When George Deek uses the word “we” in a conversation, it is not entirely clear whether he means “we Palestinians,” or rather “we Israelis,” or perhaps “we Westerners,” or even “we Arabs.” At the age of 30, with a constant five-o’clock shadow compensating for his baby-face and thin silhouette, he is both an Israeli diplomat, representing the Jewish state, and a descendant of a Palestinian family who fled its home during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. His cousins live today in Canada, Dubai, Damascus, and Ramallah, and some of them are considered by the United Nations to be refugees of that same war.
This personal tension came fully into being last summer, during the war between Israel and Hamas, when Deek was Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Oslo. He presented Israel’s positions and defended its actions, while Norwegian TV networks were screening endless footage of destruction coming out of the Gaza Strip. He explained how the Israeli army works, without ever serving in it. He spoke on behalf of Israel, when none of his viewers and listeners knew that he was actually (also) a Palestinian.
A few weeks later, at the end of September, he decided to unveil his personal story for the first time. In a lecture in the House of Literature in Oslo, during the launching of the Norwegian translation of Benny Morris’ history book dedicated to the 1948 war, Deek recounted how his grandfather fled Jaffa and reached Lebanon, how he insisted on getting back into Israel when the war ended, and how he raised his family in the nascent Jewish state. He talked about the personal suffering of his own family, now scattered all around the world, but also about the fact that “the Palestinians have become slaves to the past, held captive by the chains of resentment, prisoners in the world of frustration and hate.”
But he talked mainly about the way forward, and mainly about hope. He spoke about his neighbor Avraham, a Holocaust survivor, who taught him always to look to the future and not to the past. He gave his listeners a sense of why a young Arab-Palestinian has decided to dedicate his career to the Israeli Foreign Service. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the speech quickly went viral under the somewhat ironic title “the best speech an Israeli diplomat ever held.”
As a native son of Jaffa, the mixed Arab-Jewish suburb of Tel Aviv (population 60,000), Deek knows its decaying streets and alleys inside out. Our meeting occurred when he was in Israel for the winter holidays, just after he returned from Sunday prayer in the local Christian Orthodox church. He was dressed in a dark blue suit and a pair of shiny black shoes. His late father, Joseph, was head of the Orthodox community in town, so everybody knew him and greeted him with a nod. A group of elderly women sitting outside a simple one-story home, all in black dresses, called to him and urged him to find himself a woman already. He chuckled.
Deek took me to where his grandfather’s house stood in the Ajami neighborhood before 1948; it was now a complete ruin. His grandfather George worked as an electrician and had some Jewish friends who even taught him Yiddish, making him one of the first Arabs to ever speak the language. He got engaged to his wife Vera in 1947. A few months later, when the United Nations approved the Partition Plan, Arab leaders warned that the Jews would kill them if they stayed home. “They told everyone to leave their houses, and run away,” said Deek. “They said they will need just a few days, in which together with five armies they promised to destroy the newly born Israel.”
His family, horrified by what might happen, decided to flee to the north, toward Lebanon. They stayed there for many months, and when the war was over, they realized that they had been lied to—the Arabs did not win as they promised, and the Jews did not kill all the Arabs, as they were told would happen. “My grandfather looked around him and saw nothing but a dead-end life as refugees,” said Deek. “He knew that in a place stuck in the past with no ability to look forward, there is no future for his family. Because he worked with Jews and was a friend to them, he was not brainwashed with hatred.”
His grandfather did what few others would have dared—he got hold of one of his old friends at the electricity company, and asked for his help to get back into Israel. That friend not only was able and willing to help him come back, but even made sure that he got his job back.
We stared at the ruined house for a few more moments. “Let’s continue?” he suggested.
Among Deek’s siblings and cousins living in Israel there are accountants, hi-tech engineers, factory managers, university professors, doctors, lawyers, architects—and of course electricians. “The reason we have succeeded,” he said, “and that I am an Israeli diplomat, and not a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, is that my grandfather had the courage to make a decision that was unthinkable to others.”
He spoke slowly and softly, as someone who had given much thought to the issue. He said that his grandfather’s choice should be a model for the Arab minority in Israel as a whole: “Unfortunately, Arabs in Israel today are forced to choose between two bad options. One is assimilation—young Arabs look at their Jewish peers and decide they want to speak like them, walk like them, and behave like them. This attempt is a bit comic but also sad, since it is doomed to fail. In the end they are not Jews and will never be.
