing. But there’s a simple explanation, according to the study’s authors. Happiness is “more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain,” they write. It is also learning to release negative emotions when you feel them, instead of ignoring them or bottling them up. (And truth be told, money CAN buy happiness if you spend it like this.) “If you feel emotions you want to feel, even if they’re unpleasant, then you’re better off,” lead researcher Dr Maya Tamir from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem told the BBC News website. “Someone who feels no anger when reading about child abuse might think they should be angrier about the plight of abused children, so want to feel more anger than they actually do in that moment.” Sounds simple enough. But in case your anger gets too out of hand, try these tips to get calm fast.Read the source article at Reader’s Digest
Humanities
NEWS

Ancient inscription unearthed in Jerusalem, thrilling...

An ancient Greek inscription was found on a 1,500-year-old mosaic floor near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Byzantine emperor Justinian, who ruled in the 6th century A.D., is mentioned in the inscription, which was deciphered by Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It reads: “In the time of our most pious emperor Flavius Justinian, also this entire building Constantine the most God-loving priest and abbot, established and raised, in the 14th indiction.” EXPERTS UNCOVER EVIDENCE OF ANCIENT JERUSALEM'S DESTRUCTION BY THE BABYLONIANS In a statement released by the Israel Antiquities Authority, Dr. Di Segni explained that the inscription commemorates the building’s founding by a priest called Constantine. “Indiction,” she noted, is an ancient method of counting years that was used for taxation purposes. The mosaic has been dated to 550 or 551 A.D - experts believe that the room was used as a hostel for pilgrims. The floor was discovered this summer during preparations for laying communications cables near the Damascus Gate. “The fact that the inscription survived is an archaeological miracle,” said David Gellman, who directed the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Gellman noted that ancient remains at the site had been badly damaged by groundwork in recent decades. “We were about to close the excavation, when all of a sudden, a corner of the mosaic inscription peeked out between the pipes and cables. Amazingly, it had not been damaged.” An important historical figure, Flavius Justinian was emperor when the later Roman empire completed its conversion to Christianity. He also established a large church in Jerusalem dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, known as The Nea Church, also known as The New Church. The church’s abbot was Constantine, whose name also appears on the mosaic floor near the Damascus Gate. Di Segni notes that the mosaic floor inscription is similar to an inscription found in the vaults of The Nea Church. "This new inscription helps us understand Justinian's building projects in Jerusalem, especially the Nea Church,” she wrote. “The rare combination of archaeological finds and historical sources, woven together, is incredible to witness, and they throw important light on Jerusalem's past." LOST ROMAN CITY THAT WAS HOME TO JESUS' APOSTLES FOUND, SAY ARCHAEOLOGISTS The ancient mosaic inscription has been removed from the site and is being treated at the Israel Antiquities Authority’s mosaic workshop in Jerusalem. The discovery is just the latest fascinating archaeological find in Jerusalem. Archaeologists excavating the City of David in Israel’s Jerusalem Walls National Park recently uncovered charred wood, grape seeds, pottery, fish scales and bones and numerous rare artifacts that date back to the city’s demise at the hands of the Babylonians more than 2,600 years ago.Read the source article at Fox News
Humanities
NEWS

Hebrew U. conference explores history of Jewish names...

