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New discovery proves Bethlehem part of Kingdom of Judah

 

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, first published in Arutz Sheva

 

Archaeologists have discovered the first evidence outside of the Bible that Bethlehem was part of the First Temple era Kingdom of Judah.

The dramatic archaeological find was announced five days before Jews around the world celebrate the holiday of Shavuot and hear the recital of the Book of Ruth, which mentions Bethlehem.

A half-inch clay seal was discovered at the ongoing excavations at Ir David (City of David) located across the road from the Western Wall.

The stamp, with ancient Hebrew script, is one of a group of seals used to stamp official documents that were to be opened only by authorized officials.

Three lines in the stamp state:

בשבעת (Bishv’at)

בת לכם (Bat Lechem)

[למל[ך ([Lemel]ekh)

The writing means that the stamp was sent from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem in the seventh year of his reign.

Eli Shukrun, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that it is unclear if the reference to the king is to Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah.

The stamps, or seals, were used to seal tax shipments in the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth century and the seventh century BCE.

“The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat,” according to Shukrun.

He added,” This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods”.

Bethlehem is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis (Bereishit) when it named concernng the death and burial of the Matriarch Rachel.

Bethlehem also is mentioned in the Book of Ruth as the place where “the children of Judah dwelled,” including the family of Boaz, who is a central figure in the Book of Ruth, almost all of which takes place in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem is cited in the Book of Samuel as the city where David was anointed as king.

Ancient coins and jewelry uncovered near Kiryat Gat

 
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Gold and silver coins and jewelry from the second century were uncovered in excavations near Kiryat Gat in southern Israel.
 
The 2,000-year-old hoard was likely hidden by a wealthy family during the Bar Kochba revolt, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which announced the find Tuesday.
 
The treasure was discovered during a salvage excavation near Kiryat Gat. The excavation uncovered a building dating to the Roman and Byzantine period. The coins and jewels, which were found in a hole in what was the building's courtyard, had been wrapped in a cloth, of which trace remains were found.  
 

Madonna parades into Israel on tour

(UKPA) – 3 hours ago  

Madonna cheered on her own arrival as she kicked off her MDNA world tour in Israel dressed as a cheerleader.

The 53-year-old showed off her bulging biceps and toned physique in a variety of outfits, including a cheerleader's uniform and an updated version of her famous Jean Paul Gaultier coned corset.

Madonna told the 35,000-strong crowd in Tel Aviv: "I chose to start my world tour in Israel for a very specific and important reason."

"You can't be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world, we all bleed the same colour," she added, as the crowd cheered wildly.

"If we can all rise above our egos and our titles and the names of our countries and our religions, and treat everyone around us with dignity and respect, then we are on the road to peace. If there is peace here in the Middle East, there can be peace in the whole world."

Madonna reportedly donated 580 tickets to her show to members of both the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps, but not all of them were accepted.

She was joined on stage by her 11-year-old son Rocco, whose father is British director Guy Ritchie, who performed with her backing dancers dressed in a number of outfits including a monk's habit and a sparkly vest teamed with large headphones.

The show began with church bells and Catholic imagery on screen before the sound of Hebrew prayer hailed the arrival of devout Kabbalah follower Madonna on stage inside a confessional. She shot her way out through the glass of the confessional with a rifle and burst into her hit Girl Gone Wild.

This is Madonna's ninth world tour. She will next head to Abu Dhabi and then to Europe and the Americas before finishing in Australia in early 2013.

 

 

 

 

Arab Druze and Jewish students work together to eliminate stereotypes

 

Anti-Defamation League press release 

 

For the third year, ADL's Israel Office brought together Arab Druze and Jewish students for a series of programs aimed at breaking down stereotypes and building better relationships between the two groups.

Druze students from the northern village of Beit Ja'an and Jewish students from the nearby city of Carmiel participated in ADL's The A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute. These students, who live in neighboring towns have few opportunities to interact, so the ADL project is an opportunity to meet and discuss common interests.

After a few separate workshops in each school where issues of bias and prejudice were discussed, students meet each other in their respective schools. In March, "Ha'Reut" school in Carmiel hosted the Druze students for activities that help build trust and common values.

Two months later, the culminating event took place in Beit Ja'an. The day started with a PowerPoint presentation prepared by the Druze students, explaining their religion and village, then the Druze mothers prepared a traditional meal and lastly, ADL facilitators led activities. The students from both schools signed identical pledges, which was given to each school and hung in a place of honor.

One of the students said the year-long program, "My heart was joyful every time I took part in the workshop. These activities will leave a mark in my heart."

ADL's Israel Office has held the A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute with various groups, especially youth who will be the leaders of the future, to build a society based on equality and mutual respect.

 

Christians try to revive language spoken at time of Jesus

By Associated Press

JISH, Israel — Two villages in the Holy Land’s tiny Christian community are teaching Aramaic in an ambitious effort to revive the language that Jesus spoke, centuries after it all but disappeared from the Middle East.