“On the other hand, and this is a far more common choice, there is an option of separatism, which is promoted by the Arab political and religious leaders. They say that we are not really Israelis, only Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, but this nuance creates dissociation. They speak about Arab cultural autonomy and about separation, which I think lead to extremism and animosity with the Jews. According to this version, a loyal Arab-Israeli must define himself first and foremost through being anti-Israeli.
“With the first choice, you lose who you are; with the second, you lose who you can become. But I believe that there’s a third way. We can be proud of our identity and at the same time live as a contributing minority in a country who has a different nationality, a different religion, and a different culture than ours. There is no better example in my view than the Jews in Europe, who kept their religion and identity for centuries but still managed to influence deeply, perhaps even to create, European modern thinking. Jews suffered from the same dissonance between their own identity and the surrounding society. Their success was not despite their distinctiveness, but because of it. I am talking about Marx, Freud, Einstein, Spinoza, Wittgenstein.
“Are we less smart? I don’t think so. We must contribute to the common good and be part of the Israeli mainstream in politics, economy, culture, fashion, technology, music, everything. We have our role models. Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran; Judge George Kara, who sent a Jewish president to jail; Weizmann Institute researcher Jacob Hanna; and authors such as Sayed Kashua and Anton Shammas, who are doing to Hebrew what Franz Kafka did to the German language.”
He lamented the fact that Arab leaders don’t follow this path and instead put the Arab identity and the Israeli identity on a constant collision path. The Arab minority in Israel, he said, could have a paramount role in creating a bridge with the entire Arab world through commerce, culture, and literature, thanks to its unique position. “There is a challenge here for the Jewish community as well,” he added, “who have to accept a minority that wants to maintain its distinct character and still be part of the decision-making process.”
Orthodox Christians in Jaffa celebrated their New Year in mid January, and so a few thousand of them lined the city’s main street on a chilly winter’s night for the annual festive parade. There was a mixed boys-girls group of break-dancers, and huge balloons, and many many fireworks, but the main attraction was the Orthodox Christian scouts band that played anything from “Jingle Bells” to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. As a trumpet player and a former leader of the band, Deek does not miss an opportunity to play with the band; each year he returns to Israel for the winter holidays to be once again part of the community.
As a boy he studied in Jaffa, but his father sent him to one of the best high schools in northern Tel Aviv, where he was the only Arab. He stood out as an eloquent speaker, and when the second Intifada broke out in 2000 he enthusiastically defended the Palestinian side, though he says today that already at that time he felt that he was only playing a role written for him and not expressing himself. After graduating, he practiced law for a few years but got bored. One day he saw an ad in the newspaper for the upcoming cadet course for diplomats.
His Arab friends told him he did not stand a chance; he didn’t even serve in the military, they said. Convincing his father, an Arab nationalist and member of an anti-Zionist political party, was a tougher sell. The young Deek promised his father that he was doing it out of a real sense of purpose and not for the status or the perks. “I will never forget his answer,” he said. “He told me that he wanted to bring up a man, and therefore taught me how to think and not what to think.”
Representing Israel in Norway, where for a while he was the most senior diplomat in the embassy, wasn’t always an easy task. However, his mixed and conflicting identities helped him notice elements that other people would have probably missed; always a stranger, he picked up nuances that others were blind to. “Despite all differences,” he said, “Norwegians and Israelis have in common the feeling that they know better than anyone else how to do things. Norwegians have this sense of geographical superiority toward the rest of the world; sort of ‘we are far away and above all this.’ I remember that when I just arrived there from my previous post in Nigeria, I saw a billboard advertising a ‘Films from the South’ festival. I was sure that these were going to be African films, but I discovered they were actually German and French films. For Norway, that was south. That’s beyond geography. That’s about the mentality of looking at the world from a higher pedestal.”
‘How could it be that I was both Israeli, Arab, Christian, and a diplomat in Norway?’ Until recently, Norway was considered one of the most hostile countries in Europe toward Israel, and Deek had to confront these sentiments on a daily basis. “If you ask me how many Norwegians think that Jews belong to an inferior religion, or that Jews control the world, the answer would be very little,” he said. “But I think that the State of Israel itself has become a substitute for those same old anti-Semitic sentiments.
