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Israel’s Antiquities Chief Compares UNESCO to Islamic State

October 25th, 2016

By: Ilan Ben Zion; TimesofIsrael.com

UN cultural body’s resolution on Jerusalem akin to jihadist group’s destruction of Palmrya, says Yisrael Hasson.

A picture shows on March 31, 2016 the remains of Temple of Bel’s “Cella,” which was blown up by jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
The main building of the ancient temple was destroyed by IS as well as a row of columns in its immediate vicinity. Syrian troops backed by Russian forces recaptured Palmyra on March 27, 2016, after a fierce offensive to rescue the city from jihadists who view the UNESCO-listed site’s magnificent ruins as idolatrous.
/ AFP / JOSEPH EID

The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority on Wednesday slammed UNESCO for its resolution on Jerusalem holy sites, comparing the UN cultural body to Islamic State jihadists.

Speaking at the opening of the new IAA headquarters in Jerusalem, director Yisrael Hasson said the resolution adopted last week and confirmed on Tuesday put the UN organization in the same league as IS jihadists who have destroyed and looted hundreds of archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq to fund their “caliphate.”
“Around us, world heritage treasures are being destroyed… They murdered Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, who tried to protect heritage,” Hasson said recalling the 82-year-old retired head of antiquities in Palmyra who was beheaded by IS militants last year.

IS overran Palmyra — a UNESCO world heritage site known as the “Pearl of the Desert” — in May 2015 and used its ancient amphitheater for public executions.

The extremist group blew up temples and tower tombs as part of it campaign against pre-Islamic monuments it considers “blasphemous.”

“And recently UNESCO in essence joined this system of destruction by diplomatic means. This is essentially the same action by a diplomatic course,” Hasson said.

Kadima MK Yisrael Hasson, at the Knesset. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
File: Israel Antiquities Authority head and former MK Yisrael Hasson, at the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Damascus-born Hasson, a former Knesset member and deputy director of the Shin Bet, is the latest in a string of Israeli officials to slam the UNESCO decision, which Israel says ignores Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem’s holiest sites.

File: Israel Antiquities Authority head and former MK Yisrael Hasson, at the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The resolution, passed Thursday in the committee stage at the United Nations cultural body, referred to the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Muslim names and condemned Israel as “the occupying power” for various actions taken in both sites.

The resolution was confirmed by UNESCO’s executive on Tuesday.

The IAA opened its new Jerusalem headquarters Wednesday despite the fact that the massive complex has yet to be completed.

Hasson and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a gala dinner replete with singers, dancers, weavers, potters and ethnic-garbed women handing out commemorative coins, but which was held amid exposed wiring, unfinished concrete floors and walls, and empty offices.

Part of the reason for showcasing the building, which is to house antiquities from across the country as well as the agency’s laboratories and offices, was to raise the additional funds necessary to finish construction.

Once completed, the IAA building will be the home for artifacts currently stored at various warehouses nationwide, as well as the Rockefeller Museum’s rare books library.

Since Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, the Antiquities Authority has been headquartered in the Rockefeller Museum, situated near the Old City’s Herod’s Gate.

The IAA’s move into its new headquarters was not without controversy. Critics, including the left-leaning archaeology NGO Emek Shaveh, petitioned the High Court of Justice to prevent artifacts from the Rockefeller library being transferred from their East Jerusalem home to the new facility. The appeal was based on the claim that international law bans the removal of cultural property from occupied territories. The court rejected the petition.

Despite the court’s ruling, antiquities from the Rockefeller will remain at the historic 1930s building, while the library will be transferred to the new facility.

UNESCO’s Temple Mount and Western Wall Lies

October 24th, 2016

By: Jeff Dunetz; TheJewishStar.com

temple-mount-western-wall

 

UNESCO’s history-defying vote asserting that the Temple Mount is sacred only to Muslims, echoes anti-Israel propaganda across the Middle East and ignores that the ancient Greeks, Romans, Christians, and even the ancient Muslims, considered Jerusalem and the Temple Mount the property of the Jewish people.

For the ancient Muslim, Greek and Roman authors, Jerusalem was a Jewish city. Their texts indicate a unanimous agreement that Jerusalem was Jewish by virtue of the fact that its inhabitants were Jews, it was founded by Jews, and the Temple in Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish religion.