The conference was founded in 1991 by Bar-Ilan University Prof. Aaron Demsky, an expert in the field of Jewish names. Bar-Ilan University Prof. Aaron Demsky.. (photo credit:Courtesy) The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is hosting an international conference on the history and origin of Jewish names. The 13th biannual International Conference on Jewish Names, which takes place today at the Mount Scopus campus, features 20 lecturers and academics from Israel, Poland, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Canada, Italy and the United States – all of whom study Jewish onomastics, or name studies, in their country of origin. The conference was founded in 1991 by Bar-Ilan University Prof. Aaron Demsky, an expert in the field of Jewish names. Demsky organized the event together with the 17th World Jewish Congress and the faculty of Jewish Studies and the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University. According to Demsky: “This conference is a reflection of the interdisciplinary nature and relevance of Jewish names from multiple disciplines as well as the wide-ranging history of Jewish names from biblical times to modern Israel. “The conference will also place emphasis on Jewish communities in the Diaspora facing questions of identity... one’s name speaks volumes and an immigrant’s relationship to his birth name – especially when it is ‘different’ or ‘strange’ – reflects his relationship to his old and new cultures, old and new identities.” The conference’s content is presented in historical chronological order and is divided into six sections, starting with names in the Bible and Rabbinical literature, then early Diaspora Jewish communities in Italy and Spain, followed by early Ashkenazi communities in Germany and Poland, plus lectures highlighting the meanings of names in communities in Morocco and Baghdad. The latter half of the program focuses on the 18th and 19th centuries, and introduces the works of “gentile scholars who are interested in the study of Jewish names,” said Demsky. “For many of these speakers, this is the first time they are coming to Israel,” he explained. “This conference is not only about academics, but about building connections and making ties with gentile academics with an interest in this field of research.” Section five looks at contemporary Jewish names in the 20th century and how the establishment of Israel and revival of the Hebrew language allowed for the introduction and reintroduction of a whole new set of names for the Jewish and Israeli experience. The event will conclude with a lecture by Israeli author Haim Be’er, who will discuss how he chooses the names of his characters. Bringing the conference full circle, Be’er compares his process of naming characters to one of the first stories in the Bible. “Exactly like Adam, whose first act after his creation was to give names to all animals, birds and living creatures around him, so I, too, must face repeatedly the same dilemma: What name should I give to the characters of the novel that is taking shape in my mind? Name giving is an act that is more mysterious and obscure than revealed and obvious,” said Be’er.Read the source article at Jpost
Humanities
Humanities
NEWS

The Secret To Happiness Is Giving Yourself Permission To...

Most science-backed shortcuts to happiness – like working out, smiling more and practicing gratitude ― focus on the positive, and they’re helpful indeed. But a new study concludes that for some people, embracing negative feelings may be one of the most powerful ways to feel happier overall. In a study published in this month’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, researchers surveyed more than 2,300 college-age students in eight countries including the U.S., Brazil and China. Students were asked which emotions they wanted to feel more and less of in daily life ― like love, anger and excitement ― and which ones they actually felt. They also answered questions that measured for depressive symptoms and overall well-being. Many students said they wanted to feel more pleasant emotions, like love and empathy, than they felt on a regular basis. However, 11 percent wanted to feel fewer pleasant emotions, and 10 percent wanted to feel more unpleasant emotions, like anger and hatred. Overall, study participants who actually felt the emotions they desired reported greater life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms. In other words, when their emotions felt right to them, they felt happier, even if the emotions they felt weren’t happy ones. It likely all comes down to which emotions you value as a person, according to main author Maya Tamir, a psychology professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “For example, someone who feels no anger when reading about child abuse might think she should be angrier about the plight of abused children, so she wants to feel more anger than she actually does in that moment,” the American Psychological Association explained in a summary. “A woman who wants to leave an abusive partner but isn’t willing to do so may be happier if she loved him less.” If we are able to accept and even welcome the emotions that we have, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, we are likely to be happier and more satisfied. Of course, the same emotions aren’t “right” for everyone, and the reason they feel right depends on a person’s social, cultural and personal values. Take anger, for example. ″...For a minority group member who seeks justice because people in the majority mistreat him, feeling anger may just be the right emotion,” the study authors wrote. “Whether an emotion is right, therefore, depends on the goals and needs of each individual... Whereas anger may feel right to some, it may feel wrong to others.” “Wanting to be happy or joyful all the time is not very realistic,” Tamir told HuffPost. “Never wanting to feel sadness or anger or fear is not realistic. If we are able to accept and even welcome the emotions that we have, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, we are likely to be happier and more satisfied.” The study only analyzed one class of negative emotions, called negative self-enhancing emotions, which include hatred, hostility, anger and contempt. The authors suggested future research should be conducted on other negative feelings like fear, guilt and sadness. Next time you want a happiness boost, try listening to a sad song or having a good cry. Science knows it may be just what you need.Read the source article at HuffPost
Humanities
NEWS

Hebrew University Launches World’s Largest Jewish Art...