“Back when religion was the source of authority, the Jews suffered because of their religion. When science became the source of authority, Jews suffered because of their racial-biological features. Now the source of authority is the issue of human rights, and the Jewish State is accused of committing all the gravest abuses at once: apartheid, genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity. Just as Jews posed a challenge to the non-Jewish society throughout the ages, so does Israel pose a challenge to the world today. This is what I had to deal with: the Norwegians’ ability to accept a Jewish State with all its uniqueness.”
He had a revealing conversation with one of Norway’s YMCA leaders, who decided to boycott Israel. “I asked her, ‘Why Israel?’ There are surely much graver cases of human rights abuses around the world. Even if everything she said was true, Israel was still not the worst country in the world. And to my astonishment, she replied, ‘Well, we have to start somewhere.’ She reminded me of the famous story of the former president of Harvard University, who when asked why he singled Jews out for quotas, responded, ‘Jews cheat.’ When he was reminded that Christians also cheat, he said: ‘You’re changing the subject. We are talking about Jews now.’ ”
One of the tricks he uses when discussing Israel is to reveal his full identity only halfway through the conversation. “During the war between Israel and Hamas in 2012, I invited a very senior journalist who was reporting at the time on the conflict. At a certain point he started to accuse me, saying, ‘You Jews don’t want the Palestinians to have their own state.’ I answered that I was not Jewish. I represent the Jewish State but I am an Arab-Palestinian with relatives in Ramallah, and I can tell him that he is wrong.
“Every Israeli diplomat could have told him that he was wrong, but when I did so, it had a different meaning. He said, ‘Wait a moment, are you Israeli?’ I replied yes. He asked, ‘And you represent Israel?’ I said yes. ‘But you are Arab?’ I said yes. He was very confused and did not understand how it could be that I was both Israeli, Arab, Christian, and a diplomat in Norway. And this was someone supposedly knowledgeable in Israel and its society. But many times very prominent figures in politics, in the media or the academia, make up their thoughts based on fashion and not on facts or substance.”
Why, of all jobs and professions he could pick, did Deek chose to align himself with one part of his identity, which is set in such a conflict with other parts of his identity? A key to the answer lies perhaps in the fact that stories like his can happen only in free and open societies. His decision to fight for Israel and pursue the career of a diplomat is in a way a fight for himself—a multilayered persona, struggling to find his own voice in a double minority situation: Arab in a Jewish state and Christian in a predominantly Muslim Arab world. Israel’s survival guarantees his own survival.
“If there is no place in the Middle East for a Jewish State, than there is no place for anyone who is different,” he said. “And this is why we see today persecution of Yazidis, Christians, Baha’i, Sunni against Shia and vice versa, and even Sunni against other Sunni who do not follow Islam exactly the same way. The key to change is connected deeply to our ability as Arabs to accept the legitimacy of others. Therefore, the Jewish State is our biggest challenge, because it has a different nationality, religion, and culture. Jews pose a challenge because as a minority they insist on their right to be different. The day we accept the Jewish State as it is, all other persecution in the Middle East will cease.”
‘The key to change is connected deeply to our ability as Arabs to accept the legitimacy of others.’ It is clear to him that the problem with Israel, in the eyes of the Arab world, is not its policies but its identity. If Israel were a Muslim state, he says, nobody would care about its policies; after all, most Muslim states treat their citizens much worse, and no Arab cries foul at other abuses, wars or cases of occupation in the Middle East. “You don’t need to be anti-Israeli to acknowledge the humanitarian disaster of the Palestinians in 1948,” he said. “The fact that I have to Skype with relatives in Canada who don’t speak Arabic, or a cousin in an Arab country that still has no citizenship despite being a third generation there, is a living testimony to the tragic consequences of the war.”
But at the same time, he continued, some 800,000 Jews were intimidated into fleeing the Arab world, leaving it almost empty of Jews. And the list goes on: When India and Pakistan were established, about 15 million people were transferred; following World War II some 12 million Germans were displaced; and only recently, more than 2 million Christians were expelled from Iraq. The chances of any of those groups to return to their homes are non-existent.
Why is it then that the tragedy of the Palestinians is still alive in today’s politics? “It seems to me to be so,” he said, “because the Nakba has been transformed from a humanitarian disaster to a political offensive. The commemoration of the Nakba is no longer about remembering what happened, but about resenting the mere existence of the state of Israel.
