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Latest News in Israel – 10th December

How The Bostoner Rebbe Was Menachem Avel The Family Of Terror Victim Ezra Schwartz HYD

Many people who had never met terror victim Ezra Schwartz HY”D came to the Schwartz family home in Sharon Massachusetts to be menachem aveil the family of the young Yeshiva bochur whose life was tragically cut short by a terrorist while Ezra was on a chessed mission, to let them know they were not alone in their grief.

Among those unknown visitors, early one morning after Shachris, was a distinguished looking gentleman with a white beard dressed in a Chassidic coat and hat. He stood quietly for a few minutes before taking a seat opposite the Schwartzes. Then after several minutes he stood up again and, in an obviously pained voice, said “I don’t know you but Klal Yisroel feels your pain – Hamokom yenachem eschem….”

Ezra’s father thanked him and asked his name. “Naftali Horowitz from Boston”, he murmured. As the visitor turned to leave someone whispered “that’s The Bostoner Rebbe”.

The Schwartz family were very moved by the visit. Those around them were equally moved by the genuine unpretentiousness of the Rebbe who didn’t mention anything other than his name when asked who he was. No title, just plain Naftali Horowitz. He didn’t want to take center stage. He saw no reason to say he was the well known Rebbe. That was not what mattered. What mattered was that he came, sharing the pain of other Yidden. And he came without an entourage, without a silver topped Rebbishe cane, without a driver. Sometimes it is who you are not what you are. –           (YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

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Another Chanukkah miracle!!! Liad Ben Amirah, the IDF hero who was seriously wounded, woke up out of a coma today!! His family and fellow soldiers are by his bedside and have been coming in to celebrate ever since they got the good news. I am sure his family is thankful for all your thoughts and prayers. HAPPY CHANUKAH LIAD!

Myths V Facts:  Colonel Richard Kemp on the IDF

Is the Israeli military a paragon of morality and wartime ethics? Or is it an oppressive force that targets innocent Palestinian civilians and commits war crimes as a matter of policy? Colonel Richard Kemp, who was the commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, was in Israel during its war against Hamas in 2014, analyzes whether Israel’s military is ethical, evil, or somewhere in between.

IDF soldier and Israeli civilian wounded in stabbing attack in Hebron area

A Palestinian terrorist wounded an IDF soldier and a civilian Wednesday in a stabbing attack near Beit Hadassah, a building that houses Jewish families in the West Bank city of Hebron.

One of the victims was moderately wounded and the other was suffering from light injuries. One of the youths injured in the attack is the son of former Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck.

The incident occurred during a security check at the entrance to Beit Hadassah.

A civilian security coordinator who was on the scene fired on and killed the terrorist.

MDA paramedic Zaki Yahav described the scene of the attack. “When we arrived on the scene, we saw near Beit Hadassah two approximately 20-year-old youths laying down, fully conscious and suffering from stab wounds.”

Yahav said that “one of the youths was suffering from a number of stab wounds to his upper body and the second was stabbed in the leg.”

Paramedics transported the victims to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The Hebron area has been a hotbed of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces during the terror wave that has plagued Israel over the past two-and-a-half months.

On Monday, a Palestinian knife-wielding terrorist stabbed and critically injured an Israeli civilian near Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, before being shot dead in the act by Border Police officers on the scene.            (Jerusalem Post)

Husband and wife injured in Samaria drive-by terror shooting

A drive-by shooting terrorist attack left an Israeli husband and his wife injured in Samaria on Wednesday night, and came hours after an IDF soldier and a civilian were injured in a stabbing attack in Hebron, as the series of Palestinian attacks showed no signs of letting up.

Shaul Nir and his wife, Rachel, sustained gunshot wounds when a Palestinian gunman showered their vehicle with bullets as they drove near Tulkaram in the West Bank.

Magen David Adom paramedics and soldiers who made their way to the scene found two gunshot victims and evacuated them for medical treatment to the Beilinson Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

Doctors listed Shaul Nir as being in serious condition after sustaining a head injury, most likely from the car crash that followed the shooting, in addition to gunshot wounds to his limbs. His wife sustained gunshot injuries to her limbs, MDA said in an initial report, and was listed as being in light condition.

Army units have launched a large-scale search of the area to track down the car from which bullets were shot, and roads in the area have been closed to traffic.

Shaul Nir was a member of the 1980s-era Jewish underground movement, which carried out a number of violent attacks on Palestinians, including attempted bombings and assassinations of West Bank mayors, and received a life sentence, which was later commuted.

A statement released by the Avnei Hefetz settlement said, “We are experiencing a difficult incident at the height of Hanuah. Terrorists headed out from Tulkaram through a junction that was opened for Palestinian trafic and struck the parents of a woman who lives in the community. Haorot Junction has been open for a year and since then, despite warnings from us and military echelons about the danger, no order has been given to close it.” Earlier on Wednesday, a Palestinian knife attacker wounded an IDF soldier and a civilian in a stabbing attack near Beit Hadassah, in Hebron’s Jewish Quarter. A civilian security coordinator who was on the scene fired on and killed the terrorist.

A soldier suffering light wounds in the attack, and a civilian youth, who is the son of former Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Stroock, was hurt while trying to tackle the terrorist.

The incident occurred during a security check at the entrance to Beit Hadassah.

MDA paramedic Zaki Yahav described the scene of the attack. “When we arrived on the scene, we saw near Beit Hadassah two approximately 20-year-old youths laying down, fully conscious and suffering from stab wounds.” Yahav said that “one of the youths was suffering from a number of stab wounds to his upper body and the second was stabbed in the leg.” Paramedics transported the victims to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

On Monday, a Palestinian knife-wielding terrorist stabbed and critically injured an Israeli civilian near Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, before being shot dead in the act by Border Police officers on the scene.          (Jerusalem Post)

Israel arrests five alleged ISIS followers from Nazareth

Security forces arrested five Arab Israeli youths from Nazareth on suspicion of training with weapons and holding secret meetings after coming under the influence of ISIS ideology, the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency announced on Tuesday.

In a joint Shin Bet – Israel Police Northern District announcement, security forces said arrests were made throughout October and November, of men aged 18, 18, 22, 23, and 27, all from the Suleiman clan in the northern part of the city.