The online Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art preserves the rich artistic heritage of the Jewish people throughout time and across the globeAugust 9, 2017 — The Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem launched the world’s largest online database of Jewish art today at the World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.The Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art is a collection of digitized images and information about Jewish artifacts from all over the world. The online collection includes more than 260,000 images of objects and artifacts from 700 museums, synagogues and private collections in 41 different countries, as well as architectural drawings of 1,500 synagogues and Jewish ritual buildings from antiquity to the modern day.The public can access the Bezalel Index of Jewish Art and start exploring the world of Jewish art at http://cja.huji.ac.il/browser.php. Amateur or professional researchers easily access more than a quarter of a million images, with accompanying details and descriptions, either by simple keyword search or according to such categories as Iconographical Subject, Origin, Artist, Object, Community, Collection, or Location.The Center for Jewish Art is the world’s foremost institution dedicated to the preservation of the Jewish artistic heritage. The Center’s activities include documentation, research, education, and publishing. Under the direction of Dr. Vladimir Levin, the Center has in recent years worked steadily toward completing the Index by photographing, measuring and painstakingly describing and categorizing each piece to be made available online to the public.“Jewish culture is largely perceived as a culture of texts and ideas, not of images. As the largest virtual Jewish museum in the world, the Index of Jewish Art is a sophisticated tool for studying visual aspects of Jewish heritage. We hope that making this Index available will lead to further in-depth study of primary sources, and serve as an enduring launching pad for the study of the historical and cultural significance of Jewish art for many years to come,” said Dr. Levin.The extensive collection contains over 100,000 entries in the Jewish Ritual Architecture category alone. “We cannot physically preserve all Jewish buildings everywhere, but we can preserve them visually through documentation and drawings,” said Dr. Levin.The Israeli government recognized The Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art as a non-tangible national heritage in 2012, and it is today considered the most comprehensive database of Jewish art in the world, existing as a virtual museum available to all.The digitization of the Center for Jewish Art archives became possible in the framework of a joint project with the National Library of Israel and Judaica Division of Harvard University Library. It was generously funded by the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, “Landmarks” Program of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Judaica Book Fund endowments established by David B. Keidan (Harvard), as well as by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, The Morris and Beverly Baker Foundation, Mrs. Josephine Urban, and Mr. William Gross.Professor Bezalel Narkiss was an Israel Prize laureate who established the Hebrew University’s Department of Art History in 1966 with his colleague Professor Moshe Barasch. In 1979 Narkiss established the Center for Jewish Art with the goal of creating a research center that focuses on investigating and preserving Jewish visual art. Since then, the Center has employed a small but dedicated group of professionals and graduate students who routinely go on documentation expeditions all over the world.On these trips abroad, researchers document six categories of Jewish art: Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts, Sacred and Ritual Objects, Jewish Cemeteries, Ancient Jewish Art, Modern Jewish Art, and Jewish Ritual Architecture. Some of the pieces documented are no longer in existence but have a permanent place in the vast index that has taken more than 30 years to collect and six years to digitize. In some cases, the researchers were able to document an object just in time, such as right before a crumbling East European synagogue collapsed to its foundation, or a ritual object disappeared into obscurity at an auction.One such expedition that researchers from the Center went on occurred in Siberia in 2015. While researchers give extra attention to areas of Europe where Jewish communities were ravaged during World War Two and have inherited the worst crisis of heritage preservation in the aftermath of the destruction brought on by the Holocaust, the former Soviet Union’s Jewish communities in the far north have also fared poorly.Researchers on the expedition found that many synagogues, long since abandoned, were on the verge of collapse. Many Jewish cemeteries had been destroyed over the years or were in such a state of dilapidation and neglect that they were in danger of disappearing. While the expedition team worked tirelessly at documenting the objects that they could find, they also attempted to raise awareness among the locals of the importance of preserving Jewish heritage sites, not just for Jewish communities, but also as a significant part of their own history and culture.The Center has more exciting projects lined up in the coming months. The monograph Synagogues of Ukraine: Volhynia, by Dr. Sergey Kravtsov and Dr. Vladimir Levin, is due to be published this summer. “Historic Synagogues of Europe,” a joint project with the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, will be opened to the public in November 2017. It will offer, for the first time, an inventory of all of the historic synagogues of Europe, rating them according to their significance and condition, therefore providing a comprehensive and strategic perspective for the preservation of European Jewish heritage. 
Humanities
NEWS

An exciting conversation with Rabbi Steinsaltz –...