“It is demonstrated most clearly in the date chosen to commemorate it, May 15, the day after Israel proclaimed its independence. By that the Palestinian leadership declared that the disaster is not the expulsion, the abandoned villages or the exile. The Nakba in their eyes is the creation of Israel. They are saddened less by the humanitarian catastrophe of the Palestinians, and more by the revival of the Jewish state. In other words: they do not mourn the fact that my cousins are Jordanians, they mourn the fact that I am an Israeli.”
“I,” said Deek clearly this time; he didn’t say “we.”
Stunning Hanging Garden Will Cover Israel’s Busiest Highway By Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels July 27, 2015 1 Comments Plans are in motion to give the Ayalon, Israel’s busiest thoroughfare, a massive makeover that will see its eight lanes and two railroads roofed over and covered with a stunning new park. This 60-acre, $525 million “hanging garden” – which will include sports and recreation areas, cycling trails and coffee shops – could turn the highway, an infamous source of pollution and noise, into a green oasis in the heart of Tel Aviv.
SEE ALSO: Can Vertical Gardens End World Hunger?
Last week, Tel Aviv’s urban planning committee approved a complex master plan that will cover the Ayalon Highway – which dissects the metropolis from north to south – into a beautiful “green lung” covered with lawns, trees, shrubbery and walking trails, in what the city dubs “Israel’s largest municipal project.”
Rendering of the park above the Ayalon Highway
The multi-year project, which may take another year before it is fully approved, will “overhaul Tel Aviv’s central business district, connecting its eastern side to its center,” city officials said in a statement. Because it will be build on top of existing infrastructure and “maximize the use of existing land”, it is an environment friendly project, the city argues.
SEE ALSO: Massive Trash Site Turns Into Israel’s Largest Eco-Park
“This project is an environmental and architectural milestone for Tel Aviv,” city council member Itay Pinkas, head of the project’s steering committee, said in a statement. “This project will likely grab international attention, because it will be built over the Middle East’s busiest infrastructure strip, which includes roads, railroads, train stations, sewage, electricity and communication lines.”
Furthermore, Pinkas said, “the vast park in the heart of Israel’s largest metropolitan area will solve the scarcity of public land in the city, and reduce air and noise pollution. It will become a source for pride.”
The country’s busiest highway sees 750,000 vehicles a day
The Ayalon Highway, also known as Route 20, is the most congested highway in the country, and one of the busiest in the Middle East, with 750,000 crossing every day.
Ayalon Highway today
Critics of the plan argue that the steep half a billion price tag could instead go towards improvements in Tel Aviv’s transportation system, including building an underground railway. Others point to the project’s grandiosity and the challenges in raising enough funds to complete it.
In any case, the new master plan for the Ayalon Highway, prepared by local firm Lerman Architects, is subject to further approvals by county planners. If approved, the construction is likely to start only three years from now at the earliest.
Revolutionary: Israeli Researcher Says He Can ‘Erase’ Memory Of Addiction By Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels July 26, 2015 6 Comments “Blow”, “Charlie”, “snow” and “nose candy”. These are only some of the code names for the second most addictive drug after methamphetamine – cocaine. The white powder that’s sniffed, smoked or injected is so highly addictive, because users develop tolerance quickly, causing them to gradually increase the amounts they consume. This and other factors make cocaine addictions one of the most difficult drugs to recover from, with drastically high relapse rates.
One Israeli researcher hopes he can combat this rate of relapse by overhauling the way we do drug rehabilitation. According to Bar Ilan University Prof. Gal Yadid, drug addiction is not the reward disease that it was once believed to be, but rather a learning and memory disease that is more like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than anything else. This distinction made it clear that in order to curb addiction, something had to be dramatically changed in the brain. That’s where Yadid’s alternative method to traditional rehabilitation, called “the Incubation of Craving”, comes into play.
By identifying the changes made to our DNA during withdrawal from drugs, namely cocaine, Yadid is able to reprogram the genes responsible for triggering the addict’s strongest cravings to ensure that they won’t return. The method has undergone successful trials in rats addicted to cocaine, and if Yadid is able to show similar results in humans, traditional rehab centers and “replacement” drugs could be a thing of the past.
“Eternal Sunside” of the addicted mind
In what sounds like something out of the science-fiction movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, Yadid claims that he is able to “erase” the memory of drug addiction, thereby preventing relapse. Before jumping to any rash conclusions about what “erasing” memories may mean, we should clarify the scientific backstory.