During questioning, “it emerged that in the past year, the youths obtained firearms and trained with them, while becoming more devout during meetings they held. They expressed support for ISIS, and praised the jihad against infidels,” the Shin Bet said.

Security forces seized two firearms they described as SKS and Carl Gustav rifles, which were allegedly used to shoot in a forest near Nazareth.

Northern District prosecutors charged the men with severe security offenses at the Nazareth District Court, including illegal possession of weapons, supporting an illegal organization, and taking part in illegal gatherings.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared ISIS an illegal organization in September 2014.

Security forces have been on the lookout for any ISIS-related activity in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

In late October, a 23-year-old Israeli Arab man from Jaljulia paraglided into Syria from the Golan Heights in order to join an Islamist Syrian rebel group, IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said.

IDF look-outs spotted the paraglider hovering from northern Israel into Syria, and alerted the military, which launched a large-scale search.

“We believe he planned this move to the other side, and joined a group there,” Almoz told reporters during a conference call. “From the moment we spotted him, a large operational and intelligence search and investigation by the Northern Command, which was joined by the Shin Bet, began,” he added.

Security forces announced in September the arrest of a Gazan ISIS-affiliated operative who tried to cross into Israel via the Erez land terminal.

The Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency named the suspect as 27-year-old Ihab Abu Nahal, from Gaza City. It added that he was arrested in late July, and that his ultimate destination was Qatar, where he wished to take part in an employment program for Gazan teachers.

The terror suspect “took part in several attacks against the IDF during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last year,” the Shin Bet said, as well as other attacks.     (The Jerusalem Post)

Security forces nab suspected knife terrorist in Ramallah hotel

The IDF, guided by intelligence from the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency, raided a hotel in Ramallah overnight between Monday and Tuesday, arresting a man suspected of taking part in an attempted stabbing on October 30 at Tapuah Junction.

The suspect, Bassal Abu Alia, whose year of birth is 1989, and is a resident of the village of Muayaer in Binyamin, allegedly took part in the attempted stabbing attack with another suspect, and was injured in the process.

He was initially evacuated by Red Crescent paramedics to a Nabalu hospital, and then transferred to a Ramallah hospital. In the past week, the Shin Bet said, he hid out in a Ramallah hotel, trying to evade arrest by Israel.

“Bassal has been transferred to Shin Bet questioning,” the agency added.

On Monday, acting government orders, the Netzah Yehuda Haredi battalion, backed by Engineering units and the Civil Administration, began mapping out the homes of three terrorists ahead of plans to demolish them, including the home of the second alleged perpetrator of the October 30 attack, Bassam Na’asan, who was shot dead on the scene of his attack.

Elsewhere in the West Bank overnight, the IDF, Border Police, and Judea and Samaria district police arrested 21 Palestinian suspects, 16 of the on suspicion of taking part in unorganized violent incidents targeting Israelis.

Security forces arrested four Hamas members in Hebron.

In Atil, northeast of Tul Karem, security forces arrested a Hamas member, and another arrest was made in Ramin, east of Tul Karem.

Arrests also occurred in Kalkilya, A-Luban, northwest of Ramallah, Dir Abu Mashala, northwest of Ramallah, and the city of Ramallah itself.

Other arrests occurred south of Bethlehem, in Dahaisha, where five suspects were nabbed.                    (The Jerusalem Post)

Fatah, with Mahmoud Abbas at the Helm, Confirms the Confrontation Strategy toward Israel

The Fatah Central Committee gave its backing to a strategy that combines the terror intifada with diplomatic and legal moves in the international arena aimed at achieving recognition of the state of Palestine as well as an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders with no political quid pro quo from the Palestinians.

The Fatah Central Committee, convened on Sunday, December 6, 2015, at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah. Fatah is led by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) who also serves as president of the state of Palestine, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, and leader of the PLO.

The decisions taken by the Fatah Central Committee shed light on the Palestinian leadership’s policy toward Israel, as described in the Palestinian media and detailed below:

Total Support for the Knife Terror and the Al-Quds Intifada:

The [Central] Committee discussed…the increase in severe attacks against members of our Palestinian people in the occupied state of Palestine (the West Bank, Al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip), including the field executions… The meeting began with readings of Surat Al-Fatihah in remembrance of the souls of the heroic martyrs, and it [the Central Committee] conveyed its condolences and appreciation to the families of the martyrs with hopes for the speedy recovery of the wounded, emphasizing its determination to continue to act in every way to have the prisoners freed and the bodies of the heroic martyrs returned.

The Central Committee did not condemn the acts of violence and terror being perpetrated by Palestinians as part of the Al-Quds Intifada, which is also called the Knives Intifada. On the contrary, it characterized the foiling of terror attacks as “executions,” chose to call the perpetrators “heroes,” and promised to assist their families. The Palestinian leadership thereby gave full backing to the continuation of the terror wave against Israel.

Preparing to End the Security Cooperation with Israel:

[The Central Committee] emphasized its full support for a redefinition of the relations with the Israeli occupation authorities in all areas, particularly with regard to the security, diplomatic, and economic relations, including raising proposals at the [United Nations] Security Council for a resolution on full [UN] membership for the state of Palestine.

Here the Central Committee fully endorsed Abbas’ threat voiced during his address to the United Nations that the Palestinians will stop honoring the agreements with Israel insofar as, in their view, Israel is not committed to implementing them. The Palestinian leadership no longer sees Israel as playing any part in the attainment of international recognition of the state of Palestine; instead the leadership is trying to gain such recognition independently via the UN Security Council. Thus, by taking an approach that circumvents negotiations, the Palestinian leadership seeks to compel a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including a withdrawal from east Jerusalem, without the need for any political quid pro quo on the Palestinians’ part.

Continuing the Lawfare against Israel in the International Arena:

The Central Committee praised the efforts of the national committee dealing with the issue of the International Criminal Court, and noted the need to take whatever measures are required and possible to expedite the launching of the legal investigation of the war crimes committed by the occupation authority [Israel]. Likewise, the Central Committee called to apply the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to the lands of the state of Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), particularly with regard to the protection of citizens in wartime.

The Palestinian leadership hewed to the line of all-out confrontation with Israel. An important aspect of this approach is the legal arena. They regard the legal route as a force multiplier that can nullify Israel’s right to self-defense and afford legal and international legitimization for ending the “reality of occupation” and for the “right” of the Palestinian refugees and generations of their descendants to implement the “return” to their homes and property within the sovereign state of Israel.

