US, Israel to Exit UNESCO Over Its Alleged Anti-Israel Bias

AP News; townhall.com

PARIS (AP) — The United States announced Thursday it is pulling out of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for “fundamental reform” in the agency. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel plans to follow suit.

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department’s statement was unexpected. The Paris-based agency’s executive board is in the midst of choosing a new chief — with Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari leading the heated election heading into Friday’s final vote.

Outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova expressed “profound regret” at the U.S. decision and tried to defend UNESCO’s reputation. The organization is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions, but also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

Bokova called the U.S.’s planned departure a loss for “the United Nations family” and for multilateralism. The U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now with “the rise of violent extremism and terrorism,” she said.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments.

In a statement, the State Department said the decision will take effect Dec. 31, 2018, and that the U.S. will seek a “permanent observer” status instead. It cited U.S. belief in “the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel also plans to withdraw from the agency, saying it had become a “theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”

Israel has been irked by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have instead named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

Praising Trump’s decision as “brave and moral,” Netanyahu said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare for Israel’s withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also praised Washington’s move as heralding “a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel.”

“The United States stands by Israel and is a true leader for change at the U.N,” Danon said. “The alliance between our two countries is stronger than ever.”

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and it was not discussed with other countries. The officials were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called UNESCO’s July designation of Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory the latest of many “foolish actions” that had made the agency “a chronic embarrassment.”

Haley also criticized UNESCO for “keeping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protesters”

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003.

The State Department informed Bokova it intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

“We will be carefully watching how the organization and the new director-general steers the agency,” Charge d’Affaires Chris Hegadorn, the ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO, told The Associated Press. “Ideally, it steers it in way that U.S. interests and UNESCO’s mandate will converge.”

UNESCO’s 58-member executive board plans to select Bokova’s successor from among three finalists remaining from the field of seven candidates under consideration at the beginning of the week.

Along with al-Kawari, Qatar’s former culture minister, the finalists are Audrey Azoulay, a former culture minister in France, and former Egyptian government minister Moushira Khattab. The board’s pick then goes to the full UNESCO general assembly next month for final approval.

___

Lee reported from Washington. Edith M. Lederer in New York, Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

 

Jewish, Israeli groups provide emergency relief to hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico

Jewish News Service; jns.org

Damage from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Kris Grogan.

“To see the utter devastation firsthand and so close to home is shocking,” Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, co-director of Chabad of Puerto Rico, told Chabad.org. “Thousands of homes are locked in by the filthy floodwaters, even six days post-storm. With gratitude to the Almighty, we were able to locate the families we were looking for, and bring them food and water.”

More than a week after powerful Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory is facing a massive humanitarian crisis amid complaints that the American government has lagged in its response.

According to various media reports, nearly half Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents remain without drinking water, while hospitals are struggling to stay open amid gas shortages, food is scarce and 97 percent of the island has no power.

To address the situation, Chabad-Lubavitch has sent private planes full of essentials such as canned food, bottled water, medical items and other supplies to affected areas. Two planes loaded with 4,000 pounds of food and supplies arrived in Puerto Rico earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) announced it is partnering with IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian relief organization, to providence emergency assistance to Puerto Rico.

“Our tradition commands us to help those who are in need, and the people of Puerto Rico are in a desperate situation,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. “In this Jewish New Year period of introspection and renewal, we are committed to the recovery and rebuilding of Puerto Rico.”

With AJC’s assistance, IsraAID is providing emergency relief including water, food and hygiene items as well as psychosocial trauma support.

 

Steven Spielberg: A Legend Behind the Camera

By: Amy Spiro; jpost.com

In new HBO documentary about his life, Steven Spielberg discusses his Jewish upbringing, his illustrious career and the movie that changed his life forever.

Steven Spielberg on the set of “Schindler’s List.”. (photo credit:HBO)

You can’t discuss film directing without mentioning his name.

Over his illustrious 50-year-career, Steven Spielberg has created some of the most iconic, beloved and critically acclaimed films ever made.

And now he has taken a turn on the other side of the camera lens, sitting for hours of interviews as part of the new HBO biography and documentary Spielberg.