SEE ALSO: Learning To Kick Addictions In Your Sleep With Exposure To Smelly Odors
Back in the 1950’s, a psychologist named James Olds discovered what is colloquially known as the “pleasure center” of the brain, scientifically termed the ‘nucleus accumbens’. Through images of the brain, known as PET Scans, Olds noted that a part of the pleasure center, the amygdala, lights up when stimulated by external factors dealing with particular traumatic memories that lend to addictive behavior.
Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
With Olds in mind, Yadid, a neuropsycopharmacologist, wanted to observe what was stimulating the amygdala on a microscopic level, “We screened the entire genome and we found two things: one was that, against all logic, during drug consumption, not many genes are altered in the brain. Second, we found that when the addict is in remission, thousands of genes are changed epigenetically.” Epigenetic changes to genes are those that aren’t inherited from our families, but occur as a result of external, environmental factors, like an exposure to trauma or the ritual of taking a drug. These are actual changes to how the gene functions, which makes it clear why methods of drug replacement and reward therapy wouldn’t and shouldn’t work on the majority of drug addicts.
Yadid discovered that in order to address these epigenetic changes, special drugs needed to be administered in the amygdala at a point of heightened cravings to subdue the effect of the altered genes on the brain. He knew that the epigenetic changes in the genes, a process known as methylation, needed to be reversed, but how?
SEE ALSO: Researchers Identify Mechanism That Causes Alcoholics To Relapse
“We saw that it wasn’t just one or two genes that were changed, it was a cluster of genes that had their DNA changed, or methylated, during the remission period from the drug. That means that we would have to administer a number of drugs in order to see the changes reversed,” says Yadid. “As a frustrated neuropsychopharmacologist I said to myself, ‘Why not reset the system?’”
“Acute, robust, targeted” treatment
Right off the bat, a number of ethical questions came to mind. What if the drugs trying to reverse the methylation altered the entire genome, and therefore brain function? And what about “innocent” genes that have absolutely nothing to do with addiction? There were a number of potentially scary psychological outcomes that Yadid had to take into account. Yet following a number of trials on cocaine-addicted rats, he finally discovered the correct dosage of the demethylating drugs that could eliminate the memory of drug addiction.
An illustration of the process of DNA methylation.
“The beauty of acute, robust and targeted treatment is that you don’t change all of the genes in the brain; you only change the genes that have undergone the most dramatic epigenetic changes. Those genes are reset immediately when they meet the drug at a very specific time and according to a particular cue so that we are reprogramming the genes at the height of the craving,” says Yadid of the method, which has yet to be examined in human subjects. Though Yadid claims that this method could potentially “erase” the memory of addiction for up to 15 years, it is still uncertain how long the brain will retain the effects of the demethylating drugs. He will present the results of his study for examination by his colleagues at the annual Society for Neuroscience Conference this year.
Could rehabilitation be as simple as taking a daily supplement?
If the idea of altering genes in your brain scares you (you’re not alone in that boat), Yadid has a more “natural” way to help wean addicts off drugs. He discovered that a common, over-the-counter supplement used mostly for its anti-aging benefits called DHEA could dramatically decrease the likelihood of relapse.
Prof. Gal Yadid
Because of its anti-aging properties that seek to keep the brain fresh and on-point, Yadid found that by administering DHEA to drug addicts on a regular basis, it was possible to “replace” memories of addiction with new memories of a life a sobriety. “I observed the cognitive performance of the subjects while they took the DHEA supplement, and a year-and-a-half after they stopped taking the supplement. We saw that 60 percent wouldn’t relapse when they were taking the supplement and then only 11 percent relapsed after taking the supplement,” says Yadid. He also claims that the entire process restored confidence in the subjects, making them less compulsive and less prone to giving into the cravings.
Besides the impressive scientific progress Yadid has made in understanding the treatment of drug addiction, he is convinced that the health systems of today are mistreating drug addicts and leading them down a dangerous path of a lifetime of addiction. “It is our responsibility as a society to make sure that there is proper treatment for drug addiction. I believe that we need to change our entire perception of addiction and what it is, and initiate new approaches to a more effective and long-lasting treatment.”
Photos: Jamal Benamer/ Tomer Appelbaum
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Huqoq 2015: New Mosaics Unearthed at Huqoq Synagogue Bible and archaeology news Robin Ngo • 07/30/2015
This mosaic depicting a theater mask is one of the new discoveries that have come to light during excavations this summer at Huqoq. Photo: Jim Haberman.