Claiming Palestinian Ownership of the Western Wall:

The Central Committee condemned the decision of the occupation municipality to establish new facts in the Al-Buraq [Western Wall] area, and views this as a continuation of the change of the existing situation in the city of Al-Quds and particularly in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings.

The wording indicates that the Palestinian leadership, with Abbas at the helm, denies the Jewish right to the area of the Western Wall and regards it as a sacred Islamic site that is an inseparable part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.                ( Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi:   Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Netanyahu defends gas outline as critical to energy security

As Economic Affairs Committee members bashed the country’s long-disputed natural gas outline as detrimental to the public during a heated three-hour session on the subject Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the document’s vital role in achieving energy security.

“You and your colleagues reject the security and foreign policy interest in our considerations,” Netanyahu told the committee’s chairman, MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union). “The opposite is true; we are going to ensure the energy security of Israel.

“Energy security is critical not just the function of the state, but to ensuring its existence,” the prime minister added.

Assuming his alternate role of economy minister that morning, Netanyahu addressed the committee in the tenth of a series of discussions that are a prerequisite to implementing the gas outline. Although the deal in question received required cabinet approval in August, fully activating the outline demands that the economy minister invoke a legal clause to sidestep the Antitrust Authority’s objections – Article 52 of the 1988 Restrictive Trade Practices Law (The Antitrust Law).

While the article has never before been implemented in Israel’s history, an economy minister can do so by citing national security or foreign policy interests. After former economy minister Arye Deri resigned from his position last month, it became Netanyahu’s duty in that role to consult with the Economic Affairs Committee prior to activating Article 52.

For his part, Cabel opened his committee’s session Tuesday morning by describing the Antitrust Law as “the Magna Carta of consumers and the free market,” stressing that for years the Economic Affairs Committee has been working to provide parliamentary oversight on the issue and protect the public from monopolies and cartels.

“Once, Mr. Prime Minister, you carried a pillar of fire of competition and its advancement,” Cabel said. “And, today, a different spirit is blowing – different because according to all the experts that appeared before us, the current outline perpetuates a monopoly that, according to the stance of the most professional authority in Israel, is infected at its foundation by restrictive arrangements.”

Presenting some of his objections to the gas outline, Cabel said the document does not ensure a clear-cut commitment to the development of the Leviathan reservoir, due to the lack of sanctions and enforcement mechanisms. In addition, he pointed out how the outline does not guarantee the construction of an additional gas pipeline to Israel’s shores, and cited Bank of Israel data showing that public revenue would be much lower than anticipated.

Regarding foreign policy concerns, Cabel acknowledged the importance of “tightening political and security relations with Egypt” and of supplying gas to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. He stressed that he was not convinced, however, that “if the outline is not implemented, Israel’s security would be undermined or it foreign policy with Egypt would collapse.”

“At the end of the discussions, I can say here without reservation that we must do everything required to stop this twisted and evil outline for the citizens of Israel,” Cabel said. “I ask you, Mr. Prime Minister, for God’s sake, do not use the name of security in vain. You do not have any real justification to use Article 52.”

Responding to Cabel’s comments, Netanyahu reiterated the importance of activating the gas outline for the sake of Israel’s energy security. He began by discussing how, in November 2013, the cabinet decided to invest NIS 3 billion to secure Israel’s economic waters, where the gas infrastructure is located. Although this investment provides some defense, additional protection can be gained through redundancy, the prime minister explained.

“To me, this outline is the only way to create redundancy in the number of fields, rather than shrinking to one threatened field,” he said.

Netanyahu also emphasized the importance of pursuing an export program, and the strength that such a capability can provide to a country. Supplying gas to Israel’s neighbors would be in the best interest of both Israel and these countries, he said, adding a “layer of stability” that is in everyone’s interest.

Addressing Netanyahu, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) accused the prime minister of conducting deals that have been “amateurish at best and lawless at worst.”

“You bypass the regulators for reasons of state security and foreign relations, and it is unclear how this is related to the price of 1 BTU [British thermal unit] for the consumer, which has been set in the government negotiations, or agreements of the Israel Electric Corporation that, today, are known to be outrageous,” Herzog said. “Therefore, the question arises whether the name of security is being taken in vain.”

National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz followed up on Herzog’s comments, expressing his belief that “there is no other realistic outline aside from this outline,” and that Israeli citizens will surely receive much more than the global average in revenues from gas production.

Reacting to questions posed by MK Dov Henin (Hadash), who spoke of the lack of commitments to building an additional gas pipeline and to expediting the development of Leviathan, Netanyahu expressed his confidence that the milestones set for Leviathan would ensure its operation. Meanwhile, although the construction of another gas pipeline is important, the development of additional gas fields themselves is more critical, he argued.

After Netanyahu argued that “it is preferable to be an export country than an import country,” MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) pointed out that gas is a resource that is non-renewable and constantly.

Yacimovich then asked the prime minister how Egypt’s new gas finds and the Egyptian government’s recent announcement that it would freeze gas import talks with Israel over an arbitration issue could influence the need to export.

Despite claims that the gas will remain stuck in the ground if not developed, gas has been flowing from the Tamar reservoir for two years and could provide ample supplies to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan for the next 15 years, she added.

In response, Netanyahu said that by encouraging new companies to come and invest in developing the Israeli gas sector, the range of gas available could potentially be extended for decades longer.

“No one is coming to Israel,” he added. “Israel is becoming a country of over-regulation, of politicization, a situation of anti-infrastructural and business development.”  (The Jerusalem Post)

Rivlin seeks-out-of-the-box ideas to end Israeli-Palestinian conflict

President Reuven Rivlin is convinced that out-of-the-box thinking is required to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In an interview with The Jerusalem Post several hours before he boarded a plane to the United States for a meeting with US President Barack Obama, Rivlin said that everything that has been tried so far has failed and that new ideas are needed.

Rivlin has recently spoken of the possibility of a federation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, but when asked to clarify whether this means that he has changed his stance on Palestinian statehood, he evaded a direct answer and said that federation is just one idea, but not the only idea that he will discuss with President Barack Obama when the two meet today at the White House.

First and foremost, Rivlin will tell Obama that Israel has no greater friend than the United States.