The new focus on the region’s dominant language 2,000 years ago comes with a little help from modern technology: an Aramaic-speaking television channel from Sweden, of all places, where a vibrant immigrant community has kept the ancient tongue alive.

In the Palestinian village of Beit Jala, an older generation of Aramaic speakers is trying to share the language with their grandchildren. Beit Jala lies next to Bethlehem, where the New Testament says Jesus was born.

And in the Arab-Israeli village of Jish, nestled in the Galilean hills where Jesus lived and preached, elementary school children are now being instructed in Aramaic. The children belong mostly to the Maronite Christian community. Maronites still chant their liturgy in Aramaic but few understand the prayers.

“We want to speak the language that Jesus spoke,” said Carla Hadad, a 10-year-old Jish girl who frequently waved her arms to answer questions in Aramaic from school teacher Mona Issa during a recent lesson.

“We used to speak it a long time ago,” she added, referring to her ancestors.

During the lesson, a dozen children lisped out a Christian prayer in Aramaic. They learned the words for “elephant,” ‘’how are you?” and “mountain.” Some children carefully drew sharp-angled Aramaic letters. Others fiddled with their pencil cases, which sported images of popular soccer teams.

The dialect taught in Jish and Beit Jala is “Syriac,” which was spoken by their Christian forefathers and resembles the Galilean dialect that Jesus would have used, according to Steven Fassberg, an Aramaic expert at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“They probably would have understood each other,” Fassberg said.

In Jish, about 80 children in grades one through five study Aramaic as a voluntary subject for two hours a week. Israel’s education ministry provided funds to add classes until the eighth grade, said principal Reem Khatieb-Zuabi.

Several Jish residents lobbied for Aramaic studies several years ago, said Khatieb-Zuabi, but the idea faced resistance: Jish’s Muslims worried it was a covert attempt to entice their children to Christianity. Some Christians objected, saying the emphasis on their ancestral language was being used to strip them of their Arab identity. The issue is sensitive to many Arab Muslims and Christians in Israel, who prefer to be identified by their ethnicity, not their faith.

Ultimately, Khatieb-Zuabi, a secular Muslim from an outside village, overruled them.

“This is our collective heritage and culture. We should celebrate and study it,” the principal said. And so the Jish Elementary School become the only Israeli public school teaching Aramaic, according to the education ministry.

Their efforts are mirrored in Beit Jala’s Mar Afram school run by the Syrian Orthodox church and located just a few miles from Bethlehem’s Manger Square.

 

 

Israel steps up security ties with China

 

By Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — After a prolonged chill, security ties between Israel and China are warming up.

With Israel offering much-needed technical expertise and China representing a huge new market and influential voice in the international debate over Iran's nuclear program, the two nations have stepped up military cooperation as they patch up a rift caused by a pair of failed arms deals scuttled by the U.S.

The improved ties have been highlighted by this week's visit to Beijing by Israel's military chief and a training mission to Israel by the Chinese paramilitary force that, among other things, polices the restive Tibetan and Muslim Uighur regions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to travel to China in the coming weeks.

After their meeting Monday, both China's chief of staff, Gen. Chen Bingde, and his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, hailed the growing ties and held out the possibility of even closer military cooperation.

Chen told the official China Daily that China "attaches importance to the ties with the Israeli military and is willing to make concerted efforts with the Israeli side to deepen pragmatic cooperation."

In a statement released by the Israeli military, Gantz mentioned a commitment to developing the relationship, including "joint courses that are scheduled to take place." It did not elaborate.

Such comments are a remarkable turnaround from just a few years ago, when ties deteriorated after the failed arms deals.

Israel and China established diplomatic relations in 1992, and the two countries traded military technology for nearly a decade. Some military analysts believe that Israel helped China develop its J-10 fighter plane during the 1990s, a claim that both countries have denied.

These ties suffered a blow in 2000 when the U.S. pressured Israel to cancel the sale of a sophisticated radar system to China, fearing it could alter the balance of power with Taiwan. The cancellation infuriated China, cost Israel hundreds of millions of dollars, and frayed ties.

Then, in 2005, the U.S. persuaded Israel not to service spare parts for unmanned aircraft drones already sold to China, concerned that it would upgrade China's airborne anti-radar capability. Israel officials say that Israel has since halted weapons sales to China.

But in recent months, relations have begun to improve. In June 2011, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to China. Chen, the Chinese military chief, visited Israel in August, and in December, Israel's paramilitary Border Police unit hosted a delegation from the People's Armed Police.

During the monthlong course, "cadets were taught a variety of information, with an emphasis on fighting terror, dealing with disturbances, self defense, open field combat and more," according to an Israeli police statement. It was the first such exercise, police said.

This newfound cooperation has raised concerns among human rights advocates. Israel's Border Police serve on the front lines of anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank and have been accused of using excessive force dispersing crowds. It denies the allegations.

The People's Armed Police, or PAP, has also been accused of using excessive force, particularly in Tibet, a western region where the indigenous Buddhist population has pushed for independence.