Over the last several seasons of excavation in a fifth-century C.E. synagogue in the Lower Galilee, archaeologists have uncovered stunning mosaics depicting two scenes from the Samson cycle, human and animal figures, a Hebrew dedicatory inscription and a meeting between what may be Alexander the Great and a Jewish high priest. Led by Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the excavation at the ancient Jewish village in Huqoq, Israel, has continued to yield exciting finds that fascinate scholars and laypersons alike. During the 2015 field season at Huqoq, which wrapped up at the end of June, the excavators uncovered even more mosaics. The discovery was announced in a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill press release:
New digging reveals that the [Hebrew] inscription is in the center of a large square panel with human figures, animals and mythological creatures arranged symmetrically around it … These include winged putti (cupids) holding roundels (circular discs) with theater masks, muscular male figures wearing trousers who support a garland, a rooster, and male and female faces in a wreath encircling the inscription. Putti and masks are associated with Dionysos (Bacchus), who was the Greco-Roman god of wine and theater performances.
The archaeologists also found plastered columns with painted ivy leaves inside the synagogue.
“The images in these mosaics—as well as their high level of artistic quality—and the columns painted with vegetal motifs have never been found in any other ancient synagogue,” Magness said in the UNC-Chapel Hill press release. “These are unique discoveries.”
Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.
A mosaic showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders was unearthed during the 2013 excavation season at Huqoq. Photo: Jim Haberman.
In her Archaeological Views column in the March/April 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Jodi Magness discussed how the stunning mosaics have affected the excavation at Huqoq: These discoveries have complicated my life in unexpected ways, some of them good, and some not-so-good. On the good side: The mosaics are truly spectacular and exciting and have attracted much media attention and interest. On the not-so-good side: The excavations have become a much longer-term project than I originally planned, and the cost of uncovering and conserving the mosaics has far exceeded our original budget, so that I must scramble to find new sources of funding each season.
Located near the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee about 3 miles west of Magdala (home of Mary Magdalene) and Capernaum (where Jesus taught in the synagogue), Huqoq was a wealthy Jewish village that thrived in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (fourth–sixth centuries C.E.), according to Rabbinic sources. Carved stone fragments found around the modern village suggested that there may have once been an ancient synagogue at Huqoq, which led Magness to organize an archaeological project at the site.
The Huqoq Excavation Project will begin its sixth season of excavation in the summer of 2016.
Titus Flavius Josephus and the Prophet Jeremiah Avishai Margalit contrasts the legacies of a historian and a prophet Biblical Archaeology Society Staff • 06/04/2015
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in September 2012. It has been updated.—Ed.
In the first-century Jewish revolt against Rome, Josephus failed to honor the suicide pact he made with his soldiers. When he was later captured and taken to Rome, he predicted that the Roman commander Vespasian would become emperor. When the prediction proved accurate, Josephus was taken into the imperial family and became known as Flavius Josephus.
Titus Flavius Josephus is best remembered as an unparalleled chronicler of first-century C.E. Jewish history. His legacy also includes a military record marked by the betrayal of his peers and capitulation to the Romans. As a commander in the Jewish revolt, Josephus attempted to persuade his companions to open the gates of Yodfat for the Romans, and when the city fell, he reneged on the group’s suicide pact and personally surrendered. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Titus Flavius Josephus lived as a Roman citizen in the emperor’s palace, enjoying the luxurious life of a dignitary and scholar.
Josephus’s repeated calls for surrender to the Romans have been labeled as betrayal. In the September/October 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, distinguished scholar Avishai Margalit contrasts the historian’s tarnished reputation with that of the prophet Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah also urged total surrender to a militarily superior foe, the Babylonians. He tried to escape Jerusalem, and, much like Titus Flavius Josephus, was accused of trying to defect. Avishai Margalit asks: how is it that the Biblical prophet Jeremiah is revered while Josephus is criticized?
Avishai Margalit writes that “Josephus offers two kinds of defenses: defense of creed and defense of his people.” Josephus portrayed the zealots as irrational while defending the majority of Jews and the Roman dynasty, conveniently omitting the widespread support for the revolt and the atrocities committed by the Romans. Margalit writes that Jeremiah is also a historian, but “his appeal to history is not out of an interest in human affairs as such, but rather in history as a source of obligations to God. The religion of the Bible is, broadly speaking, a historically based religion; the primary arena of the Bible is history; the divine manifestation is set essentially in history.”
