Research says you shouldn’t feel singled out for flying solo on Valentine’s Day

      The whole love and marriage thing isn’t for everyone, but sometimes it feels like it should be — especially for those who frequently find themselves sitting at the kids’ table at one Jewish function or another.

      Fortunately, if you’re enjoying the single life, a new book by Hebrew University’s Dr. Elyakim Kislev confirms that you are not alone: Singles are statistically likelier to have more fun, more active and far-reaching social networks — and yes — a better sex life than their married friends.

      For his book, “Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living,” the Israel-born Kislev analyzed data from 300,000 people in 31 countries, and conducted in-depth interviews with 150. The research concluded that not only are there a growing number of single people – 25 percent of people in the United States today will never marry – but that their solitude is an increasingly conscious decision.

      Thirty percent of men and 26% of women in Japan, Kislev says, don’t consider their singledom a stop on the path to marriage, but a destination in itself. This can be attributed, he says, to factors such as increased social and financial independence for women, as well as the ubiquity of social media.

      Full disclosure: “Happy Singlehood” might not help you make the case to concerned friends or family about why you’re staying home with a good book this Valentine’s Day. But it can go a long way towards soothing the seeds of doubt sown by those who think they’ve got it all figured out.

      “You’re missing an absolutely beautiful day in Tel Aviv,” Kislev tells a reporter who telephoned him from the library in what was once Gestapo headquarters in Berlin.

      Dr. Elyakim Kislev, author of ‘Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living.’ (Courtesy)

      With the wind blowing and the mercury hovering uncomfortably close to the freezing point, Berlin’s signature steel-gray skies aren’t particularly encouraging — and the symbolism behind Kislev’s comparatively sunny view doesn’t go unnoticed. After all, the 37-year-old “Happy Singlehood” author is happily single himself, and says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

      “Singles are now the majority in many Western countries,” Kislev says. “And there’s so much potential for tapping into them as a group. They can be organized into voting blocs; in consumerism there can be certain products targeted at them, housing markets, fashion – it’s really endless.”

      Kislev took a break between meetings to share with The Times of Israel why he believes that not only will the singles phenomenon continue to grow, but that we should already be adapting to it.

      The following interview has been edited.

      Okay, first off — is this book just a way of explaining to your parents why you’re still single?

      Not really. If I wanted to answer my parents I would have written something like, “This is a huge phenomenon,” and all about the phenomenon. But the book is not about the phenomenon itself – it’s about the quality of life. It’s more an answer to myself and to other people for whom it’s already a given that they’re singles, who are not trying to justify anything. The book discusses ways that singles can maximize their quality of life, deal with discrimination, what values they have, how they can forge communities, and so on.

      Why do you think people are staying single for longer these days?

      There are several reasons for this. Maybe the most important one is that women’s status is much improved nowadays, so they don’t feel the pressure to be with a spouse and to get married, and they invest in their education and their career, and so on. So they delay marriage, and if they don’t feel comfortable with their husband, they just get divorced. We also have migration – internal migration, international migration, urbanization. So people move around and they don’t want to be tied down.

      There are also economic reasons – and this is very surprising. All economic conditions, no matter what, lead people to be single. So we see that in Sweden, for example, the government subsidizes apartments for young people, so they think, “Okay, if I have a cheap apartment I can live by myself, I don’t need to marry in order to save money.” And in other countries we see the opposite – because if people prosper and have money, one of the “goods” they buy themselves is privacy – they want their independence, and they pay to be alone.

      But it’s remarkable because even in Italy and Spain after the recession, they went through this huge recession and you’d think that okay, so these people don’t have money, the country can’t subsidize their living expenses, so they’ll probably end up getting married, right? But no, what they actually did was go back and live with their parents, and keep the disposable income. They call them bambuccini, grown babies. So it’s remarkable — all economic conditions lead to single living.

      ‘Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living,’ by Dr. Elyakim Kislev. (Courtesy)

      It seems like there’s a bigger emphasis on friends, family, and being in a relationship in Israel than other countries – and getting married at a younger age.

      I don’t have numbers on Israel, my research is focused on Europe and the US. But I can tell you that the comparison I made in terms of levels of happiness and well-being, I can tell you that singles in Israel are far behind. They don’t feel so good about themselves, and they probably feel the pressure to marry. It is a part of the culture – for example, we do know that Israel is first among OECD countries in terms of birthrate, children per woman. Even Turkey and Mexico, and of course Europe and the US, are far behind. In Israel I think it’s around 3.1 children, and even in Mexico and Turkey it went from five, six, seven children a few decades ago to 2.1 or 2.5 today, and in Europe it’s 1.3 or something like that. So in this sense I know that Israel is a leading country in family values and pressure to marry, and so on.

      Is loneliness not an issue compared to earlier generations?

      Many people criticize technology and say that we’re lonelier than decades ago, but actually, single people became more social and more connected. Now, we refer to singles as “networked individuals.” Technology makes us more connected, and at least facilitates ways for people who want to be connected, to be connected. We also see that in recent decades, married people became lonelier while the single population became more connected, and that’s due to technology. I see in my research that singles use the internet more extensively. So they use it to be more connected, and I guess it alleviates the feeling of loneliness.

      More young people are using technology to alleviate feelings of loneliness that come with being single, says Dr. Elyakim Kislev. (iStock)

      With marriage equality and all that’s going on today, does the LGBT community face the same pressure for singles as the heterosexual community?

      I’m not absolutely sure about this, but I can think of two sides, and it’s kind of complicated. One the one hand, LGBT people might feel more comfortable being single simply because in the past they were already placed outside the mainstream. And they’ve had to innovate more as far as family status and family conditions, which could make that part more flexible for them.

      At the same time, LGBT people are leading the fight for marriage equality and push for marriage more than heterosexual people do – but I think one of the reasons for this is that they are still struggling for equality in general. It also depends, I guess, on where people are living. In New York City I think people are more comfortable being single, so they don’t care, but in other parts of the US and Europe, maybe they do want to get married to feel more a part of the community, otherwise they might feel like outsiders. So yeah, it’s complicated.

      You said the birthrates have gone down in many countries – do you see this trend of staying single as having a positive impact, a negative impact, or something in between?

      I don’t know – I’m a researcher and I really like it this way, and I don’t want to be judgmental about any phenomenon. This is simply a phenomenon, and I think that the challenge now is not to judge the phenomenon of singlehood, but just to recognize that this isn’t going to change, that in fact it’s going to grow, and now to find ways to cater to the single population. To take care of them, to have facilities, community centers, services, and think in terms of policy making how do we make the single population more comfortable, more connected, and happier.

      Oftentimes people choose to marry the wrong partner simply out of fear of aging alone, says Dr. Elyakim Kislev. (iStock)

      Is an aging single population a concern?

      That’s a huge question, but let’s talk about the personal perspective first and the collective policy perspective after. First, we ourselves care a lot about, and we fear, aging alone. Actually many studies show that aging alone is such a big fear that we enter into wrong relationships and compromise about partners, and some studies even show that we go back to exes that we know that they are not good for us, but we still go back because we feel lonely and we fear being lonely in old age.

      I show in my book that the fear of being alone in old age is bigger – and it’s just like how we often have a greater fear of the unknown – and then the negative expectations usually don’t materialize. So we see that, for example, people fear disability and immobility in old age, and the actual consequences are much, much better – many more people fear it than actually happens.

      So, many people fear aging alone and get married, but get divorced after 10 or 20 years, and then they made a double mistake: They got married to the wrong person, and they’re still alone in their old age anyway. So I’m not sure the future needs to be such a factor in our decision making.

      In terms of the collective, we do need to think of it at some point. We know that there’s a lot of innovation around that question in Japan, which is leading the world in terms of robotics and other technologies to help people who are aging alone. So we’ll have to define the problem, and if this is the problem and we need someone to help these people, we will find ways to deal with it. But this is the reality. We can’t force people to marry just to solve a hypothetical problem in the future.

      What about sex lives? How do single and married people stack up in terms of sexual well-being?

      I actually don’t write about that in my book, but I wrote about it in a new study that I’m going to publish. There are several groups that we need to consider. One is the married group, one is the cohabiting group – those with a partner but who don’t live together – and singles without a partner. So actually, in terms of sex frequency, the married group is at the bottom, and only just above is the single group with a partner.