If Obama asks for Rivlin’s assessment of ISIS, Rivlin will give him the same reply as he gave to Secretary of State John Kerry during the latter’s recent visit to Israel. He is ready to answer any question that Obama will put to him.

He will also suggest discussing security issues in general such as the US foreign policy commitment to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) and the US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on strategic cooperation.

Israel is the key recipient of US foreign military financing (FMF), and has received more than $20.5 billion since 2009.  In Fiscal Year 2016, which will be the eighth year of a 10-year, $30 billion Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel, Congress has been asked to approve $3.1 billion in FMF funds for Israel.

Obama has provided an additional $2.9 billion in funding for missile defense programs and systems. Since 2011, the United States has provided Israel with more than $1.3 billion for the Iron Dome system alone, but Israel’s security burden is growing and this is something else which is likely to come up in discussion between Rivlin and Obama.

“While facing the future we cannot neglect the needs of the present,” said Rivlin. The security situation in the Middle East has broadened due to ISIS he said, and Israel is left with the main burden.

In relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said: “We have lost 150 years thinking that we can make short cuts in the Middle East conflict which I call a tragedy.”

He stressed as he has done many times before that mutual lack of confidence prevents the conflict from being brought to an end.

He is very particular about the semantics and refuses to say that the conflict will be resolved. It is important to him to say that it will end.

From Rivlin’s perspective, “only the United States can help us build confidence measures. We have tried several ways to solve the problem and we will discuss ways in which Israel and the Palestinians can live together. If we build walls, we will not find a way of bringing an end to the conflict,” he said.

Rivlin placed special emphasis on the fact that there are other options than those already employed in bringing the conflict to an end.

Quoting his mentor Menachem Begin, Rivlin said that sometimes the obvious must be stated. And the obvious is that Israel has no greater friend than America in trying to put an end to the conflict, he insisted.

Rivlin met on Tuesday with Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and later with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

He is due to meet with Obama at 2:15 p.m. on Thursday, Washington time and at 3:30 p.m together with his wife, Nechama, will be the guest of honor at the traditional White House Hanukka candle lighting ceremony.

On Thursday, prior to departing for New York, Rivlin will deliver an address at the Brookings Institute after which he will meet with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan.                        (The Jerusalem Post)

Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley will become bases for Australian start-ups to engage with international markets.

The Australian government is investing heavily in boosting Australian technology and innovation, and Israel is part of its plans. Yesterday, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced an innovation program called Ideas Boom as part of his government’s Global Innovation Strategy. Under the program, Australian start-ups will have access to innovation hubs in key international markets, of which Israel is one.

Australian Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb said the overseas hubs – to be called Landing Pads – would assist emerging Australian companies with their approach to identifying and engaging with international opportunities in overseas markets.

“Landing Pads will be created in key global innovation hotspots including Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv to give Australian entrepreneurs and start-ups a short-term operational base” Robb said.

“A Landing Pad provides for a collaborative workspace and facilities including office space and meeting rooms for up to two months, as well as accelerated access to international business networks, entrepreneurial talent, business development and investment opportunities,” Robb continued, “Landing Pads will be established by Austrade in the US and Israel, with a further three locations to be identified in the near future. Austrade will also provide access to tailored services including mentoring, business coaching, identifying investors and potential business partners.

“This is a valuable new resource for Australian companies and will help foster the innovation and entrepreneurialism we need to create new jobs and build the industries of the future,” Robb said.

Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma said, “The decision to set up a first Australian start-up incubator in Israel is huge, and reflects the importance that Australia ascribes to Tel Aviv as the world’s start-up capital alongside Silicon Valley. I’m very excited about the potential and the opportunities that will be created as a result. This step promises to be a boost to the high-tech and commercial ties between Australia and Israel.”

The Global Innovation Strategy is the key international element in the Australian Government’s $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, and will support Australia’s ongoing economic diplomacy and science diplomacy efforts globally.

Through the Strategy, Austrade will receive $11.2 million in new funding to establish five Landing Pads and also develop a new annual in-bound innovation forum to foster collaboration and encourage international market experts, entrepreneurial talent and investors into Australia.           (Globes)

Hebrew handbags make appearance in Islam’s second holiest city

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Handbags with Hebrew script (Tallit ?) found in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Palestinians on their way to Saudi Arabia as part of a holly pilgrimage to Mecca were surprised to discover handbags ordained with Hebrew script, according to eyewitnesses.

The Hebrew handbags were spotted in Medina, Saudi Arabia, the second holiest city in all of Islam, much to the amazement of the Palestinian travelers.

“Do you know that these cases have Hebrew writings,” one traveler asked the the Bangladeshi merchant selling the items.

“I do not know. We got the goods from the city of Jeddah,” he replied.

It is unclear how the bags were imported into Saudi Arabia.

What is clear is that the sight of the carry-ons confounded one of the pilgrims enough to take out their camera and snap a picture of the anomaly.

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, yet clandestine diplomatic efforts have recently been establish as both counties have shared security interests in the region.

(The Jerusalem Post)

Are EU labels on settlement products triggering anti-Semitism?

by Benjamin Weinthal                   The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Analysis-Are-EU-labels-on-settlement-products-triggering-anti-Semitism-436646

Nearly a month after the European Union imposed special sanctions on Israeli products from disputed territories, there is a growing sense that the penalty is a shot in the arm for hardcore anti-Israeli groups.

Has this EU measure, however, to label Israeli goods from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights unleashed a new wave of anti-Semitism? Writing about US academic boycotts targeting Israel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charles Krauthammer said, “Discrimination against Jews has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism.”

A small number of German politicians view the EU measure as a form of unequal treatment unfairly targeting the Jewish state. Jan Korte, an MP from the German Left Party and one of the few pro-Israel voices within that historically anti-Israel party, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday: “I consider Israel’s settlement policy wrong. But due to of historical reasons, I also personally reject the labeling mandate.”

He added that the EU label system represents “double standards, when one views the international dealing with other comparable cases, for example, Cyprus.”

The EU considers North Cyprus to be territory occupied by Turkey, but refuses to specially label products from North Cyprus or penalize Turkey with consumer sanctions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to support the labeling of settlement products on Monday sent a jolt through the anti-label camp.