Neither Titus Flavius Josephus nor the prophet Jeremiah considered the creation of a Judean vassal state to be idolatry, and both took it upon themselves to warn their people of the superior military force of their enemies. Yet Avishai Margalit states that, “Josephus was tainted by his relation to power; Jeremiah was willing to risk everything. Josephus’s relation to power should not disqualify him as a witness in the court of history but it does disqualify him as a moral witness: a moral witness is never in the service of the ruling power.”
—————— For more on the legacy of historians and prophets, read Avishai Margalit, “Josephus vs. Jeremiah: The Difference Between Historian and Prophet” in the September/October 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
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Masada, the mountaintop fortress that set the stage for one of the ancient world’s most dramatic tragedies, is today one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites. In the free ebook Masada: The Dead Sea’s Desert Fortress, discover what archaeology reveals about the defenders’ identity, fortifications and arms before their ultimate sacrifice.
During the Ottoman rule of Israel, Jews were permitted to frequent only a small section of the Wall and the Brits went so far as to refuse permission to blow the shofar for fear of Arab reaction. And even today, women experience humiliating and denigrating treatment – and arrests – at this most sacred of Jewish sites. And this time it is at the hands of their Jewish brethren.
But there is a section of the Western Wall far closer to the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount than the traditional site of prayer and perhaps that much more sacred. It is called the “Small Wailing Wall” (hakotel hakatan) and is open to all. There is even room there for notes to God, while at the traditional site every nook and cranny is crammed full with tiny scraps of paper.
This important site is found off HaGuy Street inside the Old City walls, a byway replete with bustling markets and historic buildings. To get there, you enter the Old City at Damascus Gate, descend to the bottom and take the street on the left to HaGuy, which is bursting with colorful shops that range from women’s clothing stores to sweet-smelling spice stands. HaGuy street is crowded and has you rubbing shoulders with people from every possible walk of life.
HaGuy Street, just inside Damascus Gate (Shmuel Bar-Am)
Above the street, houses are built on arches that cross the road. Just before the second arch, past a plain brown door topped by a Jewish Star, another door stands under the house/arch itself. Both lead into the building where eight families connected to the religious Zionist Ateret HaCohenim Yeshiva live today.
The ‘Sharon House’ on the Old City’s HaGuy Street (Shmuel Bar-Am)
Mark Twain’s business card, made for him in Constantinople in September 1867 by the sultan’s official photographers (Courtesy: National Library of Israel)
This particular house is three stories high and was purchased by Moshe Wittenberg in 1884 from the Latin Patriarch, who bought it from its Christian Arab owner.
Before that time, for a short period in the mid-1860s, it operated as the Mediterranean Hotel. Among its lodgers were famous archeologist Charles Warren and, in 1867, American author Mark Twain.
More recently, the late prime minister Ariel Sharon resided in an apartment there with his wife, Lily. An Israeli flag hangs between two windows on the other side of the arch.
Further along the street, the Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family of Jerusalem is a slice of Europe that offers elegance, tranquility, and delicious Viennese delights.
Built in 1863 by the Austrian Catholic Church, the Austrian Hospice was the first national pilgrims’ house to appear in the Holy Land. At first, it was small and consisted of a lobby and one floor with rooms. But that was more than enough for the few pilgrims who arrived each year.
The Austrian Hospice (Shmuel Bar-Am)
Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph attended the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and visited the Holy Land at the same time. After that, pilgrims began coming in droves, and at the beginning of the 20th century an entire second story was added to the building.
The hospice’s Viennese café is popular with locals and tourists alike, serving meals as well as genuine apfelstrudel, sachertorte and linzertorte topped with whipped cream. And no visit to the hospice is complete without a climb to the roof for a fabulous view of the Old City.
A view over the Old City from the roof of the Austrian Hospice (Shmuel Bar-Am)
Sometimes called the Way of the Cross or the Way of Sorrow, the Via Dolorosa represents the traditional route that Jesus followed from condemnation to crucifixion. There are 14 stations along the way, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The Third Station of the Cross, on HaGuy Street (Shmuel Bar-Am)
Two stations are found across from the Austrian Hospice, where the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate houses the Third Station of the Via Dolorosa; the Fourth Station and the lovely Armenian Catholic Church stand next door.