President Reuven Rivlin called Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz Sunday to congratulate the rabbi and wish him good health on his 80th birthday. Rabbi Steinsaltz is considered one of the great rabbinical commentators and scholars of this generation, and has written numerous world-renowned commentaries on the Bible, the Talmud, and many other religious Jewish texts. Rabbi Steinsaltz suffered a stroke six months ago. The rabbi recently returned to work, to the joy and relief of his students and colleagues. An event was held earlier this month in celebration of the release of Rabbi Steinsaltz's new commentary of the works of the Rambam (Maimonides). President Rivlin called Rabbi Steinsaltz by the title for Torah sages, "our teacher and rabbi." The president noted that he had learned Talmud in his youth, but not as much as he would have liked. "Had there been a Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud when I was young, we would have learnt much more Talmud at the Hebrew Gymnasium school in Jerusalem." The president concluded the conversation with a blessing: "Congratulations, and you should have many more productive and good years, first of all with good health, as well as wisdom and the continued ability to learn, to teach, and to glorify the Torah in Israel. Those in the room during the conversation said that the rabbi was very moved by the president's words and warm wishes. Rabbi Adin Even Yisrael-Steinsaltz was born in Jerusalem in 1937 to a secular family. He studied chemistry and physics at the Hebrew University, worked as a school principal, became observant and chose to focus on the writing of Jewish books on various subjects, the most famous of which was the 'Steinzaltz Talmud,' a commentary on all 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud. Rabbi Steinsaltz received the Israel Prize for Jewish studies in 1988 and the President's Prize for his scholarship in Talmud from former President Shimon Peres in 2012.Read the source article at Israel News
Humanities
NEWS