Documentarian Susan Lacy has pieced together interviews with the director himself, his siblings, parents and colleagues over the years, interspersed with film footage and behind the scenes videos to create a comprehensive look at Spielberg’s life. The result is a two-and a- half hour glimpse into the director’s Hollywood career, from his first professional job at age 21 to his numerous box office hits and critical successes. It is telling of the breadth of his career that 150 minutes doesn’t serve as enough time to touch on dozens of his films.

The 70-year-old is a congenial interview subject, discussing the highs and lows of his career as well as his childhood and personal life with ease.

A who’s who of Hollywood – after all, who hasn’t worked with Spielberg – weighs in as well, including his close friends and compatriots Martin Scorsese, JJ Abrams, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. Actors Richard Dreyfus, Tom Hanks, Leonardo Dicaprio, Drew Barrymore, Liam Neeson, Dustin Hoffman and Daniel Day Lewis all show up to discuss their time on set with the legendary director.

The lengthy but jam-packed documentary weaves its way through Spielberg’s illustrious career, from his first big hit with Jaws, to the iconic E.T. and Jurassic Park and the critically-acclaimed The Color Purple and Saving Private Ryan. While Spielberg has been one of the most respected filmmakers in Hollywood, he didn’t shy away from creating feel-good box-office friendly franchises, like Men in Black (which he produced but didn’t direct) and Indiana Jones.

While for many years Spielberg shied away from his Jewish identity, he has long since embraced it as part of his life and his work.

“I don’t search for films consciously that have a spiritual core,” he said of his 1977 science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “There’s a spiritual part of myself that happens to bleed over into the work,” he added, saying he often “will find things that inherently have something of a belief system that’s beyond our understanding.”

In the interview with Lacy, Spielberg said he believes in God, and reflected on the role faith had in his upbringing.

“I was raised Orthodox, and tradition has been a huge part of my family – religious studies and Hebrew school and bar mitzvas and bat mitzvas,” he said. “But we always lived in neighborhoods where there were no Jews and there was a real cultural divide in those days.”

The director said while growing up he “certainly experienced being excluded and picked on and discriminated against.” Those experiences, he said, led in part to him beginning to “deny his Jewishness… deny everything that I had accepted as a child.”

But when he married his second and current wife, Kate Capshaw, who converted to Judaism before the wedding, he underwent a return to the faith of his childhood.

Certainly career-wise, however, there was no film that connected Spielberg to the Jewish people more than the iconic 1993 Schindler’s List.

“It was, emotionally, the hardest movie I’ve ever made,” the director recounted.

“Nothing could prepare me for my first visit to Auschwitz… I knew this couldn’t be just another movie, and it couldn’t be like anything I’d ever directed before.”

The film left more than just an indelible legacy – and Spielberg’s first Academy Award – it spurred the director to set up the Shoah Foundation.

That organization, founded with the profits of Schindler’s List (“I couldn’t take any proceeds from the film”), created an archive of filmed testimony by Holocaust survivors.

But the impact it had on Spielberg’s own life was also immeasurable.

“The experience of making Schindler’s List made me reconcile with all of the reasons… I hid from my Jewishness,” he said. “And it made me so proud to be a Jew.”

More than a decade later, the director tackled another – more controversial – film with 2005’s Munich.

That movie told the story of the Mossad’s secret plot to avenge the deaths of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.

After 11 Israeli athletes were murdered at the games by PLO terrorists, Israel embarks on a mission to kill the 11 PLO operatives involved in the murders.

“I knew it would be controversial from the very get-go,” Spielberg said. He noted that the film explored the ideas of revenge and its justification, leaving viewers with murky feelings on the morality of retribution.

“Munich is a prayer for peace,” he said. “But peace the hard way, peace by discovering within yourself your moral high ground.”

Spielberg airs in the United States on Saturday October 7. It will be available on YesVOD and HOT VOD starting October 8 and air on October 13 at 10 p.m. on YesDocu and October 14 at 10 p.m. on HOT HBO.

 

Sandy Koufax and Yom Kippur: The Link that Lasts Forever

By: Marc Brodsky; jta.org

(JTA) – As Yom Kippur approaches, Jewish baseball fans hark back to the fall of 1965, when Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax said he would not take the mound in Game 1 of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins.

Mind you, this was no ordinary pitcher. Koufax dominated on the hill that season for Los Angeles and would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Koufax, now in his early 80s, and his choice would go down in Jewish lore, to be recalled annually on the Day of Atonement – or perhaps whenever his coreligionists have a tough call to make.

