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.
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.
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.
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 withBoston 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lanita Warner was a youth exchange student in Israel when she first learned about the Hebrew University (HU). At the feet of HarHa’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.
Daniel C. Kurtzer is the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. During a 29-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Ambassador Kurtzer served as the United States Ambassador to Israel and as the United States Ambassador to Egypt. He was also a speechwriter and member of the Secretary of State George Shultz’s Policy Planning Staff; and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs and as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research.
Kurtzer is the co-author of Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East (2008), co-author of The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989-2011(2013), and editor of Pathways to Peace: America and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (2012). He served as a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board and previously served as an advisor to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. In 2007, he was named the first Commissioner of the professional Israel Baseball League.
Ambassador Kurtzer received a B.A. from Yeshiva University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.
Israel and fashion? Two things that are always in style! Hear how Hebrew University alumna Liraz Cohen Mordechai (Liri) combines them through Fashionating by Liri Inc. The company was established in 2016 to empower Israeli fashion designers, brands, and companies, and to bring Israel’s story through a new and unique perspective of fashion. So far, Liri presented her lecture in over 50 organizations across North America.
Liri is a fashion lecturer and NYC fashion blogger who is currently earning a Master’s degree in Global Fashion Management from FIT. Liri also manages the NY- Israel Fash&Tech Meetup community and, as a certified stylist, is deeply involved in the fashion industry in NYC. Prior to working at Duke, Liri was ZARA Israel’s Training and Development Department Manager responsible for the fashion, leadership, and educational training for 1,700 employees in over 50 stores. Additionally, Liri has over 10 years of experience in facilitating educational activities.
4,000-Year-Old Jar of Headless Toads Discovered in Jerusalem Burial
In one of the rock-cut tombs, archaeologists made a rare discovery: a jar full of bones from nine headless toads. The toads had been decapitated before they were buried with the dead, possibly as a way to prepare the animals to be “eaten.” Finding a tomb that’s been sealed for thousands of years is always a treat for archaeologists —especially when that tomb contains a jar of headless toads. That’s what archaeologists discovered inside a 4,000-year-old burial in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced yesterday (Sept. 25). The excavators think the jar might have been a funeral offering to feed the dead in the afterlife. In 2014, archaeologists were excavating at a Bronze Age cemetery of more than 60 rock-cut tombs in Jerusalem’s Manaḥat neighborhood. They discovered a sealed tomb, and after they rolled back the stone that was covering its opening, they found one poorly preserved human skeleton. The person had been buried lying on their back among intact ceramic bowls and jars. Based on the style of the pottery, the researchers think the tomb likely dates to the early part of the Middle Bronze Age (about 4,000 years ago). [See Photos of the Burial and Headless Toad Remains] One of the jars held a heap of small bones from nine toads that had all been decapitated. “It is impossible to determine what role the toads played, but they are clearly part of the funerary rituals,” Shua Kisilevitz, one of the excavation directors with the IAA, told Live Science. Kisilevitz added that during this period toads were a symbol of regeneration for people in Egypt (the neighbors and sometimes overlords of the ancient Canaanites who lived in the Levant). But it’s also possible that the toads had a more practical function: At the time, the dead were often buried with offerings that would serve them in their passage to the afterlife. “Food offerings are a staple of burial customs during this period, and there is a possibility that the toads were indeed placed in the jar as such,” Kisilevitz said. The fact that they were decapitated is another clue: One way to prepare toads for eating is to remove the head and edges of the limbs so that the sometimes-toxic skin could be removed, Kisilevitz added. While rare, the jar of toads isn’t entirely unprecedented. Kisilevitz said she knows of a Late Bronze Age tomb at Wadi Ara in the north of Israel that also included a vessel with decapitated toads. Dafna Langgut, an archaeology researcher at Tel Aviv University, found that the vessels in the Manahat tomb came into contact with date palms and myrtle bushes, which do not grow naturally in this area. The researchers think it’s possible that these trees and bushes were planted in a special orchard where funeral rituals for food offerings to the dead were held. The findings will be presented Oct. 18 at an archaeology conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Glocal International Development is an innovative M.A. program in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This 18-month program aims to provide students with the academic theory and background, as well as professional skills to work with communities across the globe. An integral part of the program is a four-month internship in a developing country, held during the third semester of the program.
As one of the English-language M.A. programs offered at Hebrew University, Glocal strives to be accessible to a range of students, especially for those coming from abroad. Students come from diverse professional, academic, and cultural backgrounds, comprising a dynamic cohort of up to 25 students.
Glocal’s multicultural and multi-ethnic student body becomes a part of a new generation of development professionals equipped with the latest theories and expertise, capable of comprehending and engaging with the complexities marginalized communities around the world face on a daily basis.
Listen to this podcast to learn firsthand about the program from Glocal Internship Coordinator and Lecturer, Dr. Reut Barak Weekes, students, and alumni.