China, India, and Israel’s Strategic Calculus

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Yitzhak Shichor – Professor Emeritus and The Michael William Lipson Chair in Chinese Studies at The Hebrew University in Israel – is the 101st in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”Assess key outcomes of Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s recent visit to Israel.To appreciate the full significance of Modi’s visit, one has to know the history of Israel-India relations. Reluctantly, India recognized Israel on September 18, 1950, the fifth Asian country [to do so], but, because no full diplomatic relations were approved for over 40 years, Israel was unofficially represented by an honorary consul in Calcutta. Yet, the two countries maintained backdoor relations, which included Israeli military shipments following the 1962 Sino-Indian confrontation. Because of its rivalry with Pakistan, substantial Muslim population, and dependence on Arab oil, India preferred to hide these relations.In fact, India, and Asia in general, had not been that important for Israel before the early 1990s. By that time, India could no longer fall behind China, which set up relations with Israel and thereby facilitated its breakthrough to Asia. Since then India’s relations with Israel have prospered, with India becoming Israel’s leading arms market and a substantial economic partner. Yet, no Indian leader had dared set foot in Israel until Modi’s arrival. Needless to say, scores of framework agreements were signed but because military and economic relations have been going on anyway, and because India has hardly changed its political orientation and association with the Arabs and the Palestinians, the main outcome of the visit, and still the most significant, was symbolic.What is the potential impact of closer Israeli-Indian strategic cooperation on China?Little impact, if any, is expected in politics since both China and India still side with the Arabs and the Palestinians and have hardly supported Israel in international organizations. It may affect military relations. Under U.S. pressure, Israel was forced to stop arms sales to China, following which India has become its main client. Fully aware of these military transactions, Beijing has usually and publicly kept quiet about it and failed to criticize Israel. Actually, Israel’s arms sales to India have legitimized China’s arms sales to Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. However, there are indications that Beijing is beginning to take the Indian threat more seriously than before, which means that the Chinese may become more sensitive to the Indo-Israeli military nexus and, therefore, apply pressure on Israel to stop or restrict arms shipments to India. Beyond this, India becomes a significant player in the trilateral economic competition.What factors precipitated the shift toward stronger relations between India and Israel?Initially, it was Beijing’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, as well as the Soviet collapse, which had driven India to establish official relations with Israel. They have been given a boost over the last few years by India’s realization that politics could be separated from economics; governments could continue supporting the Arabs and the Palestinians and still enjoy good technological and economic relations with Israel. Also, the virtual disintegration of the Arab Middle East; the never-ending conflicts and confrontations; and the emergence of Islamic radicalism and terrorism (that have also affected India), underline Israel as a democratic island of stability and as a source of mutually beneficial cooperation. For Israel, India represents a huge economic and military market that, together with China, offers Israel access to nearly half of the world population, which had been beyond its reach before.As Beijing enhances China’s leadership role in the Middle East, and Israel strengthens ties to India, what is Israel’s strategic calculus?Unlike most observers, I don’t think that “Beijing enhances China’s leadership role in the Middle East,” definitely not in political terms. Beijing is still careful to avoid becoming involved, least of all mediate, in regional conflicts. Its participation in UN peacekeeping forces, special envoy to the Middle East, evacuation of Chinese nationals from conflict zones (Libya, Sudan, Yemen), and cooperation in anti-piracy operations, do not reflect greater involvement, let alone leadership, and still indicate a low profile and limited commitment. In fact, these triangular relations (Israel, China, India) are predicated on the assumption of little external intervention in the conflict. In this respect, Jerusalem’s strategic calculus – implicitly shared by India and China – is to pay lip service to politics (including the absorption of anti-Israel votes in international organizations, which are mostly meaningless anyway) and gain trilateral benefits from economic and military relations.Explain the U.S.-Israel dynamic in the Israel-China-India nexus.Willingly or not, Israel is heavily dependent on the United States, for better or worse. Israel’s military transfers to China began in the late 1970s, with Washington’s knowledge, approval, and perhaps encouragement. Israel served as a convenient proxy to make Beijing stronger against Moscow, which warned the U.S. not to arm China. Yet, following the Soviet collapse China, no longer an unofficial ally, has become a “threat.” Israel was now forced to stop providing China with arms and military technology and this prohibition has affected much of Israel’s civilian (or dual-use) hi-tech exports to China. Today, the U.S. is the main obstacle to expanding Israel’s relations with China. No such U.S. limitations apply to India. Put differently, the future of Israel-China relations depends to a great extent on the future of U.S.-China relations. Beijing is fully aware of Israel’s predicament and of the inconceivable cost Israel would have to pay for resuming military relations with China.Read the source article at The Diplomat Magazine
Humanities
NEWS