After all, Germany was the first European country to ostracize Jewish businesses in the 1930s. The German philosopher Theodor Adorno said, in commenting on post-Holocaust Germany in 1959, “We will not have come to terms with the past until the causes of what happened then are no longer active. Only because these causes live on does the spell of the past remain, to this very day, unbroken.”

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post: “Now, through the mechanism of product labeling, as a form of BDS-lite [Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment], EU policy- makers and its NGO allies have expanded the radius of demonization, erasing Israel’s democratic framework and the complexities of the conflict.”

He added, “We have already seen obsessive anti-Israel rabbles in European cities, particularly Germany, marching through stores, intimidating customers and store employees, and appointing themselves as violent enforcers of what the EU claimed were simply ‘technical guidelines.’ These entirely predictable consequences should have been considered by the EU officials and by groups such as the European Center for Foreign Relations, which single out Israel for punishment.”

Eugene Kontorovich , a professor at Northwestern University School of Law and a leading expert on the EU labeling system, told the Post, “I would not say the labeling ‘triggers’ anti-Semitism, but it has made many anti-Semites happy, and gives some impetus and legitimization to anti-Semitic groups. “ He added, “By adopting a unique rule of geographic origin that requires saying ‘who’ made something and not just where, and only applying it to a Jewish population, labeling validates the basic anti-Semitic narrative of Jews as the ultimate ‘other.”’ The debates about the EU labels have veered from, on the one hand, echoes of fascist Germany to a practical way, on the other hand, to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians as part of the peace process.

EU policy makers, according to critics, have ignored the hyper anti-Israel environment unfolding in Europe. Steinberg said, “The constant drumbeat of anti-Israel demonization in Europe is widely reflected in anti-Semitism and even terror attacks targeting against Jews. False allegations such as ‘war crimes’ and ‘apartheid’ become fodder for hate, not only against I

New Mossad chief facing challenge of Islamic State and empowered Iran

Yossi Cohen will grapple with new threats and new limitations, but has widespread support at home

By Judah Ari Gross                 The Times of Israel

http://www.timesofisrael.com/islamic-state-and-an-empowered-iran-await-the-new-mossad-chief/

In his new position as Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen will face most of the same threats and foes as his predecessors — Iran, Hezbollah, global anti-Semitism — as well as some new ones. His most notable challenge is the Islamic State terror group, which has rapidly become a potent force in international terror.

Though the fight against Tehran may be an uphill battle, as Western countries seek to embrace Iran in the wake of this year’s nuclear deal, Cohen will enjoy universal assistance and support as nearly every nation in the world rushes to bring down IS and prevent terror attacks.

Other than his current 3-year stint as head of the National Security Council, Cohen has worked in the espionage agency since completing his army service in the 1980s. Having served as deputy director of the Mossad from 2011 to 2013, Cohen was a logical and unsurprising choice to replace Tamir Pardo, who will step down next month.

Following Monday night’s announcement, Pardo reportedly called Cohen to congratulate him on the appointment and begin the handover period. Cohen will take over next month.

Cohen’s background in the organization is predominantly in HUMINT, or human intelligence, having run the Tzomet department, which manages the Mossad’s case officers. Cohen told reporters on Tuesday he promised to carry out “good missions” and gather “quality intelligence,” as head of the agency.

The Mossad has three principal duties: intelligence gathering in foreign countries, covert missions to thwart and prevent attacks against Israel from abroad, and the protection of Jews around the world.

A newly empowered Iran, which has already reportedly stepped up its arms shipments to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, is sure to occupy the attention of the agency on those first two fronts.

Iran and its funding for terror organizations is by no means a new threat, but with the Islamic Republic’s coffers soon to be refilled thanks to the lifting of sanctions and its international standing and image improved by the nuclear deal reached earlier this year, Israel will not be able to carry out attacks against Iran without potentially provoking the ire of its allies, including the United States.

Even before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was signed in July, the United States had been pressuring Israel to stop carrying out missions in Iran, specifically the alleged assassinations of at least four of the country’s nuclear scientists. Now, such attacks would worsen the already prominent rift between Washington and Jerusalem.

However, the threat to Israel’s way of life and even existence is very real, and the spy agency may be forced to act against Iran. Cohen’s Mossad will therefore have to walk a fine line to ensure the immediate security of the Jewish state while maintaining a positive security relationship with its allies.

An Islamic State video shows the execution of an alleged Russian spy (YouTube screen capture)

An Islamic State video shows the execution of an alleged Russian spy (YouTube screen capture)

Though Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon last month shrugged off the threat of the Islamic State, or Daesh, against the State of Israel proper, the pseudo-caliphate has already claimed responsibility for several terror attacks in European cities and the United States, and does not appear to be slowing down. As IS gains popularity and continues to inspire terror attacks in the West, Jewish communities in those countries will likely become one of its main targets, experts say.

Preventing those attacks will not be easy. The organization’s decentralized structure makes finding the patterns that indicate an impending attack notoriously difficult. The attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, for example, were eventually claimed by IS, but had little concrete connection to the wannabe-state in Iraq and Syria.

When attacks are carried out by an organized cell, the intelligence community can monitor communications and meetings with other suspects under surveillance. “Lone wolves” — terrorists acting without a proper framework — however, leave no such trove of data and clues for the Mossad and other spy agencies to monitor, making it more difficult to stop them before they strike.

At home, the newly tapped Cohen will have to reconcile maintaining his close personal relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the two grew up in the same Jerusalem neighborhood — with the occasional professional difference of opinion.

Numerous Mossad chiefs have butted heads with the prime minister over the years, including most publicly Meir Dagan, whose animosity toward Netanyahu is well known and documented. Shin Bet security service head Yoram Cohen (no relation to Yossi) also reportedly squared off against Netanyahu when he informed the cabinet his agency had found no direct connection between the Islamic Movement, which Israel recently banned, and terror.

Unlike most security appointments, the decision to appoint Yossi Cohen was made by Netanyahu alone, as the Mossad operates under the direct authority of the Prime Minister’s Office. Though some may cynically assert that Netanyahu picked Cohen to lead the Mossad in order to have a friendly face at its head, Cohen’s near unimpeachable career in the organization and the glowing praise from its former directors effectively shut down such allegations.