“There was no hard decision for me,” he would say later in an ESPN documentary released in 2000. “It was just a thing of respect. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, and I had no idea that it would impact that many people.”

Learn more about Koufax’s story in the video above.

 

Israel shuts down for Yom Kippur

By: TOI Staff; timesofisrael.com

Roads and airwaves fall silent, but security and rescue services remain on high alert.

Israelis ride their bicycles on a car-free highway on Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv, Friday, Sept 29. 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel shut shut down on Friday for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

All flights in and out of Ben Gurion airport ceased at 1:35 p.m., while public transport gradually halted with buses and trains stopping their routes until after the fast day.

As sundown approached all local radio and television broadcasts gradually fell silent.

Yom Kippur begins Friday at sundown and ends Saturday night.

 

It is marked with a 25-hour fast and intense prayer by religious Jews, while more secular Israelis often use the day to ride bicycles on the country’s deserted highways.

Thousands of worshipers crowd the Western Wall in Jerusalem for traditional selihot prayers the day before Yom Kippur, October 10, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Security and rescue services, however, remain on high alert.

For the Magen David Adom Rescue service, Yom Kippur is one of the busiest days of the year with hundreds of extra medics, paramedics, ambulances and volunteers deployed across the country.

Most injuries over Yom Kippur come from accidents on the roads as tens of thousands of children and teens take advantage of the deserted streets to ride their bicycles. Other common Yom Kippur injuries are caused by parents leaving children unattended outside synagogues and, of course, dehydration and complications from fasting.

Israelis ride their bicycles on empty roads in Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays. The photo was taken on October 3, 2014. (Danielle Shitrit/Flash 90)

However, the weather this year is expected to be relatively mild, with even some light rain expected in the north.

Meanwhile, the IDF imposed a closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday. The closure is expected to last until midnight on Saturday, “depending on a situational assessment,” the army said.

Israeli policeman stand guard as cement blocks are placed by Israeli security forces on a road linking the Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina and West Jerusalem, on Oct. 11, 2016, ahead of Yom Kippur (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

The closure is a routine procedure during Israeli and Jewish holidays. However, in a less common move, the military also announced that Palestinian workers would be barred from entering Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a measure that is not normally taken during closures. The army said special permission may be granted in some cases.

This additional restriction is likely tied to a terror attack on Tuesday morning, in which a Palestinian gunman hid among a group of laborers waiting to enter the Har Adar settlement, outside Jerusalem. When he was called to stop, the terrorist opened fire with a handgun, killing three security officers and wounding a fourth.

In addition, the Jewish high holiday season, which began last week with Rosh Hashanah, is generally seen by defense officials as a time of increased tension in the region, when the risk of terror attacks is higher.

 

Border Policeman, 2 Security Guards Killed in Har Adar Terror Attack

By: Tovah Lazaroff, Anna Ahronheim, JPost.com Staff; jpost.com

 

Israeli military enforces closure on the assailant’s home village. Hamas praises attack. Assailant had history of domestic violence.

Border Police officers stand guard at the scene of the terror attack in Har Adar. (photo credit:AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Soldiers patrolled the seam-line area of the Har Adar settlement Tuesday night after a 7:14 a.m. terrorist attack at its back gate claimed the lives of three Israelis and wounded one other.

According to Border Police, the Palestinian assailant approached the town’s gate posing as a laborer. When the officers manning the gate grew suspicious of him because of his unusual clothing, he pulled out his weapon and opened fire.

After an exchange of gunfire, the assailant was shot dead, but not before fatally injuring three people and severely wounding another.

It was the first terrorist attack in the 31-year history of the settlement that abuts the Green Line just outside Jerusalem.

The victims – Border Police officer Solomon Gavriya, 20, of Be’er Ya’acov, and security guards Youssef Othman, 24, of Abu Gosh, and Or Arish, 25, of Har Adar – were buried in cemeteries in their hometowns late in the afternoon.

Israeli media identified the attacker as 37-year-old Nimer Mahmoud Ahmad Jamal, a father of four from the West Bank village of Beit Surik. The man is said to have had a valid work permit allowing him to enter Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Israel Defense Forces closed Beit Surik and the nearby village of Biddu after the attack. Residents can enter the villages but can only leave for humanitarian reasons.

Troops also raided Jamal’s home and arrested three Palestinians, including two of his brothers, on suspicion of involvement in the attack.