      In terms of sexual self-esteem, sexual communication abilities, the married group is at the bottom of the hierarchy of all groups. So it’s quite interesting to see that there’s no real benefit to marriage. Marriage alone can’t get you sexual satisfaction. This is not the solution.

      I know this girl, I think she would be perfect for you – would you be interested in meeting her?

      [Laughing] No — no, thank you.

      Read the source article at The Times of Israel


      The race for the next Dead Sea Scrolls, and why we may lose it

      A narrow path leads up to Qumran, a series of caves dotting the stone cliffs where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The mouth of a recently discovered cavity, Cave 53, is gaping but once inside the space is narrow and dark, like a rabbit hole. Following its most recent excavation, Cave 53 is all of 15 meters long and 80 centimeters high. Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who just finished his second excavating season at Cave 53, pointed to a wisp of straw. “This is almost certainly the remains of a mat from the Second Temple period,” he remarks. For a minute there, I’m breathless.


      After 2,000 years of concealment and 70 years of competition between archaeologists and robbers to find new scrolls – is it even possible that any remain to be found? After a few hours in Qumran, an obsessive optimism comes easy. Every node in the limestone rock suddenly looks like the lip of a jar with hidden treasure inside. The dust burns one’s eyes, but Indiana Jones would never give up at this stage. Cave 53 is one of about 500 caves between Qumran and Masada, some natural, some carved into the limestone cliff. It is in these caves that the search for Israeli archaeology’s Holy Grail – more ancient scrolls – is taking place.


      The first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1946 or 1947, since which time the area has been combed over by scholars and thieves. But hope remains alive. Caves 53 and 54 were discovered just recently, in 2017. True, they held no scrolls, just tantalizing clues – including wrappings – that they might have in the past. Evidently robbers got there first.


      The conversation with Gutfeld takes place at the entrance to the cave. In the two excavation seasons conducted in Cave 53, many non-scroll objects have been found, some of them valuable, some from prehistoric times and from the Second Temple era.

      A view of Qumran. Moti Milrod

      I asked if somewhere inside he expects, every time he begins to explore a new cave, to find scrolls. He looks at me and considers for a moment. “We come to each new cave with zero expectations. We try to understand the daily lives of those who used it,” Gutfeld says – then admits, “Almost every night I dream of finding a scroll. If we get lucky and find even one written line, that would be the best.”


      Albeit scroll-less, every day of digging in the Judean Desert caves reveals new things about the material culture of people of the “Yahad” community (the cult that operated here), he says. “Discovering a scroll would be the ultimate, but it’s just as important to find things that shed light on who they were.”


      There was a moment in the last season that Gutfeld uttered the words he had dreamed of: “Bring the scrolls kit.” It contains silk gloves and containers with hermetic seals to protect precious finds. “I was so excited I couldn’t speak,” he says. But the find turned out not to be a scroll after all.


      Last week Gutfeld and his team began excavating Cave 52 on behalf of the university. Its mouth is at a difficult-to-reach spot on the upper part of the cliff. It’s harder to reach than Cave 53. Over the coming weeks they hope to find remains and clues from the 2,000-year-old cult. Perhaps they’ll even find a scroll.

      Apocalyptic essays and life


      The scrolls found over the past 70 years in Qumran are the most important Jewish cultural treasures on earth, says Adolfo Roitman, director of Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book. Pnina Shor, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls Projects, calls them “the most important archaeological find of the 20th century.”


      The scrolls are primarily religious manuscripts containing 230 texts from all the books of the Bible except for the Book of Esther. They also contain non-biblical Jewish texts from the end of the Second Temple period, apocalyptic and ritualistic essays, and descriptions of daily life.


      The fact that in 2019 explorations to find scrolls are still ongoing may sound surprising. Gutfeld thinks otherwise.


      “To many it seems obvious that everything that could be found in the Judean Desert caves has been found, and they are empty. But in the last few seasons we proved that there are findings galore and that these excavations are very important,” he says.


      “From the first bucket we took out of the cave, we’ve been sifting out pottery fragments. We’ve found vessels and organic material including hundreds of olive pits, dates, seeds and nuts. We’ve found ropes, jars, lids, an intact decorated bronze pot, a candle unique to the Qumran region, linen textiles that were probably used for wrapping scrolls. We found leather straps that were probably used to tie the scrolls. Bedouin who were here long before us apparently broke jars, untied the straps, pulled the scrolls out of their wrapping and took them.”


      The problem is that world-class antiquities attract robbers like flies. To this day items from Qumran can be found offered for sale that had not been found in orderly archaeological excavations. In the seven decades since the original discovery, archaeologists have been competing with robbers, most of them local Bedouins. So far the Bedouins have been winning by landslide.


      It was Bedouin shepherds who, in 1946 or 1947, discovered seven parchment scrolls covered with ancient Hebrew writing that had been hidden by members of a Jewish cult living in Qumran during the first century. The shepherds sold the scrolls to two merchants in Bethlehem. Prof. Eliezer Sukenik of the Hebrew University – the father of Yigael Yadin – bought three and the other four were sold for $250 to the head of the Syrian-Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem.


      The archbishop took them to the United States and tried to sell them there. In 1954, Yadin, who had completed his term as the Israel Defense Forces’ second chief of general staff, noticed a newspaper ad that offered the four scrolls for sale for $250,000. These seven scrolls are on display at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, and they considered the heart of ancient Jewish culture.

      Read the full source article at Haaretz


      4 reasons being single is good for your body and soul


      Tired of swiping right on that dating app? Not to worry. Feeling pressure from your parents and friends to settle down and get married? Take a breath and relax.

      Decades ago, there may have been more of a stigma attached to being single, but that’s changing with each passing year. In Europe, more than 50 percent of households in major cities are occupied by singles. In the U.S., 22 percent of adults were single in 1950. Today, that number is more than 50 percent. One in four newborns in America are predicted to never marry.

      The new book by Elyakim Kislev
      The new book by Elyakim Kislev.


      Sociologist Elyakim Kislev, a professor at Israel’s Hebrew University, is the author of the new book “Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living.” The 37-year-old Kislev, who himself is single, is not anti-marriage. He’s just advocating for society to be more open and embracing of people who are single.

      To help get the ball rolling – and just in time for Valentine’s Day – we asked Kislev why it’s beneficial to be single…

      You’ll be healthier

      Kislev found that singles eat more fruits and vegetables.
      Kislev found that singles eat more fruits and vegetables. (Photo: Benevolente82 / Shutterstock)

      Marriage could literally be killing you. Kislev points to studies showing that divorced people have a reduced risk of heart attacks and that they usually end up losing weight after they separate. “In my own research, I show that singles eat more healthy. They take care of themselves more. They exercise more. They have more physical activity.” One area this manifests itself is in the food we choose to eat. The eating habits of a married person are often influenced by a partner or the family unit as a whole. If your spouse or child is eating donuts and leaving the box on the kitchen counter, you’re more likely to eat them as well. “But if you’re alone, and really focus on your needs, you eat healthier,” he explained.

      You’ll be more social

      Studies have shown that singles are more social than their married counterparts.
      Studies have shown that singles are more social than their married counterparts. (Photo: Nd3000 / Shutterstock)

      “Basically we have this notion that our society is less and less social, but studies actually show that the population that is less social are the married ones,” Kislev said. He points to a study of married and never married people that tracked them from the 1980s to the 2000s. “They showed that married people become more and more isolated and less social during these years, while single people became more adept at building social networks and having more friends and more social activities.”

      Read the entire article at From the Grapevine


      Bonus Time? Better Hope the Boss is NOT Your Friend, Study Finds

      A manager has to give a bonus to one of two equally deserving employees, one of whom is his friend. A judge in a high school debating competition has to decide which of two finalists to vote for, one of whom is a student from her alma mater. A coach has to decide which of two players should start in the championship game, one of whom is the coach’s niece. It is well known that people show favoritism toward those close to them, such as family, friends, or in-group members.

      However, a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s School of Business Administration Professor Shoham Choshen-Hillel, and her colleagues Alex Shaw at the University of Chicago and Eugene Caruso at UCLA, suggests that in public situations when bosses are concerned with appearing impartial, they often act with bias against their friends.

      In a series of eight studies using workplace scenarios, the researchers found that when managers had to decide whether an employee deserved a bonus, they were less likely to award one to a deserving employee who was also a friend if news of the bonus would be made public.  They feared being seen as playing favorites.  Instead, they often awarded the bonus to a less-deserving but non-friend employees.