A 2008 report by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs explained: Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera (c. 300 BCE) wrote that the Jews were thrown out of Egypt. “Therefore, the aliens were driven from the country.” While some went to Greece, most “were driven into what is now called Judaea … at that time utterly uninhabited. … On taking possession of the land, he [Moses] founded, besides other cities, one that is the most renowned of all, called Jerusalem. In addition, he established the temple that they hold in chief veneration, instituted their forms of worship and ritual, drew up their laws and ordered their political institutions.” (Hecataeus “On the Jews,” in Against Apion I, 198-199; Stern, I, V, No.12, 36-37)

The Palestinians allege that there is little archeological evidence that either Temple existed, ignoring the fact that no digging is allowed on the Temple Mount in respect of its holiness to the Muslims. But when the Muslims themselves dug up part of the Temple Mount to add to their mosque, they dumped tons of dirt with artifacts outside the holy city. Before UNESCO’s vote, Israel prepared a brochure about some of the Temple Mount archaeological finds and provided it to every member of the committee, to no avail.

The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the institution overseeing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, carried out excavations on the Temple Mount between 1996 and 1999 as part of the construction of a subterranean mosque in an area known as Solomon’s Stables. Tens of thousands of tons of dirt — roughly 400 truckloads — were excavated by heavy machinery, without the supervision of archaeologists, and were dumped outside the Old City.

Archeologists have been sifting through the dirt for years (the Temple Mount Sifting Project), and have found artifacts from the holy Temples. For example, in 2005 an archaeologist found what is now known as the Gaalyahu Seal, which in Hebrew says belonging to Gaalyahu son of Imer. The house of Imer was a well-known priestly family at the end of the First Temple period, roughly from around the 7th to 6th centuries BCE.

The UNESCO vote also ignores references to the Jewish Temple in texts the Muslims consider sacred.

The Qur’an refers to the existence of both temples in verse 17:7. In this passage, the Qur’an deals with G-d’s punishment of the Children of Israel for their transgressions:

“[And said], ‘If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, [you do it] to yourselves.’ Then when the final promise came, [We sent your enemies] to sadden your faces and to enter the temple in Jerusalem, as they entered it the first time, and to destroy what they had taken over with [total] destruction.”

The word translated as “temple” by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the British born Muslim scholar who translated the Quran into English (and by the influential translator Marmaduke Pickthall before him) is masjid. This word, which is usually translated as mosque, has the meaning of a sanctuary wherever it appears in a pre-Islamic context. The usual Muslim interpretations of this verse (including that of Abdullah Yusuf Ali) holds that it refers to the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

Muslim tradition is especially adamant about the existence of the First Temple, built by Solomon, who appears in the Qur’an as a prophet and a perfect example of wisdom. Verse 34:13 is an account of how Solomon summoned jinn(spirits) to build the Temple:

“They made for him what he willed of elevated chambers, statues, bowls like reservoirs, and stationary kettles. [We said], ‘Work, O family of David, in gratitude.’ And few of My servants are grateful.”

The very verse in the Quran that makes the Temple Mount holy to Muslims also proves that the spot was occupied by the Jewish Temple: The Islamic sanctity of the Haram al-Sharif [what the Muslims call the Temple Mount] is based upon verse 17:1: “Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).”

This is the textual proof of the isra’, the earthly segment of the Night Journey of Muhammad: overnight, Muhammad was miraculously transported, round-trip, from “the Sacred Mosque” (al-Masjid al-Haram) — that is, the Ka’ba (or its vicinity) in Mecca — to “the Farthest Mosque” (al-Masjid al-Aqsa). Later Muslim tradition came to identify “the Farthest Mosque” with Jerusalem. But during Muhammad’s lifetime, no mosque stood in Jerusalem; the Muslims conquered the city only several years after his death. Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s commentary on this verse summarizes the traditional explanation: “The Farthest Mosque,” he writes, “must refer to the site of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem on the hill of Moriah.”

When Muslims did build a mosque on this hill, Muslim tradition holds that it was built deliberately on the verified site of earlier sanctuaries. According to Muslim tradition, when the Caliph Umar visited Jerusalem after its conquest, he searched for David’s sanctuary or prayer niche (mihrab Dawud), which is mentioned in the Qur’an (38:21). (David was believed to have chosen the site on which Solomon built.) When Umar was satisfied he had located it, he ordered a place of prayer (musalla) to be established there. This evolved into a mosque that was a precursor of the Aksa Mosque. Thus began the Islamization of the complex that later came to be known as the Haram al-Sharif. It became the tradition of Islam that Muslims restored the site to its earlier function as a place of supplication venerated by all the prophets, including Abraham, David and Solomon.

