Monthly Archives: August 2008

Dead Sea Scrolls to go Online

The Guardian and New York Times report that Israel will display the Dead Sea scrolls online through a sophisticated process that will utilize technological advancements and help improve access to one of scholarship’s most guarded documents.

Even though the new technology is leading to new discoveries, the main goal of the project is to have all the scrolls visible to anybody. Says the Times:

Equipped with high-powered cameras with resolution and clarity many times greater than those of conventional models, and with lights that emit neither heat nor ultraviolet rays, the scientists and technicians are uncovering previously illegible sections and letters of the scrolls, discoveries that could have significant scholarly impact.

The 2,000-year-old scrolls, found in the late 1940s in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, contain the earliest known copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible (missing only the Book of Esther), as well as apocryphal texts and descriptions of rituals of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus. The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D.

In September, six of the scrolls will be on display at an exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York.

—Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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This Week’s Links

  • Lindsay Lohan is looking to convert to Judaism in order to get closer to her girlfriend. Says her father, “She’s explored the Church of Scientology, she tried Kabbalah, and now this. I think it’s just another phase. But either way, she’s involving God in her life, and I’m happy about that.” [E]
  • Dr. Efraim Zuroff writes about Australia extraditing World War II war criminal Karoly (Charles) Zentai to Hungary as an “unprecedented, historic victory for Holocaust justice in Australia.” [JPost]
  • Israel finally medaled at the Olympics—a bronze in sailing. [Xinhua]
  • Photos of some of the “campus style” housing for Agriprocessors workers are unsettling. [Failed Messiah]
  • Have you swam in the Mediterranean recently? How ’bout those jellyfish?! The “cockroaches of the open water” are getting more intrusive. [Just Engage]
  • Was Kafka a pervert? [TheFilter]
  • Choosing a religious school program for your child is a true commitment, spiritually as well as financially.” A useful primer on picking a Hebrew school. [MyJewishLearning]
  • Around 40 swastikas were found on bales of hay in Washington state this week. [JTA]
  • Mazel Tov! Students and fellow Hillel-goers from Duke University are married. [Hillel]
  • Hebrew University is the 65th best college in the world. [Ynet]
  • Matisyahu expresses himself in music and poetry and…Kenneth Cole commercials? [The Telegraph]
Photo by dlisbona.

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler
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Hasbara? Leave it to the Canadians

Senior Editor Mandy Katz reports from Israel:

Rather than presenting its case to foreigners, Israel should save its breath, a leading Israeli diplomat asserted last week. “Yes to public diplomacy, no to apologetics,” former U.S. Consul-General Alon Pinkas told an audience assembled at Jerusalem’s Begin Center to review new projects aimed at improving Israel’s international image.

“Let the Canadians defend their right to exist,” asserted Pinkas. “Not us.”

His comments, reported in HaAretz, poured a surprisingly cold bucket of water on 150 fresh-faced university students finishing up StandWithUs, a year-long program in improving Israeli outreach. “Hasbara,” he told them—using the term for Israel advocacy, propaganda or public relations—”is not a policy, but a Jewish state of mind.” Continue reading

How loyal is your consulate?

These days nothing seems extreme when testing out your country’s loyalty. The latest phenomenon of citizen “chutzpah” is overwhelming Israeli consulates worldwide. No matter where in the world they are, or how personal of a dilemma they got themselves into, Israelis seem to feel that anything is possible with that quick phone call to the local ambassador.

“My son is late for his flight,” explained a distressed Jewish mother on the phone to one of the Israeli consulates in Europe. “I am asking you to stall the plane until he arrives.”

When requests like these reach the embassy, it is quite puzzling for the counsel to explain that he does not have that kind of authority. Not in a single country, not in all of them combined.

But despite polite efforts of the localized Israeli officials to set a bar on their almightiness, the phone calls continue, and the requests get more and more bizarre. Continue reading

Rabbis, Religion to Star at the Democratic Convention

Rabbi Mark Schneier will present at the Democratic Convention next week

In an effort to display the religiousness of its candidate and reach out to religious voters, the Democratic National Convention will feature numerous events, speakers and even prayer services next week in Denver.

Four rabbis were invited to the conference. David Saperstein, the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, will offer a prayer before the 70,000 people who are expected to attend on August 28, the day Sen. Barack Obama is scheduled to be officially nominated.