The Igud Lohamay Jerushalaim (Organization of Jerusalem Fighters) building (Shmuel Bar-Am)
A sign above a door along the continuation of HaGuy street reads: Igud Lohamay Jerushalaim (Organization of Jerusalem Fighters). In 1886 Rabbi Yitzhak Winograd, an immigrant from Pinsk, founded a yeshiva called Torat Chaim in the Jewish Quarter. Not long afterwards, so many students wanted to join that it became necessary to expand. Rabbi Winograd decided to buy a bigger place in the Moslem Quarter because so much of the property there was Jewish owned and there were lots of Jewish residents. Besides, it was closer to the sacred Temple Mount.
Torat Chaim suffered at the hands of its Arab neighbors for decades, and students and teachers had to flee the building temporarily during Arab riots and massacres in 1921 and 1929. The riots of 1936-1939 were catastrophic for the yeshiva, and in 1939 they were forced to jump ship. All that they were able to take with them was the Torah scroll; everything else, including a vast library of Jewish sources, was left behind.
Shopping during Ramadan on HaGuy Street (Shmuel Bar-Am)
An Arab guard hired after the first two riots continued caring for the yeshiva and protecting its contents even after Israel lost the Old City in 1948 and he stopped receiving a salary. On his passing, his brother took over and when Jerusalem was reunited 19 years later and the Jews returned, they found that all of the yeshiva’s contents had been saved from harm. Indeed, this was the only synagogue or yeshiva in the Old City that was not desecrated and destroyed during the years of Jordanian control. Igud Lohamay Jerushalaim was established a few years later and began restoration of the yeshiva, which belongs, today, to Ateret Cohanim.
A plaque on HaGuy Street in memory of 26-year-old Elhanan Aharon Attali (Shmuel Bar-Am)
HaGuy Street continues, featuring several more Jewish-owned buildings and an Arab bakery emitting a delectable fragrance. Then on the corner of HaGuy and Iron Gate Road (Bab el Hadid), a plaque in Hebrew tells the story of 26-year-old Elhanan Aharon Attali. On February 28, 1991, he was stabbed to death on this very spot and dragged into the corner building (now Beit Elhanan). A police station is now located a few meters away.
The Small Wailing Wall is found on Bab El-Hadid, a little lane lined with Mameluke stonework. Originally slaves who were forced into Moslem armies and converted to Islam, the Mamelukes turned the tables on their masters and became rulers themselves. In the mid-13th century they conquered the Holy Land, and ruled here until the Turks took it from them in 1517.
The Mamelukes who lived in Jerusalem chose the Moslem Quarter for its proximity to the Temple Mount. As you can see, they erected elaborately decorative schools and homes using bands of different-colored stones – mostly red and white, and sometimes black – that is known as avlak.
The Temple Mount is located directly behind a green gate, which is closed to all but Moslems. Everyone else turns left at the gate and descends three steps to reach a sign that reads “Small Wailing Wall.”
This section of the Western Wall, forgotten for decades but far closer to the ancient Temples’ Holy of Holies than its larger counterpart, is divided into two parts because Arab homes were built with, and among, some of the stones. Today the wall area is clean, safe and quiet – a wonderful place to leave a note for God, to pray with family and friends, or just to take a good look at this fascinating portion of the Western Wall.
Aviva Bar-Am is the author of seven English-language guides to Israel.
Shmuel Bar-Am is a licensed tour guide who provides private, customized tours in Israel for individuals, families and small groups.
Blog Editor Saved Post Options Publish Comments Categories Secret Draft Link Advanced Batya Casper
According to Longrich, the find settled the debate about whether snakes adapted on land or on water.
"This is the most primitive fossil snake known, and it's pretty clearly not aquatic," said Longrich, explaining that the snake's tail wasn't paddle-shaped for water use and it had no fins, and likewise the structure of its short snout and long trunk indicated a burrower snake.
Longrich was expecting an in-between species which would suggest an evolution of the snake species, but he was "really blown away" to find a full-fledged snake - just with legs.
He said he saw "a lot of very advanced snake features" such as hooked teeth, a flexible jaw and spine, as well as scales.
"And there's the gut contents - it's swallowed another vertebrate. It was preying on other animals, which is a snake feature. It was pretty unambiguously a snake. It's just got little arms and little legs."
Courtesy of israelnn.com
Editor's Note: Attached photo is indeed a lizard, as a snake fossil photo has not yet been made available. In the meantime, please enjoy Dexter
Author Batya Casper.