      This fear, even when an employee-friend deserved the bonus based on merit, causes bosses to over-correct against their friends.  “Bosses systematically treat their friends in a worse manner than they would treat their non-friends,” explained Choshen-Hillel. “This concern with nepotism, even when there is a merit-based justification, can cause bosses to throw high-performing friends under the bus in an effort to avoid charges of favoritism.”  If, however, bosses were assured that bonuses will remain private, they had no problem giving their deserving friends the reward, the study showed.

      In one experiment, participants acting in the role of “boss” were faced with two employees: Mark and Dan.  Both employees had the same job description and salary, and each was awarded a $200 bonus.  The boss was given the option to award an employee with an extra bonus of $100 dollars.  To make their decision, the boss was asked to rely on input from fellow staff members.  Mark received better reviews than Dan.  When study participants/”bosses” were told that Mark is their friend and that giving him the extra bonus would be public knowledge, they chose to give him the deserved bonus only 61% of the time. However, when participants were told their bonus decision would be kept private, they chose to give their friend Mark the extra bonus 89% of the time.  Alternatively, when Mark was described as an employee and not a friend, participants awarded Mark the bonus 88% of the time if their decision was made public and 87% when it was kept private.

      In another experiment, participants were told their employee-friend had outperformed another employee who was up for the bonus.  They were able to award their employee-friend the bonus based on merit or to flip a coin and let chance decide who should get the bonus.

      Hebrew University Professor Shoham Choschen-Hillel at work. Credit: Gur Mosheiov

      In cases where the bonus decision was made public, participants awarded their deserving friend a bonus only 27% of the time, and the coin-flip the majority of the time.  However, when participants were told the deserving employee worker was just an employee and not a friend, they awarded them the bonus more than 60% of the time.

      Study participants’ concern over how their bonus decisions would be viewed by others in the office, was warranted.  Choshen-Hillel and her colleagues did an experiment in which participants were briefed on the boss’s bonus options (as described above) and their subsequent decisions.  They rated the bosses on a scale of 1 -7, (1=Strongly Disagree, and 7=Strongly Agree) as to whether the boss had acted fairly.

      Giving the bonus to a neutral employee was deemed fairer (5.54) than giving the bonus to a friend (4.57).  Not giving anyone the additional bonus was considered fairer when the boss was considering giving it to a friend (5.13) than to a neutral employee (4.11).

      Choshen-Hillel and her colleagues note that not all managers “navigate the dynamics between impartiality and favoritism” by over-correcting in a biased way against a friend.  In the experiments, many participants did choose to award bonuses based on merit alone.  However, the researchers’ overall findings “highlight the delicate pressure that bosses face when they are faced with the competing values of fairness and friendship.”


      CITATION: Shaw, A., Choshen-Hillel, S., & Caruso, E. M. (2018). Being biased against friends to appear unbiased. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 78, 104-115.


      FUNDING: The Social Enterprise Initiative at The University of Chicago Booth School of



      Letter reveals Einstein’s fears of growing nationalism, anti-Semitism

      By Associated Press

      JERUSALEM — More than a decade before the Nazis seized power in Germany, Albert Einstein was on the run and already fearful for his country’s future, according to a newly revealed handwritten letter.

      His longtime friend and fellow Jew, German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, had just been assassinated by right-wing extremists and police had warned the noted physicist that his life could be in danger too.

       So Einstein fled Berlin and went into hiding in northern Germany. It was during this hiatus that he penned a handwritten letter to his beloved younger sister, Maja, warning of the dangers of growing nationalism and anti-Semitism years before the Nazis ultimately rose to power, forcing Einstein to flee his native Germany for good.

      “Out here, nobody knows where I am, and I’m believed to be missing,” he wrote in August 1922. “Here are brewing economically and politically dark times, so I’m happy to be able to get away from everything.”

      The previously unknown letter, brought forward by an anonymous collector, is set to go on auction next week in Jerusalem with an opening asking price of $12,000.

      As the most influential scientist of the 20th century, Einstein’s life and writings have been thoroughly researched. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, of which Einstein was a founder, houses the world’s largest collection of Einstein material. Together with the California Institute of Technology it runs the Einstein Papers Project. Individual auctions of his personal letters have brought in substantial sums in recent years.

      The 1922 letter shows he was concerned about Germany’s future a full year before the Nazis even attempted their first coup — the failed Munich Beer Hall Putsch to seize power in Bavaria.

      “This letter reveals to us the thoughts that were running through Einstein’s mind and heart at a very preliminary stage of Nazi terror,” said Meron Eren, co-owner of the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem, which obtained the letter and offered The Associated Press a glimpse before the public sale. “The relationship between Albert and Maja was very special and close, which adds another dimension to Einstein the man and greater authenticity to his writings.”

      The letter, which bears no return address, is presumed to have been written while he was staying in the port city of Kiel before embarking on a lengthy speaking tour across Asia.

      Image: A copy of a 1922 letter Albert Einstein wrote to his younger sister, Maja
      A copy of the letter. AP

      “I’m doing pretty well, despite all the anti-Semites among the German colleagues. I’m very reclusive here, without noise and without unpleasant feelings, and am earning my money mainly independent of the state, so that I’m really a free man,” he wrote. “You see, I am about to become some kind of itinerant preacher. That is, firstly, pleasant and, secondly, necessary.”

      Addressing his sister’s concerns, Einstein writes: “Don’t worry about me, I myself don’t worry either, even if it’s not quite kosher, people are very upset. In Italy, it seems to be at least as bad.”

      Later in 1922, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.

      Ze’ev Rosenkrantz, the assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech, said the letter wasn’t the first time Einstein warned about German anti-Semitism, but it captured his state of mind at this important junction after Rathenau’s killing and the “internal exile” he imposed on himself shortly after it.

      “Einstein’s initial reaction was one of panic and a desire to leave Germany for good. Within a week, he had changed his mind,” he said. “The letter reveals a mindset rather typical of Einstein in which he claims to be impervious to external pressures. One reason may be to assuage his sister’s concerns. Another is that he didn’t like to admit that he was stressed about external factors.”

      When the Nazis came to power and began enacting legislation against Jews, they also aimed to purge Jewish scientists. The Nazis dismissed Einstein’s groundbreaking work, including his Law of Relativity, as “Jewish Physics.”

      Einstein renounced his German citizenship in 1933 after Hitler became chancellor. The physicist settled in the United States, where he would remain until his death in 1955.

      Einstein declined an invitation to serve as the first president of the newly established state of Israel but left behind his literary estate and personal papers to the Hebrew University.

      Read the source article at


      Hebrew U launches Jerusalem/Nepal semester program for international students

      American college students torn between a semester in Israel and one in a more exotic location will no longer need to choose, as the Hebrew University launches a new partnership with a Jewish social justice group for a joint Israel-Nepal semester this spring.

      “Students are often pulled between wanting to explore deeper inwardly, about their Jewish identity, or their global identity, going farther than they have had a chance before,” said Micha Odenheimer, the founder and director of Tevel B’Tzedek. “This semester can appeal to kids who want to do both.”

      Tevel B’Tzedek has run short-term social justice programs in Nepal since 2007, providing a Jewish framework for young people to volunteer with agricultural and development projects in rural villages. The organization makes a three-year commitment to each village, and more than 1,200 volunteers have participated.

      Hebrew University already offers GLOCAL, an 18-month master’s degree in international development that combines study in Israel with internships in developing countries. Some of the GLOCAL students have completed their internships with Tevel B’Tzedek in Nepal.

      Tevel B’Tzedek volunteers transplant rice with local residents of Beithan, Nepal in 2014. (courtesy Tevel B’Tzedek)

      This is the first time that Hebrew University will offer a semester-long option to international students combining study in Jerusalem and another country.

      The program hopes to launch in January 2019 for the spring semester. It is not open to Israelis.

      Students will have class time on subjects such as international development, climate change and the environment; Nepali language, history and culture; religious history and social justice. Part of the semester will also be spent in rural villages in Nepal where Tevel B’Tzedek is helping communities to develop ecotourism, and where students will complete a research project.

      The program is pricey, with the semester course costing $16,500, not including airfare to Israel. This is on par with international study abroad programs for American students, which cost an average of $18,000 per semester. Israeli tuition at public universities is around $3,000 per year.

      Volunteers run a preschool training in Hildevi, Nepal in 2017. (Courtesy Tevel B’Tzedek)


      Shachar Yanai, the director of the undergraduate division at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School, said the school was drawn to Tevel B’Tzedek’s deep connections to Nepal. “This is a unique opportunity to integrate not only academic studies but also experience in the field,” said Yanai.