“Yossi Cohen has a vast wealth of experience and achievements and has proven his ability in various fields within the organization. He has leadership skills and professional understanding, which are the characteristics required of those who would lead the organization,” Netanyahu said as he announced his pick.

Israelis, but also against Jews in Europe. “The spike in German BDS activity over the last few weeks, including the removal of Israeli wines from the shelves of the high-end department store KaDeWe, suggests that Israeli products may face a new form of economic warfare.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

IDF uses power of persuasion to dissuade next lone attacker

Ron Ben-Yishai of Ynet News accompanies the IDF’s Etzion Brigade commander on a visit to Beit Ummar near Hebron, during which persuasion is used on a Palestinian family to prevent youth from deciding to

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4736105,00.html

Roman Gofman, the Etzion Brigade Commander, stopped his Jeep at the hitchhiker’s station at Gush Etzion junction, where so many Israelis have been stabbed and run over. He recalls Hadar Buchris who was murdered there on November 22: “I was here when it happened,” he said. “The thought that it may have been possible to prevent her murder torments me.”

The IDF is very concerned about what is happening at the junction, and there are those who are asking for complete separation between Palestinians and Jews there. But Central Command does not want to harm Palestinians’ and Israeli settlers’ fabric of life beyond what is necessary.

The great majority of those residing in Gush Etzion would like to live in in coexistence with Palestinians and they, with the support of the government, intend to stay in their communities in any settlement of the conflict – whether it be negotiated or unilateral.

A complete separation between them and their neighbors is therefore an admission of failure and would deal a severe blow to the morale and sense of security of the Jewish residents of Gush Etzion. On the other hand, the stabbings and vehicular attacks continue. The IDF has therefore decided as a last resort to station an elite special forces unit with extraordinary capabilities at the junction: Maglan. They are working in order to try to identify the attackers before they reach the vicinity of their potential victims.

Col. Gofman claims that “it is possible to locate the lone terrorist before he has taken the final decision to stab or run over someone and stop it. This requires two things: locating the potential attacker and then putting pressure on him or persuading him not to carry out the attack. Once he has decided to attack it’s very hard to stop him.”

This is a new, creative and almost revolutionary approach. After intense brainstorming at Central Command, they now argue that one can detect in advance a potential lone terrorist. There are enough indicators – one just has to look for them in places we haven’t arrived at yet.

An attempt at leveraging pressure

It’s a short ride from Gush Etzion junction to the Palestinian town of Beit Ummar. As we near the town it is about 3:30am and laborers who work in Israel are already drinking coffee at a neon-lit café. Another two minutes and we are at the entrance to the town which is notorious among security forces – a man who perpetrated a vehicular attack last Friday, Omar Arafat al-Zaaqiq, lived here.

A tall pillbox serves as a security station at the entrance to the town. Soldiers inspect all vehicles before they join Route 60, the main route leading out of the town. It’s the same in other villages in the area. The aim is to prevent attacks on Israeli cars that share this route with Palestinians.

Col. Gofman purposely decided to show me Beit Ummar at this unusual hour, as it is when the IDF employs its method of putting pressure on potential lone attackers to prevent them from taking the fatal decision. Gofman calls this a ‘targeted closure.’ I’ve heard of other types of closure but never this one. This was a new method in the effort to prevent terror.

This is put into effect by the Shimshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, whose fighters make their way to the addresses of fewer than 20 potential lone attackers identified in the village. The soldiers go from one address to another, knock on the door – if possible without shouting and drawing their guns – and go inside. Then the leveraging of pressure and convincing begins.

Most youth who throw stones and Molotov cocktails are arrested. They don’t sit in jail for a long time, but the goal is to deter them. Even during investigations an effort is made to persuade them not to commit similar attacks.

Experience shows that these talks, before a potential terrorist carries out his plan, are very influential. In the case of those who have not yet acted and who have no criminal file, the IDF talks with parents and family, explaining to them the potentially grave consequences of such actions.

I witnessed this kind of discussion at the house of the Mar’i family, who are wealthy and influential in the town. A soldier in uniform wearing a ski mask asks in fluent Arabic: “How many children do you have? What do they do?”

‘We want to see the child come home from school’

The family members, woken up at 4am, say what you would expect them to say. “All the agitators and attackers are already in jail, our children have nothing to do with them.” The women and young children are sent into another room and then comes direct conversation between men. “Be careful. We see your children. They are engaged in activities that endanger you and endanger themselves. Make sure they don’t get into trouble.”

When we leave Col. Gofman tells me: “Palestinian families, even those who distribute candy after attacks, do not want their sons to commit suicide. Most of them are like that. Most of them want to see their child come home from school, or the younger son return home from work, so they are therefore a powerful influence through whom we try to act.”

“You put pressure, threatening them with house demolitions?” I asked. Gofman was not too quick to answer. “How do you locate the potential attackers?” I asked instead.

He replied: “Every attaker leaves signs long before they decide to become martyrs. We just need to pick up these signals from every possible source: Shin Bet, social networks and many other things that would point to a young person aged 16 to 25 being a potential attacker.”

Gofman thought for a moment before adding: “In earlier periods terrorists wanted to kill Jews and some were willing to become martyrs for it. Now they want to become martyrs and if they can kill a couple of Jews while accomplishing that then all the better. One way or another they are lauded and gain status in Palestinian society. They are the target of incitement from all directions. Lone attacks are a result of a vicious cycle whose essence is imitation and inspiration.”

This analysis is likely. The question is whether the IDF will know how to interrupt this vicious cycle and restore calm, at least for a while, until the next wave of terror. Dealing with individual terrorists is currently the IDF’s main challenge in the West Bank.

What Israel should do to lay the groundwork for peace

By Reuven Rivlin                   The Washington Post

Reuven Rivlin is President of Israel.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-israel-should-do-to-lay-the-groundwork-for-peace/2015/12/08/58c71fb6-9d12-11e5-8728-1af6af208198_story.html

As I write this, there is no currently viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no diplomatic process underway, and no indication of imminent negotiations. Yet, even with no way forward, even with no clear timetable for an end to the conflict — the tragedy that envelops us all — we are duty bound to recognize where and how we can take effective action to improve the prospect that we will be able to live together, Jews and Arabs, in our region as we are destined rather than doomed to do.