Policing Tibet is a small part of a challenging mission. Believed to have as many as 1 million members, the PAP is responsible for asserting government control over a rapidly changing society beset by soaring numbers of protests, strikes and ethnic unrest by Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs on China's Central Asian frontier.

Set up in the early 1980s to take over domestic security from the armed forces, the PAP has been derided for much of its history as undisciplined. The units proved unfit to handle the Tiananmen Square democracy demonstrations in 1989, forcing the Communist Party to call in the People's Liberation Army.

In the past decade, the government has launched a full-force upgrade. It now has rapid-response, counterterrorism, anti-hijacking and other specialized units.

Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said PAP units engaged in "widespread abuses" in putting down a mass Tibetan uprising in 2008, using live ammunition against unarmed protesters, disappearances and other acts of disproportionate brutality.

He said the Israeli training "must include a human rights component, such as the principle of proportionate use of force."

Israeli officials rejected any notion of wrongdoing, saying that all cooperation was "transparent" and done with the full knowledge of the U.S. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a sensitive diplomatic issue.

The Chinese Embassy in Tel Aviv did not respond to a request for comment.

According to Israeli diplomats and analysts, the interests on both sides are clear. Israel has a strong interest in getting closer to a rising world power, while China is interested in Israeli military and technological know-how.

"I'm sure Israel does whatever it can to let the Chinese know that despite limitations on military transfers, Israel still has a strong will to attain good relations," said Yoram Evron, a China expert at Haifa University and the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank.

He said he believes the warming ties were initiated by the Chinese, who were caught off guard by the Arab Spring protests convulsing the region in the past year and a half.

"Due to the Arab Spring, China may have the impression, a stronger impression than before, that Israel is relatively stable compared with other players in the region," he said.

An Israeli diplomat involved in Asian affairs said the security ties are part of a larger blossoming of relations. China is now Israel's third-largest trade partner, after the European Union and United States. Bilateral trade exceeded $8 billion last year, roughly 20 percent higher than the previous year.

While those figures are minuscule for China, the diplomat noted that China is very interested in some key industries in which Israel has expertise. He cited Israeli water technologies in agriculture, desalination and wastewater management.

He said Israel has signed number of trade agreements with China in recent years, including a new scholarship program to bring 250 Chinese university students to Israel annually. It also has expanded its diplomatic presence in China with a new consulate in the city of Guangzhou, and another one set to open in Chengdu next year.

Israeli officials acknowledged their motives go beyond trade. They said they routinely raise concerns about Iran's nuclear program with China, which is both a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and which relies on Iran for roughly 10 percent of its oil supply.

Israel, like the West, believes Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, and has hinted it will attack Iran if it concludes that international diplomatic efforts to stop Iran have failed. An Israeli attack could disrupt the flow of oil and send global energy prices skyrocketing, a nightmare scenario for China.

So far, the Israeli lobbying has yielded mixed results. China has helped pass four sets of economic sanctions against Iran, but has tried to dilute the language.

"We would like to see them taking more concrete steps because they have clout over Iran," the diplomat said. "We explain that if the issue is not resolved, it might affect stability in the Middle East."

 

 

Madonna touches down in Israel at start of world tour

(AFP)

JERUSALEM — International music icon Madonna arrived in Israel on Friday to kick off her hotly anticipated world tour with a sold-out performance in Tel Aviv.

She arrived amid tight security on a chartered El Al flight from New York, accompanied by partner Brahim Zaibat, her four children and an entourage of 70, local media reported.

Thursday's Tel Aviv show is the first of 84 dates across Europe and the Americas, according to her website.

They are to be followed by a visit to Australia, where Madonna has not appeared in 20 years, it said.

The tour -- Madonna's first since her wildly successful "Sticky and Sweet" outing in 2008 and 2009 -- will support her new album "MDNA."

She last performed in Israel in 2009, on the Sticky and Sweet tour.

During that visit she met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visited the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.

Although not Jewish, Madonna is a keen follower of the Jewish mystic discipline of Kabbalah.

She visited Israel in 2004 and 2007 on private trips.

Saturday night marks the start of the week-long Jewish holiday of Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks.

Israeli public radio said that Madonna was expected to spend much of the holiday "resting and making short trips," with rehearsals on the eve of her show.

Walla! news website said that among the star's demands for the backstage area at the Ramat Gan football stadium are a treatment room with massage table and jacuzzi, a personal laundry room and spaces for Madonna, her children, her dressmaker and other staff.

 

Archaeologists Find 3,000-Year-Old Jewellery

 

Associated Press

Israeli archaeologists have discovered a rare trove of jewellery estimated to be 3,000 years old. The find, which included a gold ring and earrings, as well as beads, was hidden in a ceramic jug near the ancient city of Megiddo. Archaeologists had unearthed the jug in 2010, but they left it in a laboratory while awaiting a molecular analysis of what was inside. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University said that the find offered a rare glimpse into ancient Canaanite high society.