Following the closure of Beit Surik, some 15 Palestinians rioted against the IDF in Biddu.

A general closure of the West Bank has not been imposed and Palestinians with work permits can still enter Israel, an IDF spokesman said.

The attack took place at the back end of the settlement, called the Biddu gate, because it borders the Palestinian village of that name. Some 200 Palestinian laborers cross daily through the gate and into Har Adar, as did Jamal, who had a work permit for communities in Judea and Samaria.

It is not currently known if the assailant belonged to a terrorist organization, but Hamas has praised the attack and called for others to carry out similar ones.

Jamal was well-known and trusted in Har Adar, where he worked privately for a number of families.

Early Tuesday morning, Jamal hid a gun under his jacket and headed to the gate, as he normally did.

But the jacket, an unusual item in the September heat, aroused the suspicion of the security officers who called him over for a special inspection.

Jamal “pulled out a pistol he had in his possession, and fired at close range at the security guards and the [Border Police] officer,” police said.

The two security guards and the Border Police officer were immediately killed. Other officers at the scene shot and killed Jamal.

Har Adar’s security team head, Amit Steinhart, was wounded, but was able to call Har Adar council head Chen Filipovitz and urge him to rush to the scene.

“He asked me to look out for his wife if he died,” Filipovitz said.

The council head replied: “Don’t be ridiculous, you are not dying.”

Filipevitz arrived in minutes and helped cover the bodies.

He recalled how the night before, Othman had stayed late in the council offices to help fix the television. In the council offices workers fielded calls all day, telling people of Steinhart’s recovery and the tragic fate of the three slain victims.

Palestinian workers were asked to leave by noon and will not be allowed into the settlement on Wednesday, save for a few necessary exceptions.

Har Adar Resident Drora Bardizchev, who had employed Jamal in her home, said in an interview to Channel 10 News that she was shocked by the attack. She said she had enjoyed a very good relationship with him, often spending time alone with him in the house and drinking coffee together during breaks. She said the man, whom she referred to as Nimer, had been under stress in recent months due to a domestic dispute with his estranged wife.

The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) issued a statement saying Jamal had significant personal and family problems, including a history of domestic violence. The statement added that his wife had fled to Jordan several weeks ago, leaving him to care for their four children.

The IDF Spokespersons Unit released a Facebook post that Jamal had written to his wife, in which he stated that his actions were unrelated to their relationship. In the post, which was published on Facebook on Monday, he wrote that he was to blame for their poor relationship due to jealousy and stupidity and that she should care and educate their children according to the teachings of God.

The gun used in the terror attack in Har Adar. (COURTESY ISRAELI POLICE)

The injured Israeli, the town’s security chief, was rushed to hospital for treatment.

The attacker’s home village, located about a kilometer away from Har Adar, has been placed under a military closure.

St. Sgt. Solomon Gabaria, Yossef Otman and Or Arish, the victims of the Har Adar West Bank terror shooting, September 26, 2017. (Courtesy Israel Police)

One of the victims murdered was identified as border police officer First Sergeant Salomon Gabaria (20) from Be’er Yaakov. Yossef Otman, from Abu Gosh, and Or Arish (25) from Har Adar were identified as the slain security guards.

Israel’s police superintendent Roni Alsheich said the actions of the security officers prevented a far more serious outcome.

Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance teams that arrived first at the scene pronounced the three victims dead.

MDA paramedic Zohar Lomar described the efforts to save the fourth person shot in the attack: “I went to treat him, he was suffering from gunshot wounds in the stomach and chest. We transferred him to the ambulance and evacuated him to hospital, all the time continuing lifesaving treatment… On the way he spoke to us and told us about what had occurred.”

Moshir Abu Katish, a Muslim volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah, was also one of the first responders on the scene. He lives in the neighboring Arab-Israeli town of Abu Gosh.

“I raced over to the scene, which took place near the fence of Har Adar. Security forces had shot and killed the terrorist who had carried out a shooting attack against a group of Israelis,” Abu Katish said. “I ran to treat the injured people who were suffering from gunshot wounds to their upper bodies. Unfortunately, the three more seriously injured people in the attack were pronounced dead at the scene. We treated a fourth person who was injured at the scene before he was transported to the hospital for further treatment and observation.”