Israel must take steps to improve the situation independent of the geopolitical territorial debate — steps that every sensible person understands serve simultaneously Israel’s moral and practical interests. Without resolving the question of whether or not Israel today has a Palestinian partner for peace, it is self-evident that the building of the new Palestinian city, Rawabi, is in Israel’s interest. Likewise, it is clear that cultivating channels of communication and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen, educators and cultural figures improves our situation. Is there anyone who does not see the value and importance of the majority of the Jewish population being able to speak Arabic (a plan for which I am pleased to see has been brought before the Knesset)? When it comes to all these possibilities, we should have started yesterday.

Even in Jerusalem, seen by many as the greatest diplomatic challenge to any peace treaty, there is much we can do. It is worth understanding that the Israeli right has long ignored the eastern part of the city for reasons of internal political differences, while the left has equally neglected investing in the need for infrastructure to serve the 300,000 Palestinians of the city as part of an ideology of political separation from the Palestinians. Thus, in debating the future, we have neglected to deal with eastern parts of Jerusalem in the present — and thereby literally abandoned the security of Jewish inhabitants and the welfare of Arab ones. Does anyone think that dealing with the sewage, roads, schools and medical centers of eastern Jerusalem can or should wait until the end of the conflict? Is there anyone who thinks the consequences of these economic disparities in the city will stop at genuine or fictitious political borders? At concrete walls or fences? Or as a result of this or that agreement on sovereignty?

In the heat of our internal controversy over the country’s borders, the character of our neighbors and the nature of the final settlement or its feasibility, we are prone to ignore the necessity of managing relations between people in the present. But it is the here-and-now in which people — including children and young people — actually live. It is the present in which their consciousness is formed and their path in life crystalized.

Confidence, however, cannot be built unilaterally. It is clear that the Palestinians must end the incitement and violence against Israel. They must end the rejection of the very existence of Israel. To Palestinian youths I say: For too many years, blood has been shed like water on this land. No blood is redder than any other. Lives matter. Our lives matter. Your lives matter. I urge Palestinian parents and teachers to foster in their young dreams of life, not aspirations of death. The struggle between our peoples has already seen so much death and bloodshed — more death and bloodshed is not going to solve it.

At the same time, the international community, led by the United States, has a crucial role to play. Investing in steps like those above, nurturing mutual values and encouraging dialogue and cooperation can help lay the groundwork for a future settlement — whenever it may come — and make its success ever more likely.

None of us is exempt from the requirement to ask ourselves: What is the positive legacy we will bequeath to future generations in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I regret to say it does not appear that we will be able to bequeath them peace — but we can leave them other breakthroughs. Even if these are localized or embryonic, we can build trust between the two peoples and leaderships, so that they will not begin like us today, starting from scratch.

As I write this, there is no currently viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no diplomatic process underway, and no indication of imminent negotiations. Yet, even with no way forward, even with no clear timetable for an end to the conflict — the tragedy that envelops us all — we are duty bound to recognize where and how we can take effective action to improve the prospect that we will be able to live together, Jews and Arabs, in our region as we are destined rather than doomed to do.

Israel must take steps to improve the situation independent of the geopolitical territorial debate — steps that every sensible person understands serve simultaneously Israel’s moral and practical interests. Without resolving the question of whether or not Israel today has a Palestinian partner for peace, it is self-evident that the building of the new Palestinian city, Rawabi, is in Israel’s interest. Likewise, it is clear that cultivating channels of communication and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen, educators and cultural figures improves our situation. Is there anyone who does not see the value and importance of the majority of the Jewish population being able to speak Arabic (a plan for which I am pleased to see has been brought before the Knesset)? When it comes to all these possibilities, we should have started yesterday.

Even in Jerusalem, seen by many as the greatest diplomatic challenge to any peace treaty, there is much we can do. It is worth understanding that the Israeli right has long ignored the eastern part of the city for reasons of internal political differences, while the left has equally neglected investing in the need for infrastructure to serve the 300,000 Palestinians of the city as part of an ideology of political separation from the Palestinians. Thus, in debating the future, we have neglected to deal with eastern parts of Jerusalem in the present — and thereby literally abandoned the security of Jewish inhabitants and the welfare of Arab ones. Does anyone think that dealing with the sewage, roads, schools and medical centers of eastern Jerusalem can or should wait until the end of the conflict? Is there anyone who thinks the consequences of these economic disparities in the city will stop at genuine or fictitious political borders? At concrete walls or fences? Or as a result of this or that agreement on sovereignty?

In the heat of our internal controversy over the country’s borders, the character of our neighbors and the nature of the final settlement or its feasibility, we are prone to ignore the necessity of managing relations between people in the present. But it is the here-and-now in which people — including children and young people — actually live. It is the present in which their consciousness is formed and their path in life crystalized.

Confidence, however, cannot be built unilaterally. It is clear that the Palestinians must end the incitement and violence against Israel. They must end the rejection of the very existence of Israel. To Palestinian youths I say: For too many years, blood has been shed like water on this land. No blood is redder than any other. Lives matter. Our lives matter. Your lives matter. I urge Palestinian parents and teachers to foster in their young dreams of life, not aspirations of death. The struggle between our peoples has already seen so much death and bloodshed — more death and bloodshed is not going to solve it.

At the same time, the international community, led by the United States, has a crucial role to play. Investing in steps like those above, nurturing mutual values and encouraging dialogue and cooperation can help lay the groundwork for a future settlement — whenever it may come — and make its success ever more likely.

None of us is exempt from the requirement to ask ourselves: What is the positive legacy we will bequeath to future generations in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I regret to say it does not appear that we will be able to bequeath them peace — but we can leave them other breakthroughs. Even if these are localized or embryonic, we can build trust between the two peoples and leaderships, so that they will not begin like us today, starting from scratch.

A Carved Stone Block Upends Assumptions About Ancient Judaism

by Isabel Kershner                   The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/world/middleeast/magdala-stone-israel-judaism.html?ref=middleeast&_r=0

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The Magdala Stone was unearthed in 2009 near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel

The carved stone block is about the size of an occasional table. It has held its secrets for two millenniums. Whoever engraved its enigmatic symbols was apparently depicting the ancient Jewish temples.

But what makes the stone such a rare find in biblical archaeology, according to scholars, is that when it was carved, the Second Temple still stood in Jerusalem for the carver to see. The stone is a kind of ancient snapshot.