Other rabbis who will be in attendance include Orthodox rabbi Mark Schneier (left), the founding director of the Jewish-Muslim Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. He will take part in the opening ceremony alongside Reform rabbi Amy Schwartzman. Continue reading

Web Op-Ed: I Used to be a Democrat by David Epstein

By David Epstein

My trajectory from Democrat to Republican had a few curves of my own making. First, I volunteered to work for George McGovern as the 1972 campaign’s Ohio general counsel. I stood behind George McGovern, a brave World War II pilot and mushy foreign policy thinker, simply because he was the lesser evil alongside Richard Nixon.

In 1976, I voted for Jimmy Carter. As President, Carter said we had made bad decisions based on “an inordinate fear of communism.” I traveled in the Soviet Union and its satellites and spoke with the victims of the totalitarian states; my observation was that an inordinate fear of communism is totally warranted. Continue reading

More Politics in the Olympic Pool

The Jerusalem Post reports that a Syrian swimmer, Bayan Jumah, withdrew from the eighth 50m freestyle preliminary heat today. Jumah’s lane was directly alongside Israeli swimmer Anya Gostomelsky‘s.

JPost did not include an explanation from Jumah or the Syrian Olympic Committee.

This is the second such incident of the Beijing Games. Earlier this week we wrote about Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei suddenly withdrawing from a 100m breaststroke preliminary heat in which an Israeli was to swim, ostensibly because of stomach pains. Despite the obvious political implications (Iran prohibits contact with Israelis) the IOC accepted Alirezaei’s explanation, and the issue has not been pursued further.

Gostomelsky, who failed to qualify for semifinals despite setting a new Israeli record, said, “I didn’t notice that the lane beside me was empty. It’s her problem.”

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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This Week’s Links

  • Brad Pitt is not Jewish, but he is an actor, so he’ll have to pretend. He signed on with Quentin Tarantino to play a leader of a group of Jews exacting revenge on Nazis in “The Inglorious Bastards.” [JTA]
  • According to Jewish law, if you smoke you may be Posul l’Eidus—invalid witness. [Jewschool]
  • A deluxe kosher grocery store, Pomegranate, has opened in Brooklyn… [NYPost]
  • …And at least one person sees it as a “bombastic monument to excess and conspicuous consumption.” [DovBear]
  • The Great Isiah Scroll is on display at the Israel Museum, where anyone who knows Hebrew can read “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” off the 2,100 year-old scroll for themselves. [NYTimes]
  • “Someone with true faith turns to God not only when he is in the house of prayer, but during all times in his life.” [On Faith]
  • Attempting to build a stronger connection to Israel, the reform movement has revamped their trips to the Holy Land above and beyond mere tourism. [JPost]
  • A time line of Chinese Jewish history. [JTA via Jewish Journal]
  • “Jewish writing is over,” Vivian Gornick says. [Boston Review]
Photo by BarryGeo.

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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The “Jesus Boat”

Senior Editor Mandy Katz reports from Israel in her fourth blog post:

Never mind Warren Buffett. If you need proof Israel is a creative, culturally dynamic, technologically advanced economy, there’s a 2,000-year-old boat I’d like you to see up in the Galilee.

The “Jesus Boat” is actually just the 28-foot-long keel and partial hull of a wooden fishing craft. Its crew of local Jews would have used it to troll the inland sea for St. Peter’s fish and other species. But it either sank or was abandoned about two millenia ago. Its remains were preserved in the mud bottom until a drought in 1986, when two kibbutzniks from nearby Ginosar noticed an odd shape in the exposed lake bed.

Continue reading

The Jewish Part in the Caucasus Conflict

Last week, as the state of war was officially declared between Russia and Georgia over the region of South Ossetia, Israel suddenly popped into the picture as a controversial participator. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the Jewish state of its support for Georgia based on the United States’s driven Cold War philosophy: seeing Russia as the enemy and Georgia as a victim. Israel, however, responded with a claim that above all other implications, it respects Georgia’s territorial rights.

To those who were barely aware of the small Caucasus nation of only 4.7 million until an eruption of the latest events, Israel’s response might seem surprising, but Israeli endorsement of Georgia is an old story. It developed atop strong personal ties dating as far back as early 2000. Since Georgia Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili received his education in Israel, Georgia’s entire military infrastructure has been built on an Israeli model. Hundreds of retired Israeli top army personnel have been designated to assist with training of the Georgian forces, and more than $500 million worth of Israeli-made military equipment was sold to Georgia over the past few years. (Even though this supply comes after that of the U.S. and France.)

Ha’aretz quoted an Israeli soldier who had recently returned from Georgia, where he partook in the training:

“There was an atmosphere of war about to break out….From my point of view, the battles of the past few days were to be expected.”

His observations proved gruesomely true. Continue reading