Dov Baksht, the commander of  ZAKA rescue and recovery organization, who was at the scene of the terror attack, said, “This is a very difficult attack –  a terrorist opened fire at close range on four Israelis. The outcome is very bad, with three Israelis killed and the body of the terrorist. The ZAKA team at the scene has three ambulances to evacuate the murdered victims and ZAKA volunteers are working to collect the remains.” Baksht added, “The forensics teams from the Israel Police are currently working on the scene. We are waiting until they have completed their work and then we will enter the scene once again to complete our sacred work.”

On Tuesday evening, Israeli security forces arrested two of the assailant’s brothers in connection with the attack, The IDF Spokesperson’s unit reported. The brothers were taken in for questioning.

A general view of the scene of the terror attack in Har. (AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman condemned the attack and vowed to hunt down the terrorists and those who sent them out to kill Israelis. Liberman stressed that there is no difference between Palestinian-fueled terror and fundamentalist Islamic terror in Europe. He added that before there could even be talk of negotiations, the world must demand that the Palestinian Authority cease its inciting ways.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin responded to the attack, saying the nation’s hearts were with the families of the victims. “The brutal terror attack exposes, once again, the daily reality that Israeli security forces, who are on the front lines, have to deal with,” said Rivlin. “We will continue to confront terror and put our hands on the attackers and their backers.”

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said there were no prior indications about the assailant’s deadly motivations. He placed responsibility for the attack at the feet of the Palestinian Authority, which, he said, encourages terror with its policy of handing out stipends to terrorists and their family members.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the attack “The Palestinians’ welcome greeting to American envoy Jason Greenblatt.” She said the Americans must focus all their attention on ending the murderous Palestinian terror efforts and that any negotiations with them are futile as long as they continue to incite to terror.

Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay called on the government to act “with an iron fist” against terrorists whose sole purpose is to harm Jews. “Har Adar is a community that for years exemplified coexistence between Jews and Arabs. This attack is a severe blow to the relations between the two communities,” said Gabbay.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabarin blamed the policy of the Israeli government for the attack. “The far right Israeli government is responsible for the bloody circle of violence and the conflict’s enshrinement,” he said. “There is no such thing as an enlightened occupation. There is no occupation without resistance.”

In July, three Jewish family members were killed when a Palestinian terrorist entered the West Bank Settlement of Halamish and stabbed them while they were sitting down for Shabbat dinner. The terrorist in that incident was incapacitated by a neighbor, a soldier who was home on leave.

 

4,000-Year-Old Decapitated Toads Discovered in Ancient Jerusalem Tomb

By: Daniel K. Eisenbud; jpost.com

Discovery from Canaanite period sheds new light on ancient funerary rituals during Middle Bronze Age.

Nine headless toads discovered by archeologists inside a well-preserved jar placed in a 4,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem shed new light on burial customs during the Canaanite period of the Middle Bronze Age, the Antiquities Authority said on Monday.

The excavation, which took place in 2014 prior to the expansion of the Manaḥat neighborhood, near Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo, also yielded evidence of the cultivation of date palms and myrtle bushes, possibly as part of funerary rituals.

According to the excavation’s directors on behalf of the Authority, Shua Kisilevitz and Zohar Turgeman-Yaffe, the section of the Nahal Rephaim basin, where the tomb was unearthed, was once fertile ground for settlements, particularly during the Canaanite period.

“In recent years, excavations in the area have uncovered two settlement sites, two temples and a number of cemeteries, which provide new insight into the life of the local population at that time,” the researchers said in a joint statement.

Kisilevitz and Turgeman-Yaffe added that after removing a large rock blocking the tomb’s opening, they discovered several bowls and jars still intact.

“In one of the jars, to our surprise, we found a heap of small bones,” they said.

“For an archaeologist, finding tombs that were intentionally sealed in antiquity is a priceless treasure because they are a time capsule that allows us to encounter objects almost just as they were originally left. At that time, it was customary to bury the dead with offerings that constituted a kind of ‘burial kit,’ which, it was believed, would serve the deceased in the afterworld.”

A subsequent study of the bones, by Dr. Lior Weisbrod of the University of Haifa, revealed the nine headless toads’ corpses.

Another intriguing finding came to light through analysis of sediments collected from the clay jars and examined under a microscope. The examination, by Dr. Dafna Langgut of Tel Aviv University, revealed that shortly before the vessels were placed in the tomb, they came into contact with various plants, including date palms and myrtle bushes.