UAlbany professors’ database tracks terrorist groups

Albany When Australian experts wanted to know which terrorist groups pay pirates to capture ships, steal cargo and ransom the crews to provide new revenue for terrorists, they teamed up with two University of Albany professors to find the answers. Karl Rethemeyer, interim dean of Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, and political science associate professor Victor Asal are creators of a database named BAAD — Big, Allied and Dangerous. BAAD is packed with in-depth information on hundreds of terrorist groups, their alliances and whether those ties are based on religion, ideology, affection or cold cash. BAAD can also monitor which groups abandon politics to become nothing more than criminal gangs. It can track which terrorists abandon violence to become elected officials. It also assesses which terrorists are likeliest to develop weapons of mass destruction—and hit the button. Rethemeyer and Asal offer BAAD as a tool for journalists and researchers striving to separate political spin and fake news from reality and facts. BAAD's data is harvested from declassified documents, news articles, academic papers and even selected social media threads. Rethemeyer and Asal met in 2003 as the United States prepared to invade Iraq based on what later proved to be erroneous intelligence reports. "We were both looking for a project that would help us get tenure so we went to Sovrana's to brainstorm over pizza," Rethemeyer said. By the time they got to Death in a Cup, the Albany pizzeria and deli's signature chocolate-drizzled custard dessert, they had envisioned a unique project. Rethemeyer has long been fascinated by how networks function. He earned his master's from the London School of Economics before getting his Ph.D. from Harvard. Asal has master's degrees from both Tufts University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "We decided to focus on non-state actors who kill civilians intentionally for the purpose of changing a political regime," Asal explained. "The database also includes insurgents who did not kill civilians but have caused at least 25 battle deaths of soldiers or policemen." The pair immediately drafted teams of students to review all English-language reporting they can find on a region or terrorist group. Linguistic software complements their work by translating documents from Arabic, Mandarin, Russian and other key languages. But "robot linguists" have limits; they don't grasp sarcasm and often stumble over idioms. While BAAD calculates a set of 30 to 40 terrorist groups want to strike on the U.S., its data also has contradicted several common beliefs held among U.S. officials about terrorism. Former president George W. Bush's "global war on terrorism", for example, seemed a misnomer since most terrorist groups have no interest in attacking America. And FARC guerrillas devastated Colombia for decades but had no plans to attack America or its embassy. Then in 2007, the Federal Bureau of Investigation described "environmental terrorism" America's "number one threat." Environmental Liberation Front members occupied four of 11 spots on the FBI's Most Wanted domestic terrorists list. BAAD disagreed. "To this day, American environmentalist and animal rights groups have never killed anyone, not one human," Rethemeyer said. Academics, U.S. and foreign government agencies are interested in BAAD's intelligence. Rethemeyer recently spoke to South Korea's National Assembly and Korean intelligence agencies about how North Korea might use terrorists. ("It's a mistake for anyone to dismiss Kim Jong Un as a buffoon or a fool; he is sane and insecure and knows he can trust no one in his government," Rethemeyer said.) The professors have applied for grants to expand BAAD's scope to include American groups who threaten violence against perceived enemies ranging from gun background check advocates to government workers alleged to be part of the "Deep State," a term conspiracy theorists apply to a stealth insurgency they believe plots against the president. The men are interested in how even inaccurate rhetoric about terrorism by elected officials and journalists can be used to justify political goals or government spending. And they believe it is crucial for Americans to know that terrorism is not the prosaic danger here that it is in the Middle East or even in Europe. Statistics indicate Americans should feel more secure. "I tell Americans that statistics show they have a bigger danger of being killed by their toddlers than of being murdered by a terrorist," Rethemeyer said.Read the source article at timesunion.com
Leadership
NEWS

Prof. Asher Cohen Elected Next President of the Hebrew...

July 3, 2017 — The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is pleased to announce that its Board of Governors, headed by its Chairman Mr. Michael Federmann, has elected Professor Asher Cohen as the next President of the Hebrew University.Professor Cohen will succeed Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson, who led the University for the last eight years. He will begin serving as President on September 1, 2017.Professor Cohen was elected President after serving for five years as Rector of the University. As Rector, Professor Cohen led many important initiatives. Among these are recruiting top researchers from Israel and abroad, opening new and innovative academic programs, refreshing the university’s curricula, and developing in-depth processes for continually improving the education of university students, in cooperation with the Student Union.After graduating from the Hebrew University with a B.A. in Economics and an M.A. in Psychology, Professor Cohen completed his doctoral and post-doctoral studies at the University of Oregon in the United States. He served as a senior lecturer at Indiana University before returning in the early 1990s to the Hebrew University’s Department of Psychology, in the Faculty of Social Sciences. From 2008 to 2012, he served as the head of the Department of Psychology, after which he was appointed Rector, a position he currently holds.Professor Cohen’s research in the cognitive sciences focuses on the relationship between the human perception system and human response mechanisms in situations that require very fast motor responses. In the framework of his research, Professor Cohen developed a theoretical model that successfully predicts the situations in which performing two tasks simultaneously will lead to a decline in abilities.At the request of incoming President Professor Asher Cohen and Chairman of the Board of Governors Mr. Michael Federmann, the Board of Governors appointed outgoing President Professor Ben-Sasson as Chancellor of the Hebrew University. As Chancellor, he will undertake a variety of tasks which will be assigned to him from time to time by the President, particularly in the area of relations with donors, key supporters, and government officials in Israel and around the world, to advance the University’s development plans.Chairman of the Board of Governors Mr. Michael Federmann congratulated the Board of Governors, wished Prof. Asher Cohen success, and thanked Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson for his service. Said Federmann: “In the coming years, Professor Asher Cohen will lead the university to even greater academic heights. At the end of his two terms in office, I thank Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson for his great contributions to establishing the Hebrew University’s leading position in Israel and around the world, to which he will continue to contribute as Chancellor.”
Humanities
NEWS