The official 1925 Supreme Moslem Council (Waqf) guidebook to Al-aram Al-Sharif recognized the presence of the Jewish Temples atop the Mount. Paragraph on two on page four reads: “It’s [the Temple Mount] identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”

The Jewish Temple is also mentioned in the Christian Gospels which pre-date Islam.

Merchants were selling doves that were sacrificed by the poor who could not afford grander sacrifices. According to Mark 11:16, the founder of Christianity then put an embargo on people carrying any merchandise through the Temple — a sanction that would have disrupted all commerce. In the Gospel of John 2:15-16, the founder refers to the Jerusalem Temple as “my Father’s house,” He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves, he said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”

What does this all mean? Ancient text — including Muslim and Christian texts —agree that there were two Jewish Temples to G-d on top Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. So it’s well past time for the American and other world Governments to stop denying history, press the BS button on UNESCO and point out the truth.

What makes the vote even more incredible is that Christian majority countries such as Mexico and Brazil denied their Christian heritage by voting for the resolution, as did Christian majority countries such as Italy and France by abstaining.

UNESCO can pass one million resolutions and it won’t matter. Israel is the heart of the Jewish people, Jerusalem is the heart of Israel, and the Temple Mount is the heart of Jerusalem. No amount of lies, not from UNESCO, not from the Palestinians, not from any other country of organization in the world … no one except G-d himself can take the Temple Mount away from the Jewish people. And it is up to us living in the galut to make that clear to the politicians running (or attempting to run) our countries.

 

9 of the Most Beautiful Sukkot in Israel

October 23rd, 2016

By Abigail Klein Leichman; Israel21c.org

The Jewish Harvest Festival of Sukkot brings people outdoors into decorated ‘huts,’ but that doesn’t mean the huts aren’t luxurious.

The sukkah at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. Photo by Perry Easy

The sukkah at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. Photo by Perry Easy

Right after Yom Kippur is over, the sound of hammers rings throughout Israel as people begin building temporary “huts” called sukkot (sukkah in singular).

The week-long harvest and thanksgiving festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), this year from nightfall October 16 through October 23, brings many Israelis and tourists outdoors to dine (and sometimes sleep) in the sukkah with the stars peeking through the roof of branches, lumber or bamboo in keeping with biblical tradition.

People typically decorate their sukkah with posters, paper chains, colored lights and hanging fruit. In fancy sukkot you might even see chandeliers and draperies.

Here are nine impressive sukkot found from north to south. Tell us about your favorite Israeli sukkah in the comments section below.

  1. The President’s Sukkah
Every year, children are invited to help the Israeli president decorate the official sukkah in Jerusalem. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Every year, children are invited to help the Israeli president decorate the official sukkah in Jerusalem. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, will host their annual Sukkot open house on October 19 at their official residence in Jerusalem. Thousands of Israeli citizens and tourists visit the presidential sukkah each year and enjoy a variety of exhibits, entertainment and activities throughout the residence and its gardens.

On October 18, the president’s mobile sukkah will make a stop in Acre (Akko) to greet the public. Every year, a different city is chosen for the special event.

President Reuven Rivlin hosts children in his mobile Sukkah in the central city of Lod during the Jewish holiday Sukkot, on October 12, 2014. Photo by Itzik Edri/GPO.

President Reuven Rivlin hosts children in his mobile Sukkah in the central city of Lod during the Jewish holiday Sukkot, on October 12, 2014. Photo by Itzik Edri/GPO.

  1. Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem
A side view of the atrium sukkah at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. Photo by Perry Easy

A side view of the atrium sukkah at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. Photo by Perry Easy

The Waldorf sets up its main sukkah right inside the hotel’s lobby atrium under a retracting glass rooftop. This arrangement combines convenience with aesthetics: The temperature can be controlled, and if it starts to rain the staff simply closes the roof so there’s no scramble to re-seat 200 diners.

The sukkah-building team gets to work three weeks before the holiday, while the décor is planned months in advance. This year’s theme is grapes and vineyards.

The Waldorf also offers two other large sukkot, each seating between 200 and 260 people, as well as private sukkot for some of the luxury suites.

  1.  Inbal Jerusalem Hotel
The sukkah in the courtyard of Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel. Photo: courtesy

The sukkah in the courtyard of Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel. Photo: courtesy

About one kilometer south of the Waldorf, the Inbal Hotel builds a lavish courtyard sukkah, measuring 25 square meters with a three-meter-high open roof. It takes a week to construct and decorate.

For the second year in a row, the Inbal has engaged event planner Sarit Bustan to handle décor. The theme this year is “a visual and content experience revolving around a sky full of stars and fairy tales,” a spokeswoman tells ISRAEL21c.

The hotel also has a 200-square-meter balcony sukkah, 50-square-meter Executive Lounge sukkah with transparent walls, and private sukkot for suites.

The balcony sukkah at the Inbal Hotel, overlooking Jerusalem. Photo: courtesy

The balcony sukkah at the Inbal Hotel, overlooking Jerusalem. Photo: courtesy

  1.  Kibbutz Lotan
Inside Kibbutz Lotan’s sukkah for 300. Photo by Alex Cicelsky/Kibbutz Lotan Center for Creative Ecology

Inside Kibbutz Lotan’s sukkah for 300. Photo by Alex Cicelsky/Kibbutz Lotan Center for Creative Ecology

All the members of this eco-conscious Reform kibbutz in Israel’s Arava Valley gather at the end of Yom Kippur, even before breaking their fast, to start building their communal sukkah. Measuring 200 square meters and seating 300 people, it’s made from a steel frame manufactured on site, covered with date-palm branches cut from Lotan’s orchard and decorated with murals handmade by members, youth and guests.

  1.  ‘Most Beautiful Sukkah,’ Kibbutz Tirat Zvi
sukkah-kibbutz-tirat-zvi

The award-winning straw-bale sukkah at Kibbutz Tirat Zvi. Photo courtesy of the Tirat Zvi Archive

Many members of this kibbutz in the Beit She’an Valley build their own sukkot. This 12-by-8-meter structure built by Tirat Zvi date farmer Moshe Zakay and his neighbors, the Neeman family, won first prize last year in a “most beautiful sukkah” contest run by the regional council. It’s built of octagonal straw bales and is decorated with kibbutz-grown fruit and Tirat Zvi artifacts.

  1.  Aish HaTorah World Center, Jerusalem
Aish HaTorah’s sukkah overlooking the Western Wall plaza. Photo: courtesy

Aish HaTorah’s sukkah overlooking the Western Wall plaza. Photo: courtesy

The balcony of the Jerusalem world headquarters of global Jewish outreach organization Aish HaTorah is famed for its view of the Western Wall and Temple Mount. Before Sukkot, a team of 10 people works about 12 hours to transform the balcony into a luxurious sukkah measuring 400 square meters and seating 300 people.

  1.  Tel Aviv municipality
The sukkah in Rabin Square. Photo courtesy of Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality

The sukkah in Rabin Square. Photo courtesy of Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality

Each fall, thousands of people visit the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality’s 10-by-10-meter sukkah in Rabin Square. It’s set up and decorated in time for the annual Four Species Festival, this year taking place today (October 13). Inside, vendors sell a variety of Sukkot decorations as well as the four species used to celebrate the holiday: citron (etrog), willow, myrtle and palm frond (lulav).

  1.  Samaritan sukkah
A Samaritan sukkah. Photo by Ori Orhof/Israelite Samartian Information Institute

A Samaritan sukkah. Photo by Ori Orhof/Israelite Samartian Information Institute

The Israelite Samaritan Community, a small religious minority group living on Mount Gerizim and in Holon, builds exceptionally dazzling sukkot – indoors, not outdoors — using the four species (see item above) and a huge geometric canopy of fruits.

“In Samaritan tradition, the sukkot are meant to remind us of the Garden of Eden. The symbolism of Eden is expressed by covering the Samaritan sukkah with luscious fruit,” writes Benyamim Tsedaka, head of the Israelite Samaritan Information Institute in Holon.

A Samaritan family celebrating Sukkot. Photo by Xinhua/Ayman Nobani

A Samaritan family celebrating Sukkot. Photo by Xinhua/Ayman Nobani

  1.  Holon municipality
Holon’s municipal sukkah. Photo by Eli Ne’eman

Holon’s municipal sukkah. Photo by Eli Ne’eman

Erected on the plaza of this seaside city’s Mediatheque cultural center, the Holon municipal sukkah is open to visitors on the night after the first full day of Sukkot (October 17 this year) for a nosh and a meet-and-greet with local officials. A free show outside will be headlined by singing stars Gali Atari and Vardina Cohen. The sukkah accommodates 200 people at a time.

 

Iraqi Christians Reclaim Their Town

October 23rd, 2016

By Nabih Bulos / Los Angeles Times (LATimes.com)


Times Special Correspondent Nabih Bulos walks through a Christian church in Bartella, a town just east of Mosul formerly occupied by Islamic State militants.

Bartella, Iraq–Hussam Matti knelt to the ground, grabbed two fistfuls of brown-gray sand and poured it over his head. The grains mixed with the sweat on his brow as he stood up, smiled, and threw up his arms.

“This is the earth of Bartella,” he shouted. “This is our land.”

Government forces earlier this week recaptured this Assyrian Christian-dominated town, just eight miles east of Mosul and a crucial gateway to Islamic State’s most important stronghold in Iraq. But on Saturday, the soundtrack of the war — the clatter of gunfire, the powerful booms of artillery and airstrikes — could still be heard nearby.

Skirmishes also continued Saturday in Kirkuk,100 miles southeast of Mosul, where Islamic State militants a day earlier had launched a major counter-assault. Local officials said at least 80 people were killed in the operation, mainly Kurdish security forces, and about 170 were wounded.

The bodies of 56 militants were removed from the city, local officials said.

“Nearly all the terrorists who entered Kirkuk have been eliminated, and we have full control, except for maybe one area where they are being flushed out,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said after a meeting in Baghdad with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The recapture of Bartella is considered a crucial hurdle in the week-old drive toward Mosul, and, for residents returning for the first time since Islamic State militants were ejected this week, the return home Saturday was a day of celebration.

Many had never expected their small town of 20,000 to fall under the grip of the violent militant group.

map-bartella-iraq

Two years ago, many here watched in amazement as security personnel stationed in Mosul fled in fear when Islamic State militants entered the city and announced their caliphate.

Most Bartella residents, many said, presumed they would be safe while the extremist group continued its scythe-like offensive south of Mosul, aiming toward Baghdad.

Even several weeks after Mosul’s fall, Bartella residents were still congregating in tiny cafes off the main strip to sip coffee and play dominoes. Though facing shortages of water and electricity, people still gathered for services in the town’s three active churches.

But the jihadists had other plans. Seeking to secure the areas around their new de-facto capital, they soon turned their sights on the sprawling flatlands known as the Nineveh Plains. In August of 2014, they swept away Kurdish troops and the Hirasaat local protection forces guarding Bartella, considered the eastern gateway to Mosul.

Residents, hearing rumors of the jihadists’ rampage, fled mere hours before the coming onslaught to Irbil, 37 miles to the east. They found themselves refugees, settling in the musty confines of unfinished buildings or makeshift camps in church courtyards. In the weeks that followed, those who could, left. Two years later, many remain.

This week, as part of the Mosul campaign, members of Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service routed the militants from Bartella. By all accounts it was a brutal battle, where every street was the site of a bare-knuckled fight against militants who dispatched waves of car bombs and posted snipers at every turn.

On Saturday, troops were advancing in Humvees along the Mosul-Irbil highway that bisects the town. Wary soldiers kept their eyes peeled for mines and snipers as they walked gingerly through alleyways and debris-filled fields.

One soldier displayed a picture he had taken recently with one of his colleagues. The friend had been killed overnight after a suicide bomber emerged from a tunnel in the building he had entered.

“A militant comes in from one building, takes a tunnel and emerges from another several doors down. How can we clean this place up?” he asked, the frustration in his voice evident.

But for Matti, despite the dangers, it was nothing short of a homecoming.

“In these two years I died. The 32 years I’ve lived so far — you can forget about them. Today I’m born,” he said, as he and his comrades, all members of a Christian militia known as the Nineveh Plains Force, lashed two pieces of timber to make a cross.

They carried it to the top of Mar Shmony, a church on the town’s eastern flank. There, ringed by Counter-Terrorism Service members who urged them to watch for sniper fire, they hoisted the cross over the church’s dome and adorned it with an Iraqi flag. One man, with a touch of ceremony, placed a nativity scene set he had fished out from the wreckage of the church at the cross’ base.

pic hoisting cross
caption: Members of a Christian militia hoist a make-shift cross atop the Mar Shmony Church in Bartella. Islamic State fighters, who espouse a harsh interpretation of Sharia or Islamic law, tore down all crosses when they overran the town two years ago. (Nabih Bulos)

Members of a Christian militia hoist a make-shift cross atop the Mar Shmony Church in Bartella. Islamic State fighters, who espouse a harsh interpretation of Sharia or Islamic law, tore down all crosses when they overran the town two years ago. (Nabih Bulos)

Members of a Christian militia hoist a make-shift cross atop the Mar Shmony Church in Bartella. Islamic State fighters tore down all crosses when they overran the town two years ago. (Nabih Bulos)

“I don’t know what to do. Cry? Laugh? I just can’t believe I’m here,” said Khaled Shamoun, a 52-year-old militiaman, looking up at the cross as a soldier rang the nearby church bell.

Shamoun had come back from Baghdad four days earlier along with his son to join in the fight for Christian areas here. He was eager to go into his hometown of Qaraqosh, an Assyrian Christian city located 20 miles southeast of Mosul, still in the hands of Islamic State.

“Government forces here saved us from this non-Islamic State. They saved us from those rats, those dogs,” he said.

The militiamen then trundled to the church’s interior, picking their way through the detritus of scorched prayer books and an overturned engraved wooden pulpit to sit on pews before Mar Shmony’s ancient altar. In unison, they recited the Lord’s Prayer.

The disarray in the church served as a reminder of what had been lost; Mar Shmony had once been an elegant place of worship, with octagonal marble columns and delicate stone filigree. Its courtyard was presided over by a statue of Patriarch Yacoub the Third, an important figure in the Syriac Orthodox Church who hailed from Bartella.

Now, the face had been smashed by the militants, who count any depiction of faces to be pagan. The walls bore the group’s notorious black and white logo, but also had graffiti saying “[Islam] is above the cross” and “Islamic State is remaining and expanding.”

Elsewhere in the town, the jihadists had left their mark. They had used a stencil to spray paint “Property of Islamic State” on houses and businesses they had confiscated from Christian owners, underlining the stamp with the Arabic letter for “n” for “Nasrani,” a Koranic term for Christians that some consider a pejorative. (Some residents, hoping to avoid a ransacking, had hastily scrawled, “Owned by a Sunni Muslim” with their phone number on shop doors.)

The damage was not as widespread as that seen in other cities taken back from Islamic State earlier this year. But for some, such as Saher Shamoun, an avuncular old man who had come to check on his house, the victory was bittersweet.

He gazed at a jumble of masonry and steel, all that remained of the house he had spent years building on the salary of a government employee, his former job.

Although he had heard from friends checking satellite images on Google Earth that it had been destroyed, he had insisted on coming to see for himself.

“When I saw it my heart clenched,” he said. “My sons lived and got married here, and their children lived here.” He said he did not have the money to rebuild it.

His phone rang, and he spoke to another Bartella resident hungry for news of his own house.

When he hung up, Shamoun lifted the phone and snapped a picture of the rubble.

“People will come back to their homes … . What will I do, put up a tent?” he said.

“Where is the justice in that?”

Leading Tattoo Artists Help Wounded Israelis With Scars

October 23rd, 2016

By: Tia Goldenberg; bigstory.ap.org

In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, American tattoo artist Luke Wessman inks Israeli Yogev Meushar, during an event at the Israel's museum in Jerusalem. Leading tattoo artists are helping these Israelis cover up the scars of tragedy and loss. The Israelis have been maimed by war and violence which left them with daily remainders of their ordeals _ either in the form of physical scars or deep emotional ones. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, American tattoo artist Luke Wessman inks Israeli Yogev Meushar, during an event at the Israel’s museum in Jerusalem. Leading tattoo artists are helping these Israelis cover up the scars of tragedy and loss. The Israelis have been maimed by war and violence which left them with daily remainders of their ordeals _ either in the form of physical scars or deep emotional ones. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Leading tattoo artists are helping wounded Israelis cover up the scars of tragedy and loss.

The Israelis have been maimed by war and violence which left them with daily remainders of their ordeals — either in the form of physical scars or deep emotional ones.

At an event organized by a group called Artists 4 Israel, 11 tattoo artists from around the world splashed bold graphics on the wounded Israelis this week, transforming their pain into a source of pride. Some were tattooed over their scars whereas others placed their body art in other places.

“They have the scar that was forced upon them, they were harmed and every day they wake up and look at that scar and see themselves in the mirror, it’s an exact reminder, it brings them back like this, to what happened to them,” said executive director Craig Dershowitz.

“What we’re doing is hoping to erase as much as possible of that painful memory. It’s also a sense of reclaiming their bodies, it’s a sense of how do they present themselves to the world, how are they seen, and perceived and now they are saying: ‘I’m going to be seen the way I choose to be seen’,” he said.

The tattoo artists drew inspiration from works at the Israel Museum, Israel’s national museum, which hosted the event.

Their muses: towering sarcophagi from the 13th and 14th centuries BC, and a statue of a Mexican Jaguar God from about the year 600 BC, among others.

“If you look through time, body decoration was practiced in this part of the world and was practiced in many parts of the world, and always it was about healing and protection,” said museum director James Snyder.

Yogev Meushar is among those getting a tattoo. On an operation in the West Bank city of Nablus in 2006, his patrol was ambushed by Palestinian militants and Meushar was shot through his pelvis, with the bullet exiting from his knee. He spent two years in hospital in recovery and has since been through numerous rounds of physiotherapy.

Meushar was getting tattooed with the image of a bullet morphing into flying doves, which he said symbolized a release. “It’s not a tattoo that is located on a very obvious place, for all to see, it’s a tattoo you can literally say is between me and myself,” he said.

He was being inked by Luke Wessman, a well-known tattoo artist who flew in from Los Angeles for the event. He was drawing inspiration from a 1982 work by the modern artist Jean-Michel Basquiat called “Agony of the Feet.” The painting felt apt because Meushar’s injury damaged his legs and feet, and he currently walks with a cane.

Wessman said that beyond giving the wounded some art of their own to be proud of, the event was also a chance to bring typically counter-cultural tattoo art in line with the more traditional art seen at the museum.

“The fact that we are able to give him a tattoo that kind of can help with closure can help with post traumatic trauma, it’s very important and it does help people,” said Wessman.

 

Israel to Host First Japanese Film Festival in October

October 18th, 2016
KÔJI FUKADA’S ‘Harmonium’.. (photo credit:FUCHI NI TATSU FILM PARTNERS)

KÔJI FUKADA’S ‘Harmonium’.. (photo credit:FUCHI NI TATSU FILM PARTNERS)

The first Japanese Film Festival, called the Aki-Nu (Autumn) Festival, will be held from October 18-30 at the cinematheques in Holon, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Herzliya and Jerusalem.

The festival was created and programmed by the Holon Cinematheque and will present the best of contemporary Japanese cinema.

The artistic director of the festival is Roni Mahadav-Levin, director of the Holon Cinematheque, and the festival is supported by the Japan Foundation and the Japanese Embassy. The festival will present nine films in many genres, including fiction, documentary, animation, suspense and horror. There will also be special arts programs highlighting Japanese culture, among them an exhibit at the Design Museum Holon.

Among the films in the festival will be After the Storm by Hirokazu Koreeda, who made last year’s Our Little Sister, a look at a washed-up writer who seeks redemption with his family; Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy, about a detective’s search for a missing family; and Kôji Fukada’sHarmonium, about two friends whose lives have changed.

The opening event will be held at the Holon Cinematheque on October 18 in the presence of the Japanese ambassador to Israel, Koji Tomita, and Holon Mayor Moti Sasson.

Israel Suspends Cooperation with UNESCO Over Jerusalem Draft

October 16th, 2016

By: Ian Deitch and Thomas Adamson; bigstory.ap.org

File - In this Dec. 13, 2013 file photo, the Western Wall, right, and the gilded Dome of the Rock, among the holiest sites for Jews and Muslims, are covered in snow. Israel has suspended cooperation with UNESCO on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, a day after the U.N. cultural agency adopted a draft resolution that Israel says denies the deep, historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem. UNESCO's draft resolution, sponsored by several Arab countries, uses only the Islamic name for a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims, which includes the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic, File)

File – In this Dec. 13, 2013 file photo, the Western Wall, right, and the gilded Dome of the Rock, among the holiest sites for Jews and Muslims, are covered in snow. Israel has suspended cooperation with UNESCO on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, a day after the U.N. cultural agency adopted a draft resolution that Israel says denies the deep, historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem. UNESCO’s draft resolution, sponsored by several Arab countries, uses only the Islamic name for a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims, which includes the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO on Friday, a day after the U.N. cultural agency adopted a draft resolution that Israel says denies the deep historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem.

UNESCO’s draft resolution, titled “Occupied Palestine” and sponsored by several Arab countries, uses only the Islamic name for a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims, which includes the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray. The validated resolution is expected early next week, but the wording is unlikely to change.