“This fact is interesting because this is not the natural habitat for those species, and they therefore seem to have been planted here intentionally,” concluded Langgut. “During this period, the date palm symbolized fertility and rejuvenation, which could explain why the ancients cultivated the trees in this environment, where they do not grow naturally.”

Based on their findings, the scholars say the florae may have been part of an orchard planted in an area where funeral rituals were held, during which offerings of food and objects were made to the deceased.

The jar with the headless toads was among these offerings, they concluded.

Research and analysis on the excavation will be presented on October 18 at the conference “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region,” open to the public, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

Israel and US Open First American Military Base in Israel

AP News; townhall.com

BISLACH AIR BASE, Israel (AP) — Israel and the U.S. inaugurated the first American military base on Israeli soil on Monday, which will serve dozens of soldiers operating a missile defense system.

The move comes at a time of growing Israeli concerns about archenemy Iran’s development of long-range missiles. Together with the U.S., Israel has developed a multilayered system of defenses against everything from long-range guided missile attacks from Iran to crude rockets fired from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The base’s opening is largely symbolic and isn’t expected to bring operational changes. But the Israeli military says that along with other measures, it sends a message of readiness to Israel’s enemies.

“It’s a message that says Israel is better prepared. It’s a message that says Israel is improving the response to threats,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the commander of Israel’s aerial defense.

The base is located within an existing Israeli air force base and will operate under Israeli military directives.

Israeli and U.S. military officials cut a ribbon at the base Monday, where the American and Israeli flags flew side by side and soldiers from both countries commingled.

Israel’s multi-tier missile defense system includes the Arrow, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the stratosphere with an eye on Iran, and Iron Dome, which defends against short-range rockets from the Gaza Strip. David’s Sling is meant to counter the type of medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country’s nuclear ambitions, its development of long-term missiles, hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and support for anti-Israel militant groups. Israel has grown increasingly concerned about Iran’s involvement in the civil war in neighboring Syria, where its troops are supporting President Bashar Assad.

Israel is worried that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah will establish a long-term presence in Syria near the Israeli border.

 

Seals from Judean Kingdom Period Shed Light on Life in Ancient Jerusalem

By: Daniel Eisenbud; jpost.com

Some of the seals are inscribed with biblical names, several of which are still used today, such as Pinchas.

A complete seal bearing the name “Achiav Ben Menachem.”. (photo credit:ISRAELI ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY/ CLARA AMIT)

A rare collection of ancient seals inscribed with the names of officials dating to the Judean Kingdom prior to the Babylonian destruction has been unearthed near the Old City’s walls during excavations conducted by the Antiquities Authority.

Dozens of seals, made of small pieces of clay used to officially close letters, were well preserved in the City of David and serve as evidence of their owners.

According to Ortal Chalaf and Dr. Joe Uziel, directors of the excavation funded by the Ir David Foundation (Elad), the seals illustrate the advanced administrative underpinnings of Jerusalem during the First Temple period.

“The earliest seals bear mostly a series of pictures,” the archeologists said on Monday.

“It appears that instead of writing the names of the clerks, symbols were used to show who the signatory was, or what he was sealing.”

Dr. Joe Uziel with ancient seals at the City of David. (Eliyahu Yania/ The City of David)

During later stages of the period – from the time of King Hezekiah (approximately 700 BCE) and up to the destruction of Jerusalem, in 586 BCE – the seals bear the names of clerks in early Hebrew script.

“Through these findings, we learn not only about the developed administrative systems in the city, but also about the residents and those who served in the civil service,” they noted.

Some of the seals are inscribed with biblical names, several of which are still used today, such as Pinhas.

“One particularly interesting seal mentions a man by the name of Ahiav Ben Menahem,” they said.

“These two names are known in the context of the Kingdom of Israel: Menahem was a king of Israel, while Ahiav does not appear in the Bible, but his name resembles that of Ahav [Ahab] – the infamous king of Israel from the tales of the prophet Elijah.”

Although the spelling of the name, “Ahiav,” differs somewhat from “Ahav,” they said it appears to be the same name.

“The version of the name that appears on the seal discovered, Ahiav, appears as well in the Book of Jeremiah in the Septuagint, as well as in Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 15:7-8),” they said.