And it is upending some long-held scholarly assumptions about ancient synagogues and their relationship with the Temple, a center of Jewish pilgrimage and considered the holiest place of worship for Jews, during a crucial period, when Judaism was on the cusp of the Christian era.

Known as the Magdala Stone, the block was unearthed in 2009 near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, where a resort and center for Christian pilgrims was going to be built. Government archaeologists are routinely called in to check for anything old and important that might be destroyed by a project, and in this case they discovered the well-preserved ruins of a first-century synagogue and began excavating.

The site turned out to be the presumed hometown of Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’s most faithful followers. The dig also revealed an ancient marketplace and fishermen’s quarters along with the synagogue.

Experts have raised the tantalizing possibility that Jesus may have taught in the synagogue when he was in Galilee. A local coin found in a side room was minted in A.D. 29, when Jesus is thought to have been alive.

But for some scholars, the Magdala Stone was the real eye-opener.

“I approached the stone, and I could not believe what I was seeing,” said Rina Talgam, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor specializing in ancient art of the Middle East. Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists had asked her to visit the site to view Magdala’s mosaics and frescoes, but when she first saw the stone, “they said I stood there for three hours.”

Ms. Talgam concluded that she was looking at a three-dimensional depiction of the Temple of Herod, including its most sacred inner sanctum, known as the Holy of Holies

She has since spent years deciphering and interpreting the symbols that adorn the stone and researching the possible implications of the discovery.

Experts have long believed that in the period before Herod’s Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, synagogues were used as a general place of assembly and learning, something like a neighborhood community center. The more formal conception of a synagogue as a sacred space reserved for religious ritual was thought to have developed later, in the Jewish diaspora after the Temple had been destroyed.

But the Magdala Stone was found in the center of the old synagogue, and Ms. Talgam said it might have been intended to give the space an aura of holiness “like a lesser temple” even while Herod’s Temple still existed.

Other scholars have come to the same view. Elchanan Reiner, a retired professor of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University, said that the stone was probably intended to represent the place where God, or the holy spirit of God, was believed to reside and that its placement in the middle of the synagogue “gives new meaning to that public building.”

For Jews living in Galilee in those days, Jerusalem was a substantial journey away. Mr. Reiner noted that, though there could be only one Temple, the stone would have brought a suggestion of it to the synagogue in Magdala. “It brings that community closer to, and further from, Jerusalem at the same time,” he said.

One side of the stone has what experts say is an unusual feature for the time: a carving of a seven-branch menorah. A candelabra of that kind is described in the Bible and is believed to have stood in the Temple, and it emerged as a Jewish symbol of hope for redemption centuries later, according to David Mevorah, senior curator for Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine archaeology at the Israel Museum.

During the annual eight-day festival of Hanukkah, which began on Sunday evening, Jews light a nine-branch menorah to commemorate the rededication of the Second Temple after a successful revolt against the Syrian-Greek Seleucid empire in 165 B.C.

But there would have been no need for a symbol of redemption in first-century Magdala, Mr. Mevorah said. “The Temple exists,” he said. “Everything is functioning. So why would there be a symbol of the Temple here? It raises questions about the role of the synagogue at that time.”

The Magdala Stone is about the right size for laying down a Torah scroll, so it might have been used as liturgical furniture, Ms. Talgam said. After it was found, a similar stone was unearthed in a synagogue from the Byzantine period in nearby Horvat Kur, and that, too, was decorated with what appear to be schematic depictions of Temple iconography.

In contrast to the current tensions over the contested site in Jerusalem that is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, where the ancient temples once stood, and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, the Magdala project has emphasized religious harmony. The land belongs to a Roman Catholic religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, and the archaeologists who are managing the dig and who found the stone are Dina Avshalom-Gorni, an Israeli Jew, and Arfan Najar, a Muslim.

Even so, there is some fear of zealotry. The stone on public display at Magdala now is a close replica; the original is locked up in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s storage warehouse in Beit Shemesh.

According to Ms. Talgam’s interpretation, there are more signs of the Temple to be seen on the stone. Sacred utensils are depicted in the order in which they would have appeared. A square shape below the menorah may represent the sacrificial altar, with large oil and water containers shown on either side. Engraved steps, arches and columns refer to the architecture of the Temple.

The professor suggested that the 12-leaf rosette on top of the stone might have echoed a motif on the veil that divided the Temple’s main sanctuary from the Holy of Holies.

On the side of the stone that Ms. Talgam believes represents the inner sanctum, the carvings suggest the lower portion of a chariot, with flashes of fire beneath its wheels — possibly illustrating the seat of God residing in the earthly Temple. The upper half, or God himself, she said, would have been in heaven.

Ms. Talgam said the first century was a period of debates within Judaism, a factor she said must be considered in interpreting the stone.

Archaeologists can be no less quarrelsome. “There will be disputes” of her interpretation of the stone, Ms. Talgam said. “But that is the way it should be.”

This is an incredible letter written by a non – Jewish Scottish professor to his students who voted to boycott Israel.

It’s a response from Dr Denis MacEoin, a non-Jewish professor, to the motion put forward by The Edinburgh Student’s Association to boycott all things Israeli, in which they claim Israel is under an apartheid regime. Denis is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs  and was a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly. Here’s his letter to the students.

(This letter has done the rounds and is a few years old but it is still worth sending as the content is still as relevant today  RW)

TO: The Committee Edinburgh University Student Association.(EUSA)

May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain ‘s great Middle East experts in their day. I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University . Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field. I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote.

I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel .

That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves. Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby.

Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I’m not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel . I’m speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a “Nazi” state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel , precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for.

It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is.

That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world center; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population).

In Iran, the Bahai’s (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran? Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no blacks were able to do in South Africa.

Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank.

On the same wards, in the same operating theatres.

In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid.

Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.

It seems bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief.

Intelligent students thinking it’s better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?

University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak.

I do not object to well-documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it’s clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens.

Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain , Saudi Arabia , Yemen , and Iran . They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world’s freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Bahai’s…. Need I go on?

The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott. I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side.

Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument.

They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930’s (which, sadly, there was not), don’t you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it?

Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this makes sense. I have given you some of the evidence.

It’s up to you to find out more.

Yours sincerely,

Denis MacEoin

A Vibrant, Energetic Chanukah Music Video from Netanya