      Hebrew University is considering expanding to other countries in the coming years.

      “This is a pilot. If we see there is success we might consider doing it elsewhere,” said Yanai. “It’s the first time that Hebrew U is doing a study abroad program outside of Israel. It’s quite a big project for us, so we’ll test it out for a few years and see what happens.”

      The program is open to all international students but Yanai said he and his colleagues expect that Americans will make up the majority of participants, since there is a strong culture of studying abroad in the United States.

      He said the lessened amount of time students will spend in Israel compared to the typical study abroad semester in Israel was not a matter of concern. “We expect that most of the students who will be joining will have been to Israel before,” he said. “And even if not, a month in Israel is better than nothing. It’s much more than two weeks, which is what most study abroad students are doing these days.”

      Tevel B’Tzedek volunteers work with local villages on more efficient agricultural practices, ecotourism ventures, education, women’s rights, and a variety of other topics, like this group of female farmers. (courtesy Tevel B’Tzedek)

      Odenheimer is also excited for the academic opportunities that will arise from the program.

      “It’s about creating more capacity among the Jewish people in terms of dealing with global issues and global challenges,” he said. “It’s important to me to integrate Jewish identity with global poverty and the environment.” (Students do not need to be Jewish to participate.)

      “I’ve been interested for a while in exploring the connection between religion, ethics, and international development,” said Odenheimer. “We need to ask — development to what? What are we trying to develop? A second-rate copy of what’s going on in the West? Or deeper questions of what does it mean to be a human being and create a better human society?

      “This program is everything we’re trying to do in Tevel B’Tzedek,” Odenheimer explained. “There is no contradiction between deepening one’s own identity and reaching out to create a better human world that we all know we need to do if we’re going to survive.”

      Read the source article at The Times of Israel


      Secrets of a lost village of ancient Israel come to light

      A vanished village, buried for centuries under the sands of time, is beginning to emerge in the cave-dotted lowlands southwest of Jerusalem. In typical old-new Israeli fashion, the work of revealing Beit Lehi-Beit Loya mixes painstaking manual labor with cutting-edge technology.

      Project leaders are now putting their fascinating discoveries on view to the public online in 3D, enlivened by virtual reality.

      First settled by Jews in approximately the late sixth century BCE, then abandoned and rebuilt by successive populations of pagans, Jews, Christians and Muslims through the 13th or 14th century CE, the remains of Beit Lehi-Beit Loya were first discovered in 1899 by R.A.S. Macalister on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund.

      Part of a church mosaic floor uncovered at Beit Lehi-Beit Loya. Photo by Gabi Laron

      The site went unexplored until the 1980s, when Hebrew University archeologist Yoram Tsafrir got funding from donors in Utah and uncovered the remains of a Byzantine church with intact mosaic floors.

      But Tsafrir’s work then shifted to the vast Roman ruins at Beit She’an and it wasn’t until 2005 that his former student Oren Gutfeld, now director of the Salvage Excavation Program at Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, resumed exploring Beit Lehi-Beit Loya.


      Seven large dovecotes have been found at Beit Lehi-Beit Loya. Photo by Asaf Peretz

      His work is sponsored by the Utah-based Beit Lehi Foundation and is assisted each spring by faculty and students from Utah Valley University led by professors Darin Taylor and Michael Harper.

      “Beit Lehi” means “house of the jawbone” and may refer to the biblical site at which Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. The Church of Latter-Day Saints, based in Utah, believes this was the home of an Iron Age prophet named Lehi mentioned in the Book of Mormon. (The Israeli name for the site, “Beit Loya,” refers to a type of ornament.)

      Gutfeld says less than 20 percent of the large village has been excavated so far because access has long been limited to weekends, holidays and other times the military firing range in the area is idle.

      An aerial view of excavations at Beit Lehi-Beit Loya. Photo by David Silverman

      “We discovered one of the earliest mosques ever found in Israel, from the ninth century CE,” Gutfeld tells ISRAEL21c. “We’ve uncovered seven dovecotes, two of them with more than 1,100 niches; eight oil presses, an underground stable, a water system, quarries, a Hellenistic-period dwelling with a watchtower, and three ritual baths.” The baths are decorated with graffiti of the seven-branched menorah that was lit daily in the Jewish Temple prior to its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE.


      An artifact found at Beit Lehi-Beit Loya. Photo by Asaf Peretz

      Even before Tsafrir’s initial excavations it was clear that this region was rich in antique treasures. Nearby Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park is filled with manmade caves harboring evidence of its significance as a district capital for many of the years between the Iron Age and the Byzantine period.

      In 1961, Hebrew University scholars identified seven sixth-century BCE Hebrew inscriptions in two ancient burial caves in this area, after they were accidentally revealed by road workers. One of them is the oldest inscription discovered thus far that mentions Jerusalem and the four-letter biblical name of God. These relics are housed at the Israel Museum.

      Since then, Gutfeld’s team has discovered more than 50 inscriptions throughout the site in ancient Hebrew, Greek and Arabic.

      Drone images reveal a palace or temple

      Gutfeld is now interested in learning more about how the ruins of Beit Lehi-Beit Loya reflect what was going on in the greater region.

      To this end, together with Israel Antiquities Authority archeologists Michal Haber and Pablo Betzer, the Beit Lehi Regional Project was launched in 2017, assisted by some two dozen local university students and volunteers.

      Recently, additional finds were made by analyzing images from a UVU drone-mounted 4K camera that was sent aloft to survey a 36-square-kilometer area around the excavation site.

      The pictures pointed to the remains of “a monumental building one hill to the north of Beit Loya – a distance of only about 1.5 kilometers – that we had never noticed before using our traditional survey methods,” says Gutfeld.

      The newfound building seems to be a Hellenistic-period palace or temple from the late third or second century BCE.

      “Inside we found a room containing delicate pottery and two incense burners – one of which features a carved image of a bull standing at the entrance to a temple. This is a beautiful and rare find,” says Gutfeld. “Stylistically, the adorned incense burner displays a pagan image – possibly even Idumean, whose art we actually know very little about.”

      The team has not discovered any cultic artifacts in Beit Lehi-Beit Loya itself. Possibly the ancient residents reserved their worship for the neighboring hill.

      In 2009, Gutfeld and Haber wrote a site guide that Utah Valley University digital media students have augmented and digitized for release as an online 3D magazine. This e-zine is expected to be updated each year to incorporate new discoveries at Beit Lehi-Beit Loya.

      Read the source article at ISRAEL21c


      Archaeologists find signs of 3,000-year-old oracle cult in ancient Israel

      The town of Abel Beth Maacah was known in biblical times as a place for conflict resolution, we may divine from references in scripture. Now archaeologists have found a strange shrine that they think may have been associated with the “wise woman” of the city, mentioned in the bible. But rather than being just a clever elder – they suspect she may have fulfilled an oracular role.

      The tell in which Abel Beth Maacah was identified lies just south of Israel’s border with Lebanon, near the town of Metulla. The archaeological mound, called Tell Abil el-Qameh, covers a huge 100 dunams in area.

      In fact, archaeologists have uncovered evidence for a succession of religious cult practices spanning some 300 years. Numerous shrines were found, which, as is the norm for ancient spots of worship, were ornate in some fashion or other. But among the discoveries in recent excavations was an unadorned shrine, the only one of its type found in the town.

      The reasons to associate the bare shrine with an oracle stem from puzzling biblical mentions of a “wise woman”. The archaeologists now suspect that at least in the case of Abel Beth Maacah, she was a local version of the divine oracles known from other cultures around the Mediterranean.

      Various ruins found during the latest excavations, which began in 2013, have been roughly dated to the second and first millennia B.C.E. Aside from the shrine, the archaeologists found a large building complex dating to about 3,000 years ago that served diverse industrial, administrative and religious functions.  The dig is being co-directed by Dr. Naama Yahalom-Mack and Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Robert Mullins of Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles.

      Sheba flees David’s wrath

      The name Abel Beth Maacah means “watered field of the House of Maacah,” presumably because of the town’s proximity to the nearby Ijon River and numerous springs. Located at a cross-roads of the north-south road linking Egypt with Mesopotamia and an east-west route from Damascus to Tyre, Maacah was also a trade and storage hub, according to 2 Chronicles 16:4 (though there the town is called Abelmaim).

      Among Abel its earliest mentions are Egyptian texts such as the Execration Texts (18th century B.C.E., listing the enemies of the pharaoh) as well as Thutmoses III‘s list of conquered cities (15th century B.C.E).

      References to Abel-Beth Maacah in the Bible include conquest by the Arameans (1 Kings 15:20) and then by the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29).

      But the more intriguing mention from the perspective of the shrines is the drama involving a rebel against King David named Sheba ben Bichri, who fled all the way north to Abel Beth Maacah, hoping to escape David’s retribution. The king’s general Joab could have destroyed the whole city in his quest to vanquish the varmint.

      First, though, David’s warriors commanded by Joab besieged Abel Beth Maacah, demanding that Sheba be extradited. Thereupon, a “wise woman” – told Joab: “Long ago they used to say, Get your answer at Abel, and that settled it. I am one of the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a mother and a city in Israel” (II Samuel 20:18-19).

      We don’t know what Joab felt about that, but the townspeople also heard her. They decapitated Sheba and pitched his head over the wall. And the city was spared (2 Samuel 20:14-22).

      Large room with installations related to cultic activity, Iron Age I, Abel Beth Maacah Robert Mullins

      What has any of this to do with the newly unearthed “blank” shrine?

      Refugees from Hazor

      Solid evidence of the city’s status is right there. Archaeologists have found that in the second millennium B.C.E., Abel Beth Maacah was a flourishing city, with strong fortifications erected during the Middle Bronze Age II (1,750–1,550 B.C.E.). Those fortifications remained in use through the Late Bronze Age (1,550-1,200 B.C.E.), a time when most other cities in Canaan were unfortified.

      Cylindrical cult stand found in Abel Beth Maacah Tal Rogovski

      Also from the Late Bronze Age, the archaeologists found a small jug containing a hoard of silver earrings and pieces of ingot, testifying to the inhabitants’ material wealth.

      Jar with hundreds of astragali bones inside, possibly used in divination rites. Robert Mullins

      The city’s continuing rise to prominence in the Iron Age I (1,200 B.C.E. to 1,000 B.C.E.) may have owed much to the collapse that befell Hazor, the mighty Canaanite city-state only 35 kilometers to the south. Abel Beth Maacah at this time apparently became a major urban center, featuring large public buildings, and metalworking and trade. Its population clearly increased, possibly due to migrant influxes joining the local Canaanites, such as refugees from the destroyed city of HazorArameans from Syria, and Israelites from the southern parts of Canaan.  (The future city of Dan did exist at the time but apparently was more of a village than an urban center.)

      Photo taken June 4, 2018 of a detailed figurine of a royal head on display at the Israel Museum, dating to biblical times, and found last year near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, in Jerusalem. Ilan Ben Zion/AP

      Among the cultic, if not oracular, discoveries in Abel Beth Maacah was a building with two rooms dating to the Iron Age I, with standing stones, benches and a small bamah (platform) and fragments of a bull figurine indicating its role as a shrine.  This structure was violently destroyed and never rebuilt.  A slightly later complex of buildings had another apparently cultic room, with standing stones, an offerings table, a cylindrical cult stand made of clay adorned with drooping petals, benches, mortars, and a unique plastered installation with two plastered basins.


      Since there are no known parallels to date, the function of the basins is anybody’s guess, but it seems to involve liquid, based on the thick plaster coating the interior.


      Yet another intriguing find at Abel Beth Maacah from slightly a later time is a jar with 425 animal knucklebones, called astragali. Found throughout the Ancient Near East, astragali were used as gaming pieces and for divination. In this case, the large number of knucklebones collected into one jar is quite suggestive of divination. This jar was found on a courtyard paved with stone, set on a low round podium, and has been dated to the 9th century B.C.E.

      Abel Beth Maacah is also where archaeologists found the extraordinary sculpture of a head, complete with hairdo and beard, also dating to the 9th century B.C.E., which they think may be the earliest-known example of figurative art. The postulation is that if he was important enough to be pictured, he was a king, but 3,000 years later, we cannot be sure.

      The shrine thought to be associated with an oracle was something completely different.

      The Wise Woman of Abel-Beth Maacah 

      Small stone seal found in Abel Beth Maacah, depicting a dance scene, 10th-9th centuries BCE. Gabi Laron

      As the King James Version puts her words to Joab: “They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.” – 2 Samuel 20:18.


      The New Revised Standard Version phrases the same: “They used to say in the old days, ‘Let them inquire at Abel’; and so they would settle a matter.”

      Who she was and the interpretation of what she said remain highly speculative. But the words hint at a practice of seeking out oracular advice.

      Supporting that theory are the discovery of several cultic installations featuring aniconic standing stones, that is, stones with no devices or designs carved on them, that could have served as generic signs for any worshipers’ deity (or, alternatively, for ancestor worship or to commemorate important events, for instance).

      It is thus possible that bare cultic installations anywhere indicate that divination and other forms of inquiry of the gods or ancestors took place. Abel Beth Maacah could have been a center for inquiring of the divine.

      Yahalom-Mack and Panitz-Cohen note the difficulty of making a one-on-one leap from the text to the archaeological finds, since these words might reflect the reality of a different period, or could be a propagandist narrative.

      “We can, however, use such finds to set the stage and help us to better envision the reality of ancient life as it is expressed in the Biblical text,” said Lawson Stone, professor of Old Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, and member of the Abel Beth Maacah excavation team.

      M.A. student Ariel Shatil examining the astragali bones at the Institute of Archaeology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Nava Panitz Cohen

      The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible from the 3rd century B.C.E., has a variant text of 2 Samuel 20:18 that also refers to Dan, as if Dan and Abel Beth Maacah were the two main centers in the north for divine inquiry, Stone says. “It is possible that the woman in this story is a leader in the community who was known, like Deborah in the central part of Israel, for settling disputes through inquiring of the deity. All of this is, of course, speculation, but I don’t think it’s too far into the realm of fantasy.”

      The Delphic Tholos, a circular building that was constructed between 380 and 360 BC at Delphi, Greece, the mountain town thought to be the “navel of the world.” Kufolito, Wikimedia Commons

      In the ancient world “wise women” enacted a number of culturally diverse and socially important roles. Ancient Greece had scores of female sacred oracles, including the famed ones at Delphi, Delos or Dodona, where people would go to inquire of their gods with regard to political or military developments as well as private affairs. The prologue of the Sybilline Oracles (an ancient collection of oracular utterances written in Greek verse) lists ten female oracles by name.


      Even further back in time, a Hittite text names 13 wise women by name (Haas and I. Wegner, Die Rituale der Beschworerinnen SALSU.GI; Corpus der Hurritischrn Sprachdenkmaler I/5 Roma: Multigrafica Editrice,1988 p 1-4).

      In the ancient Near East, the wise woman also enacted multiple wondrous roles, including exorcist, freeing clients from demons. As an incantation-writer, she preserved and interpreted myths and legends of the past she also served as a purification priestess.

      “The problem here is that we have no idea of this wise woman’s identity. She is very enigmatic. Could she have been an oracle? Perhaps. But this is only guessing,” Mullins says. “We think that Abel served some sort of peacemaking or settling disputes role and perhaps there were religious dignitaries of some sort that participated in this. But the biblical text is too ambiguous and we still lack sufficient Ancient Near East parallels to clarify the roles of wise women.”

      “A variant text of 2 Samuel 20:18 (the Greek Septuagint) has reference also to Dan, as if Dan and Abel Beth Maacah were the two main centers in the north for divine inquiry. It is possible that the woman in this story is a leader in the community who was known, like Deborah in the central part of Israel, for settling disputes through inquiring of deity. All of this is, of course, speculation, but I don’t think it’s too far into the realm of fantasy,” says Lawson Stone, professor of Old Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.

      Some two hundred years after the military campaign of Ben-hadad of Damascus, during the reign of the Israelite king Pekah Abel Beth Maacah was captured by King Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria, and its inhabitants were sent into exile (2 Kings 15:29)..

      Abel Beth Maacah: View of the tell looking east. Robert Mullins

      Read the source article at Haaretz


      Hebrew University Law Professor to Lead UN Human Rights Committee

      Yuval Shany, the Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in Public International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Co-Head of the Fried Gal Transitional Justice program, has been selected to lead the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee.

      The Human Rights Committee (and not the Human Rights Council from which the United States withdrew on June 20, 2018) is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties.

      This marks the first time in history that an Israeli will lead the Committee.

      “Currently, the UN’s Human Rights Committee faces several challenges, chiefly that we live in an international climate that no longer supports human rights.  As head of the committee, I hope to harness its positive and apolitical influence to secure human rights for all citizens of the world,” shared Shany.


      Rivlin has personal interest in Hebrew University celebration

      Of the numerous ceremonies and receptions that President Reuven Rivlin hosts for an incredible number and variety of organizations and institutions in Israel and abroad, the one closest to his heart was arguably the meeting of the International Board of Governors of the Hebrew University, which this year is celebrating the centennial of the laying of its 14 corner stones on the barren hills of Mount Scopus.

      Rivlin is not only a law graduate of the Hebrew University, but has an honorary doctorate from the university as well as a second-generation connection. His late father Prof. Yosef Yoel Rivlin began his academic career at the university in 1927, two years after it was officially opened – working initially as an assistant teacher, and moving through the ranks until he was finally appointed as a full professor.

      Yossi Gal, the university’s Vice President for External Relations, declared on Tuesday that the Hebrew University has a tradition for innovation and a signature for excellence.

      He then listed some of the achievements of its faculty and alumni, including their prize winnings: eight Nobel Prize laureates; 20 Wolf Prize laureates; 20 Emet laureates – including three more announced last week; 50 Rothschild Prize laureates; and 241 Israel Prize laureates – winning in every field in which the prize has been awarded.

      Most of the prize winners who are still living were grouped together in the front rows of the reception that was held on the lawns of the presidential complex.

      Acknowledging that their achievements were huge individual successes resulting from decades of hard work and creativity, Rivlin said that the Hebrew University was part of the support system from which their excellence grew. “We are proud of you and we are proud with you,” he said.

      He also declared the Hebrew University to have been “a huge step” towards the creation of the State of Israel, and a leading partner in creating not only a better Israel, but a better world.

      In the latter context, he listed many of the initiatives and discoveries of HU researchers which are helping agriculture, staving off hunger, enabling water management, curing disease and more.

      “You are an impact for good,” he said.

      He also credited the Hebrew University with turning Jerusalem into a university town like Cambridge and Oxford.

      “Jerusalem is the crown of the Jewish people,” he said, “and the Hebrew University is the jewel in the crown.”

      Rivlin noted that not only have he and his father been connected to the university, but that his wife Nechama had worked there in the university libraries for close to 40 years.

      Read the source article at Jpost


      Sculpted head of mystery biblical king found in Israel

      An enigmatic sculpture of a king’s head dating back nearly 3,000 years has set off a modern-day mystery caper as scholars try to figure out whose face it depicts.

      The 5-centimeter (2-inch) sculpture is an exceedingly rare example of figurative art from the Holy Land during the 9th century B.C. — a period associated with biblical kings. Exquisitely preserved but for a bit of missing beard, nothing quite like it has been found before.

      While scholars are certain the stern bearded figure wearing a golden crown represents royalty, they are less sure which king it symbolizes, or which kingdom he may have ruled.

      Archaeologists unearthed the diminutive figurine in 2017 during excavations at a site called Abel Beth Maacah, located just south of Israel’s border with Lebanon, near the modern-day town of Metula.

      Nineteenth-century archaeologists identified the site, then home to a village called Abil al-Qamh, with the similarly named city mentioned in the Book of Kings.

      During the 9th century B.C., the ancient town was situated in a liminal zone between three regional powers: the Aramean kingdom based in Damascus to the east, the Phoenician city of Tyre to the west, and the Israelite kingdom, with its capital in Samaria to the south.

      Kings 1 15:20 mentions Abel Beth Maacah in a list of cities attacked by the Aramean King Ben Hadad in a campaign against the Israelite kingdom.

      “This location is very important because it suggests that the site may have shifted hands between these polities, more likely between Aram-Damascus and Israel,” said Hebrew University archaeologist Naama Yahalom-Mack, who has headed the joint dig with California’s Azusa Pacific University since 2013.

      Yahalom-Mack’s team was digging through the floor of a massive Iron Age structure in the summer of 2017 when a volunteer who arrived for the day struck pay dirt. The layer where the head was found dates to the 9th century B.C., the epoch associated with the rival biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

      In a rare move, archaeologists and curators at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem rushed to put the piece on public display. A detailed report is set for publication in the June edition of the journal Near Eastern Archaeology.

      Eran Arie, the Israel Museum’s curator of Iron Age and Persian archaeology, said the discovery was one of a kind. “In the Iron Age, if there’s any figurative art, and there largely isn’t, it’s of very low quality. And this is of exquisite quality.”

      The royal figurine is made of faience, a glass-like material that was popular in jewelry and small human and animal figurines in ancient Egypt and the Near East.

      “The color of the face is greenish because of this copper tint that we have in the silicate paste,” Yahalom-Mack said. But a crucial clue for identifying it as a Near Eastern monarch was its “very interesting hairdo,” she said.

      The bearded figure’s hair is pulled back in thick locks that cover the ears, and is held in place by a striped diadem of gold. Its hairstyle looks similar to the way ancient Egyptians depicted neighboring Near Eastern peoples in art.

      “The guy kind of represents the generic way Semitic people are described,” she said.

      Because Carbon-14 dating cannot give a more exact date for the statue’s creation other than sometime in the 9th century, the field of potential candidates is large. Yahalom-Mack posited it could be kings Ben Hadad or Hazael of Damascus, Ahab or Jehu of Israel, or Ithobaal of Tyre, all characters appearing in the biblical narrative.

      “We’re only guessing here, it’s like a game,” she said. “It’s like a hello from the past, but we don’t know anything else about it.”

      As scholars debate whether the head was a stand-alone piece or part of a larger statue, the Hebrew University team is set to restart digging this month at the spot where the mystery king’s head was found.

      Read the source article at


      Hebrew University Included in top 100 of Times Higher Education ranking

      The UK magazine Times Higher Education, which publishes an annual ranking of global universities, has placed Hebrew University of Jerusalem among the top 100 most powerful global university brands. This marks the first time since 2014 that an Israeli university has been included in this list, the university said in a statement.

      The World Reputation Rankings 2018 surveyed more than 10,000 leading academics from 137 countries, the statement said. They were asked to name 15 universities that are the best for research and teaching, based on their own experience. Hebrew University is the only Israeli university listed in this year’s rankings.

      The rating lists The Hebrew University in the 91-100 band, together with Boston University, University of Copenhagen, France’s Ecole Polytechnique, the University of Helsinki and the India Institute of Science, among others. This is the first time India has snagged a spot on the list since 2011, Times Higher Education said.

      “To be judged among the Top 100 most powerful university brands is a great source of pride for everyone at Hebrew University and for Israel as a whole,” said Hebrew University’s president Asher Cohen in the statement.

      “Success in our field is never an accident,” he added, it is “achieved by a relentless pursuit of excellence, creativity and a deep commitment to our enduring values.”

      US universities this year continued to dominate the table, with Harvard University taking the top spot for the eighth consecutive year, and 43 other US institutions finding places in the top 100. MIT- Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University were ranked second and third, respectively, followed by University of Cambridge and University of Oxford, which ranked fourth and fifth. The University of California, Los Angeles, is among the top 10 for the first time since 2014, ranking a joint ninth together with the University of Chicago.

      UK universities claimed nine places, down from 10 last year; Australia had three institutions among the top 100, and Germany had six.

      Read the source article at The Times of Israel


      Beautiful New Stalactite Cave Discovered During Work for New Water Pipeline to Jerusalem

      A previously unknown stalactite cave was discovered this week deep underground in the Jerusalem Hills, thanks to the digging of a fifth water pipeline to Jerusalem and some luck.

      The karstic cavern contains hundreds of limestone stalagmites and stalagmites in all sorts of forms. Based on the humidity and amount of water inside, the cave is apparently still active: The stalactites are continuing to grow, one drop at a time.

      The complex of stalactite caves serendipitously found during this tunnel project has gummed up the works before.

      Inside the cave on Thursday. Emil Salman

      The pipeline project, the largest water project underway in Israel at this time, includes excavating a 13-kilometer tunnel below the Jerusalem Hills, between Moshav Kisalon and the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. The first cave was discovered after as the tunnel work began, about a year ago.

      The work on the pipeline had to be held up until the cave could be sealed with concrete. They then continued, but on Sunday the tunnel-boring machine broke into an open space, partly filled with water, and had to be shut down as water poured into the drill-head.

      The newly discovered cave is 3.5 kilometers from the start of the tunnel, and about 280 meters below the surface. It is not small, about 14 meters long and some 2,000 square meters in size, and is likely to hold up further boring into the rock by at least a month and a half. The original schedule had the tunneling machine reaching Ein Karem next year.

      Most of the cave will be sealed with concrete. Emil Salman

      The project is being carried out by the Mekorot national water company, which called in experts from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Cave Research Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

      However evocative and beautiful some of the formations in this cave may be, given the circumstances it will not be made accessible to the public. Most of the cavern will be filled with concrete so the tunneling can continue.

      The public can take comfort in the many other stalactite caves found in the chalky Jerusalem Hills, including the vast and multiply-named Avshalom Cave/ Soreq Cave/Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve near Beit Shemesh, which were also found by chance during development work in 1968.

      The limestone cavern on Thursday. It will not be open to the public. Emil Salman


      Read the source article at Haaretz


      Hidden Text Found on ‘Blank’ Dead Sea Scrolls

      Previously hidden text on fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls is now readable, revealing a possible undiscovered scroll and solving a debate about the sacred Temple Scroll. The discoveries came from a new infrared analysis of the artifacts, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced yesterday (May 1).

      The newfound writing came from the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, which are in the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible), and the Book of Jubilees, a text written at the same time as the Hebrew Bible that was never incorporated into the biblical books, the archaeologists said.

      Researchers presented the newly revealed words at an international conference, called “The Dead Sea Scrolls at Seventy: Clear a Path in the Wilderness,” in Israel. [Gallery of Dead Sea Scrolls: A Glimpse of the Past]

      Local Bedouins and archaeologists discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s in caves near Qumran in the West Bank, located near the northern edge of the Dead Sea. Excavations in the following decades turned up tens of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments that were dated to 2,000 years ago, the IAA said.

      Researchers work to conserve the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Antiquities Authority's lab.
      Researchers work to conserve the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Antiquities Authority’s lab. Credit: Israel Antiquity Authority

      There were so many small and fragile fragments that archaeologists placed them in boxes to be studied at a later date. Now, that time has come: IAA researchers are digitizing the scrolls so that they can be studied and shared with the public without damaging the originals.

      During one of these digital scans, Oren Ableman, a scroll researcher at the IAA’s Dead Sea Scrolls Unit and a doctoral student in the Department of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, noticed something peculiar on a few dozen fragments that had been discovered in Cave 11 near Qumran.

      These fragments looked blank to the naked eye. But, by using infrared imaging, Ableman discovered that they held Hebrew letters and words, he said in a statement. Ableman then deciphered the script and even connected the fragments to the manuscripts that they had likely been attached to before crumbling away.

      A fragment of Deuteronomy (right) next to the same fragment seen with infrared imagery (left).
      A fragment of Deuteronomy (right) next to the same fragment seen with infrared imagery (left). Credit: Israel Antiquity Authority

      Some of the more interesting fragments include the following:

      -A fragment from the Temple Scroll, a text that gives instructions for how to conduct services in the ideal temple. Scholars have debated whether there are two or three copies of the Temple Scroll from Cave 11. The discovery of the text on this fragment suggests that there are, indeed, three copies.

      -A fragment from the Great Psalms Scroll. This fragment contains part of the beginning of Psalm 147:1, and the end of the verse is preserved in a larger fragment from the same cave. The newfound fragment shows that the ancient Psalm is slightly shorter than the Hebrew text used nowadays.

      -Another fragment has letters written in paleo-Hebrew, an ancient Hebrew script. This fragment could not be attributed to any known manuscripts and could belong to an unknown manuscript.

      The Great Psalms Scroll seen next to the newfound fragment containing Psalm 147:1.
      The Great Psalms Scroll seen next to the newfound fragment containing Psalm 147:1. Credit: Shai Halevi/The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library


      Read the source article at Live Science


      A Cache of Coins: Dozens of Coins Discovered in Cave near Temple Mount

      March 26, 2018—Bronze coins, the last remnants of a four-year Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire, were found near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. These bronze coins were discovered by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar during renewed excavations at the Ophel, located below the Temple Mount’s southern wall.

      These 1.5cm bronze coins were left behind by Jewish residents who hid in a large cave (7×14 meters) for four years (66-70 C.E.)—from the Roman siege of Jerusalem, up until the destruction of the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem.

      While several of the coins date to the early years of the revolt, the great majority are from its final year, otherwise known as, “Year Four” (69-70 CE).  Significantly, during the final year, the Hebrew inscription on the coins was changed from “For the Freedom of Zion” to “For the Redemption of Zion”, a shift which reflects the changing mood of the rebels during this period of horror and famine.

      “A discovery like this—ancient coins bearing the words “Freedom” and “Redemption”—found right before the Jewish Festival of Freedom, Passover, begins is incredibly moving,” shared Dr. Mazar.

      In addition to Hebrew inscriptions, the coins were decorated with Jewish symbols, such as the four biblical plant species: palm, myrtle, citron, and willow, and a picture of the goblet that was used in the Temple service.

      Many broken pottery vessels, including jars and cooking pots, were also found in the cave.  According to Mazar, it is remarkable that this cave was never discovered by subsequent residents of Jerusalem nor used again after the Second Temple period.  In this way, the cave acts as a veritable time capsule of life in Jerusalem under the siege and during the four-year revolt against the Roman Empire.

      These finds all date back to the time of the rebellion and were found in the Ophel Cave directly above a Hasmonean Period layer that was situated at the base of the cave.  A more complete report of these findings will be published in the third volume of the Ophel excavations; the second is being published this week.

      According to Mazar, the coins were well preserved, probably because they were in use for such a short time.  A similar number of “Year Four” coins were found near Robinson’s Arch, near the Western Wall, by Professor Benjamin Mazar, Eilat Mazar’s grandfather. He conducted the Temple Mount excavations right after Israel’s Six Day War, on behalf of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology.

      The Ophel excavations are situated within the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, which is managed by the National Parks and Gardens Authority and the Eastern Jerusalem Development Company. Funding was generously provided by the Herbert W. Armstrong College of Edmond, Oklahoma, whose students participate in the digs.


      Photo credit: Eilat Mazar/Hebrew University


      Is This Seal the Earliest Evidence of the Prophet Isaiah?

      Some 2,700 years ago, someone pressed a seal bearing the name Isaiah into a soft piece of clay, which hardened over time, say archaeologists who discovered the impression in Jerusalem.

      If the seal was for the prophet Isaiah, it would be the first archaeological evidence of the Jewish prophet, who has a book in the Hebrew Bible named after him.

      Isaiah, according to the Hebrew Bible, encouraged Hezekiah, king of Judah, to fight against the Assyrian army that laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Isaiah advised Hezekiah to ignore Assyrian offers to surrender, and said that God would prevent Jerusalem from being captured. According to the Hebrew Bible, an “angel of the lord” destroyed the Assyrian army, while ancient Assyrian records claim that the army only left after Hezekiah agreed to pay a vast tribute. [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds]

      Archaeologists discovered the seal impression during excavations in 2009 at the Ophel, an area in East Jerusalem located between the “City of David” archaeological site and the Temple Mount (a site also known as al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf). They found the impression of a King Hezekiah seal about 10 feet (3 meters) from the Isaiah seal impression, said the archaeologists, who are led by Eilat Mazar, an archaeology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology.

      Though Isaiah’s name (which is “Yesha’yahu” in Hebrew) can be seen on the seal impression, archaeologists don’t know if it refers to the Biblical Prophet Isaiah or someone else with that name who lived 2,700 years ago.

      “We appear to have discovered a seal impression, which may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah, in a scientific, archaeological excavation,” Mazar said in a statement.

      If the seal impression can be identified with the Prophet Isaiah, it”would be the first archaeological and the earliest extra-biblical reference to the prophet Isaiah ever discovered,” said Robert Cargill, an archaeologist and professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa, who is also editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, which will publish the study.

      The name Isaiah means “YHWH saves” or “Yahu saves,” Cargill told Live Science, noting that there are other individuals in the Hebrew Bible who have it as part of their name.

      Unfortunately, the seal impression is damaged — something that makes it difficult to determine whether the “Isaiah” in the impression is that of the prophet or it refers to someone else with the same name.

      At the top of the seal impression, the lower part of a “grazing doe” can be seen, Mazar wrote in her article, noting that the doe is “a motif of blessing and protection found in Judah, particularly in Jerusalem.”

      In addition to the name Isaiah, the word “nvy” can also be seen in the seal impression. Archaeologists are not certain what exactly this word means. Mazar noted that if nvy included the Hebrew letter “aleph” at the end, it would form a word that means prophet; however, examination of the damaged portion of the seal impression didn’t reveal any remains of the aleph, wrote Mazar.

      Without an aleph, nvy could be a personal name, referring to a different Isaiah, rather than the title “prophet,” Mazar wrote.

      Even without the aleph, it’s still possible that the word nvy could mean prophet, Mazar wrote. She noted that there are instances in the Hebrew Bible where the title “prophet” is spelled nvy — without the aleph.

      The Ophel excavations are sponsored by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York. The discovery will be reported in a special double issue of Biblical Archaeology Review that is dedicated to the magazine’s founder, Hershel Shanks, who is retiring as editor.

      An image of the Isaiah seal impression will be published in the special issue on Feb. 22 in Mazar’s article. The seal’s image will also be published in the future in volume two of the book “The Ophel Excavations.”

      Read the source article at Live Science


      Prof. Sergiu Hart to receive Israel Prize in economic research, statistics

      Prof. Sergiu Hart of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be awarded the Israel Prize for economic research and statistics, the Education Ministry announced on Thursday.

      Education Minister Naftali Bennett approved the recommendation of the prize committee headed by Prof. Yoav Benjamini.

      In its decision, the prize committee called Prof. Hart – a former president of the World Association of Game Theory and member of the Academy of Sciences of Israel, Europe and the United States – one of the world’s leading economists.

      “Prof. Hart specializes in the field of game theory and its comprehensive implications in various economic fields. Among other things, it has an important contribution to the understanding of the convergence to market equilibrium, the value of a player in the game, how cartels are created in the markets and the development of objective risk indices,” the committee wrote.

      In recent years, it added, Hart’s research has focused on “designing mechanisms such as tenders, which are important in online trade.”

      Hart was born in Bucharest, Romania, and immigrated to Israel at the age of 14 along with his family. After serving in the IDF, he received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tel Aviv University in mathematics with honors before completing his post-Doctoral studies at Stanford University in California.

      In 1991, Hart founded the Center for the Study of Rationality at The Hebrew University, whose academic committee he now chairs.

      “Under his leadership the center became a unique leader in the world in the study of game theory with its implications in a wide range of fields such as economics, statistics, psychology, law, biology, philosophy and more,” the prize committee wrote in its decision.

      The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem attended by the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president.

      Read the source article at Jpost


      Prof. Edwin Seroussi to be awarded Israel Prize for musicology

      Prof. Edwin Seroussi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be awarded the Israel Prize for his research in culture, arts and musicology, the Education Ministry announced on Tuesday.

      Education Minister Naftali Bennett approved the recommendation of the prize committee headed by Prof. Eitan Steinberg.

      In its decision, the prize committee hailed Prof. Seroussi’s contribution and achievements in the study of Jewish music in the region of Andalusia (Spain and North Africa) and the Ottoman Empire.

      “Prof. Seroussi is a pioneer in the research of popular music and Sephardi music (dubbed Mediterranean music),” the prize committee wrote. “The fruits of his research in the field of musical heritage and Sephardi liturgical poems have provided a framework for study and performance; and as such, Prof. Seroussi has contributed to imparting them to many [people].”

      Seroussi was born in Uruguay and immigrated to Israel in 1971 where he completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Musicology at Hebrew University. He received his PhD from the University of California Los Angeles.

      He currently serves as professor of musicology and director of the Jewish Music Research Center at the university.

      According to the university, his research focuses on the musical cultures of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, interactions between Jewish and Islamic cultures (specifically in art music genres) and popular music in Israel.

      Bennett tweeted on Monday that he was “especially happy” for the prize committee’s decision because Seroussi’s expertise is in Jewish music from Andalusia (Spain and North Africa) – “fields that have not yet been sufficiently represented.”

      “Today we bring the full Jewish story, [from] both the West and the East!” he tweeted.

      Bennett has expressed his support on numerous occasions for empowering Sephardi cultural studies within the general education curriculum and the Jewish narrative.

      In 2016, he established a committee and appointed Erez Biton as its head, the first poet of Mizrahi descent to win the Israel Prize in Literature (2015). Biton was tasked with empowering the identity of the Mizrahi Jewish community – including immigrants from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia and Libya – within the education system.

      The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem in the presence of the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president.


      Read the source article at Jpost


      Israel Prize in literature to be awarded to David Grossman

      Author David Grossman will be awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew literature and poetry, the Education Ministry announced on Monday.

      Education Minister Naftali Bennett approved the recommendation of the prize committee headed by Prof. Avner Holtzman and congratulated Grossman.

      “Since the early 1980’s, David Grossman has taken his place at the center of Israeli culture and he is one of the most profound, moving, and influential voices in our literature,” the prize committee wrote in its decision.

      In his novels, books, essays, documentary writing, in his extensive creations for children, he presented a series of masterpieces that excel in rich imagination, deep wisdom, human sensitivity, a poignant moral stand and a unique and resonant language,” the prize committee wrote.

      The committee added that Grossman is one of the most “famous, admired, and beloved” Israeli writers in the world and that his books have been translated into dozens of languages.

      Bennett defended giving the prize to an author who has been outspoken in his opposition to construction in Israeli settlements and has even backed the European labeling of products from over the Green Line. He told The Jerusalem Post that he has faced criticism from the Right for the decision but that he had no regrets.

      “There are issues on which I disagree with him, but no dispute will remove from the magic of his books,” Bennett said. “He is an Israeli patriot who gave the dearest of all to Israel (his son, Staff Sgt. Uri Grossman, 20,  was killed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War). He is not an author of the Left and I am not the education minister of the Right. Hezbollah didn’t ask who is Right and Left and secular and religious when boys with different views were killed in the same tank.”

      Grossman, born in Jerusalem, has written countless novels and children’s books including To the End of the Land, A Horse Walks into a Bar, The Book of Intimate Grammar and Someone to Run With.

      On Sunday evening, the Education Ministry also announced the Israel Prize winners for research in physics and in psychology.

      Prof. Shlomo Havlin, of Bar Ilan University, will receive the prize for his research in the field of physics.

      “Prof. Havlin is one of the pioneers of a number of fields in statistical physics and its implications for complex systems in different areas,” the prize committee wrote in its decision. “Prof. Havlin deals with the generalization of knowledge in physical fields to the broadest areas, such as social networks, technological networks, economic networks, political systems, physiological systems and DNA function.”

      The committee added that of all Israeli scientists, Prof. Havlin is the most cited by scientists around the world.
      “He devotes his time and energies to imparting contemporary science to youth and contributes greatly to the creation of scientific ties between Israel and the world,” it wrote.

      Prof. Yitzhak Shlesinger, of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was awarded the Israel Prize for his research in psychology.

      In its decision, the prize committee wrote that Shlesinger is one of the most important scientists in the field of psycholinguistics, contributing to the study of language processing and language development in children.

      “He was a pioneer in the documentation and conceptualization of sign language in Israel. His work in the field of Talmudic argumentation, in connections with general issues in linguistic expression, is a unique contribution. His innovations are deeply entwined in Hebrew culture and language,” the prize committee wrote.

      The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem in the presence of the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president.

      Read the source article at Jpost


      Martin Buber Supported MLK In Letter To LBJ

      Just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the National Library of Israel has unveiled a timely letter from its Martin Buber Archive. In 1965 Buber, just before his death, joined a group of Hebrew University professors in writing to President Lyndon B. Johnson to emphasize the importance of the end of King’s brief incarceration following a march on Selma, Alabama. King had received the Nobel Peace Prize the previous year. “We are taking the liberty to express our deep satisfaction that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is now again a free man and can continue his righteous fight for the equality of his people,” the letter’s signatories wrote, according to a press release from the National Library. They acknowledged Johnson’s own participation in that fight; the president would meet with King shortly after his release from prison. Buber, one of the most significant Israeli Jewish philosophers, had helped form King’s own thinking; the civil rights leader cited Buber’s influential essay “I and Thou” in his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Read the full text of the letter, below.

      Martin Buber Estate Martin Buber’s letter, with Hebrew University professors, to Johnson.

      Read the source article at The Forward

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