Chalaf and Uziel added that the appearance of the name “Ahiav” is interesting for two main reasons.

“First, because it serves as further testimony to the names that are familiar to us from the Kingdom of Israel in the Bible, and which appear in Judah during the period following the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel,” they said.

“These names are part of the evidence that after the exile of the Tribes of Israel, refugees arrived in Jerusalem from the northern kingdom, and found their way into senior positions in Jerusalem’s administration.”

While Ahab is portrayed as a negative figure in the Bible, his name continues to be in use, albeit in a differently spelled version.

“It was used both in Judea during the latter days of the First Temple, as reflected in Jeremiah and on the seal; and also after the destruction in the Babylonian exile, and up until the Second Temple period, as seen in the writings of Flavius Josephus,” the researchers said.

The stamps, along with other archeological findings discovered during recent excavations, will be exhibited to the public for the first time at the 18th City of David research conference, the annual archeological conference held by the Megalim Institute, on September 7 at the City of David National Park.

 

US Police Train in Counterterrorism in Israel, Attend 9/11 Memorial

By: Daniel K. Eisenbud; jpost.com

“In our communities, for a lot of police officers, it’s a job, and I think that it’s more than a job for a lot of the officers in Israel because they are protecting their homeland.”

Members of the Police Unity Tour salute their Israeli counterparts at the Beit Shemesh police academy Monday.. (photo credit:POLICE SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

For the second consecutive year, the Police Unity Tour, a delegation of 52 American law-enforcement officers from 12 states, arrived in Israel to train in counterterrorism techniques and attend an annual 9/11 memorial service outside Jerusalem.

According to the delegation’s leader, Michael Safris, chief of the Essex County’s Sheriff’s Office Deputy Division, the Police Unity Tour was established in 1997 to honor officers killed in the line of duty.

“We are here to honor fallen police officers from the US and Israel,” he said on Monday.

“The motto of the Police Unity Tour is ‘We ride for those who died,’ and last year when we came here we did a one-day bike tour with Israeli officers, and in May we had 12 Israeli officers ride with us from New Jersey to our police memorial in Washington, DC, to participate in a candle-lighting vigil for fallen US officers,” Safris said.

During their stay, the US delegation will be based at the Beit Shemesh police academy, where they will participate in multiple counterterrorism training exercises, meet with elite units, and be briefed by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.

The delegation will conclude following a September 11 memorial service held at the 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza in the Arazim Valley.

Safris, 72, who is Jewish and has hosted Israeli police delegations in the US for the past 10 years, said he has visited Israel 40 times.

“From all my trips, I know the delegation forms an important relationship, and if something happens in the US or something happens here, we stay in touch and honor each country’s fallen officers,” he said. “The relationship and comradery developed over the last two years is one of the reasons we keep coming.”

In terms of heightened antisemitism in the US – recently manifested by violent white supremacists who chanted “Jew will not replace us!” while marching in Charlottesville, Virginia – Safris said the country is indeed becoming alarmingly polarized.

“There is definitely a big divide, and I think people feel more emboldened by some of the things that President Trump said, or didn’t say,” he said. “There is a definite uptick [in antisemitism].”

Asked if security for Jewish people and organizations has been heightened in the US, Safris responded “100 percent.”

“Jewish communities have hired security directors and people now have to sign in at synagogues and community centers,” he said. “It’s a lot different than it was over the last year.”

Safris said what distinguishes the Israeli police internationally is their commitment not only to law enforcement, but to Israel’s existential struggle.

“In our communities, for a lot of police officers, it’s a job, and I think that it’s more than a job for a lot of the officers in Israel because they are protecting their homeland,” he said.

“We have a lot of discussions about this when we are here,” Safris said. “It’s not just about keeping Israel going, but keeping it strong. You know, you can’t put down your weapons; you gotta be strong and act quickly, otherwise it’s going to be a lot worse.”

“They are protecting a way of life here,” he added.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who met with the American delegation, said Israel’s ongoing security threats and the police’s efficient handling of them makes it an ideal arena for officers from across the globe to train.

“In terms of counterterrorism tactics that have been used and implemented at numerous scenes across the country, where unfortunately terrorist attacks have taken place, the Israeli police have used those tactics to minimize injuries, as well as find rapid solutions,” he said.

“Over the next few days, the Police Unity Tour will learn and see a number of these tactics across the country,” Rosenfeld added.