Youth Summit for Peace Takes Place in Jerusalem

July 2, 2017 — 75 Christian, Jewish and Muslim youth from around the world gathered at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for a unique summit, in answer to Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter for peace. Students ages 15 and 16 from Argentina, Brazil, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Mexico, Spain, and other countries joined their Palestinian and Israeli counterparts for four days of learning through arts, sports, technology, and living together.

Students from Burundi and Congo perform a song in Swahili at the opening ceremony of the Interreligious Citizenship Encounter. The female singer from Burundi’s name is “Shalom.” (Credit: Scholas Occurentes)

At the opening ceremony, young people expressed their hopes for peace through a variety of artistic presentations. Students from Burundi and Congo performed a song in Swahili; Palestinian students from Beit Hanina performed “Imagine” by John Lennon, and Israeli students from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance sang of peace in Hebrew.Three senior religious leaders, representing the three Abrahamic faiths, gave opening benedictions as part of an interreligious prayer for peace: Kadi Iyad Zahalka, The Kadi of Jerusalem and the Head of the Sharia Courts of Israel; His Eminence Mons. Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel; and Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Dov Rosen, the Rabbi of Yakar Congregation in Jerusalem.

Palestinian students perform at the opening ceremony (Credit: Scholas Occurentes)

The summit, from July 2-5, 2017, is co-organized by the Pontifical Scholas Occurrentes (“Scholas”) and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace (“Truman Institute”) at the Hebrew University. Within the framework of this gathering, two major events are taking place: “
Scholas Chairs International Congress 2017: Between University and School – Peacebuilding through Culture of Encounter” and “Interreligious Citizenship Encounter.”The closing ceremony on Wednesday, July 5 is expected to include greetings from Pope Francis, together with the planting of a traditional olive tree for peace in his name, as students describe their experiences and present their works of art and their social projects.Among the dignitaries present representing Scholas Occurentes were José María del Corral, President of the Pontifical Foundation Scholas Occurrentes; and for the Holy See, His Eminence Mons. Angelo Zani, General Secretary of the Congregation For Catholic Education and His Eminence Mons. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Vice President of Pontifical Foundation Scholas Occurrentes and Great Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Religious leaders pose with organizers of the Interreligious Citizenship Encounter (Credit: Scholas Occurentes)

Attending from the Hebrew University were Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson, President; Professor Asher Cohen, Rector and President-elect; Amb. Yossi Gal, Vice President for Advancement and External Relations; and Ms. Naama Shpeter, Executive Director of the Truman Institute and Conference Chair.Speaking at a meeting with leaders of Scholas and the Hebrew University at his residence on February 7, Pope Francis said: “Religion can bring us together and teach us to create the bonds of friendship. With the intuition of Scholas and the intelligence and history of the Hebrew University, I am sure that this will produce great changes in the world.”Scholas (http://web.scholasoccurrentes.org/en) is an international educational organization created by Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, which was adopted as a global youth project of the Vatican, to educate young people in the commitment for the common good.The Truman Institute (http://truman.huji.ac.il) is the first and largest research institute in the Middle East to examine conflict resolution and propose peaceful solutions for the region, and fostering discussion and understanding on the challenges facing Israelis and Palestinians and the citizens of the developing world. 
Humanities
NEWS

Hebrew University Archaeologists Find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls...

February 8, 2017 – Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12.
Ziad Abu Ganem and student filter material from cave
The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the help of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia.The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.
 

Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.
Cloth that was used for wrapping the scrolls
Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Finding this additional scroll cave means we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) attributed to the Dead Sea scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”Dr. Gutfeld added: “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons, and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

“The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.”Photo credits: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld