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


Archaeologists uncover bittersweet end of 1,800-year-old Tiberias menorah

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


Ancient Temple Built by the Descendent of A Vast Biblical Kingdom Discovered by Israeli Military Drones


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


Lanita Warner

Lanita Warner was a youth exchange student in Israel when she first learned about the Hebrew University (HU). At the feet of Har Ha’tzofim (Mount Scopus), her tour guide pointed up and said, “Look, at the top of that mountain is the HU: the Harvard of the Middle East where Nobel Laureates are born.” Those words struck a chord with her. Lanita was already deeply attached to Israel and wanted to return, so she decided to attend HU. The following year she studied at the Rothberg International School at HU (RIS) for a semester, after which she enrolled in an M.A. degree program.

It was RIS’s dynamic learning experience that encouraged her to return for her Masters. “When I consider my experiences at RIS, the buzzword that comes to mind is ‘well-rounded.’ I learned from the RIS’s faculty, staff, internships, day trips, Shabbaton getaways, and my peers.” She, like many of her peers, chose RIS for its academic and experiential learning opportunities. “HU utilizes the land of Israel as a classroom itself, which is why every student leaves with a wealth of knowledge.”

A RIS M.A. graduate of Jewish Studies, and the 2013-2014 recipient of the Dr. Sarah Mekler Weisz Prize for Outstanding Students, Lanita wishes to support her alma mater in an administrative role. This November, she joins American Friends of the Hebrew University as their Alumni Relations Coordinator. “I am grateful to be joining the AFHU family, because I desire to reinvest skills that I developed as a student at RIS.” Her central focus is “to kick-start a domino effect of alumni support, one that fuels and reignites alumni passion for the HU, and ensures the continuation of education and research at HU.”


First time in Israel: Ancient deer bones discovered near Sea of Galilee

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

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