Israelis and many Jews around the world viewed it as the latest example of an ingrained anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

The draft resolution, seen by The Associated Press, diminished the links to Judaism of two important holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The text refers to the site known by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount only by its Muslim name. The draft resolution refers to the Muslim site of Al-Buraq Plaza without quotations, but puts the site’s Jewish name, the Western Wall Plaza, in inverted commas.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett informed UNESCO of Israel’s decision on Friday.

“Following the shameful decision by UNESCO members to deny history and ignore thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, I have notified the Israel National Commission for UNESCO to suspend all professional activities with the international organization,” Bennett said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he was “outraged” by the resolution. “Would UNESCO vote to deny the Christian connection to the Vatican? Or the Muslim connection to Mecca? The UNESCO vote claims that there is no connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall. In fact, it is the UNESCO vote that has no connection to reality.”

UNESCO chief Irina Bokova expressed dismay with the draft resolution, which came from member states, saying that “different peoples worship the same places, sometimes under different names. The recognition, use of and respect for these names is paramount.”

The spat is the latest in Israel’s rocky relations with UNESCO, which it accuses of making decisions out of political considerations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed the resolution “absurd” after it was announced and on Friday tweeted: “What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?”

Israel captured east Jerusalem, with sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians claim the territory as part of their future state, and its fate is one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict.

Jews refer to the hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City as the Temple Mount, site of the two Jewish biblical temples. Muslims refer to it as al-Haram al-Sharif, Arabic for the Noble Sanctuary, and it includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Bokova condemned the religious and cultural divisions being played out in the U.N. body that was created in part to further cross-cultural understanding.

“When these divisions carry over into UNESCO, an organization dedicated to dialogue and peace, they prevent us from carrying out our mission,” she said.

Bokova has no official control over resolutions, which are sponsored and voted on by member states.

Bennet, the Israeli minister, said Bokova’s comments were insufficient and urged the body to take action.

“The moral support provided by UNESCO to terror will end only when the organization cancels yesterday’s outrageous decision, which denies history to please Israel haters. Words are important, but they are not a replacement to the actions of the organization she heads.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s government in the West Bank welcomed the resolution, as did Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the Gaza Strip. A spokesman for Hamas, which is pledged to Israel’s destruction, called the resolution a “step in the right direction.”

Several countries hostile to Israel such as Iran and Lebanon voted in favor of the resolution — as did Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel. Qatar and Oman also voted in favor.

Amid stalled peace talks with the Palestinians and Iran’s growing regional influence, Netanyahu has been touting what he calls strong behind-the-scenes contacts with moderate Sunni countries. He hasn’t named them but they are presumed to be Saudi Arabia and smaller Gulf states.

The dispute over Jerusalem’s holiest site ignited a wave of violence this time last year. Since then, Palestinian attackers have killed 36 Israelis and two visiting Americans, mainly in stabbings. About 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, most of them identified as attackers by Israel. The Palestinians, as well as Israeli and international rights groups, say Israeli forces have in some cases used excessive force to subdue attackers.

Israel has blamed the violence on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders, compounded on social media sites that glorify violence. The Palestinians say it is rooted in some 50 years of military rule and fading hopes for independence.

UN: The Temple Mount is Only Sacred to Muslims, Not Jews

October 15th, 2016

By: Matt Vespa; townhall.com

temple-mount

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization adopted a rather ludicrous resolution pushed by Palestinians that Jewish people have zero ties to the Temple Mount. A bit odd since it’s the holiest site in Judaism. A bit odd since the Wailing Wall is located there. There are historic ties to the Temple Mount for people of the Jewish faith, but the United Nations, in their infinite wisdom—has decided to throw those facts under the bus. European nations abstained from the vote, six other nations, including the United States, voted against the resolution. It was backed mostly by Arab countries (via Haaretz):

UNESCO adopted an anti-Israel resolution Thursday that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall.

Twenty-four countries voted in favor of the decision while six voted against and 26 abstained while just two were missing from the vote.

The U.S., Britain, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution.

A senior source said that the efforts of Israeli diplomats significantly changed the votes of European states, none of which supported the motion. Israeli efforts, he said, succeeded in swaying France, Sweden, Slovenia, Argentina, Togo and India to abstain from the vote.

The resolution, which condemns Israel on several issues regarding Jerusalem and its holy sites, was advanced by the Palestinians alongside Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the vote saying, “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.”

Haaretz added that Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, noted that the vote showed that Palestinian support in Europe had collapsed. Still, it’s another gross example of anti-Israel sentiment at the UN.

 

Prince Charles Secretly Visited Grandmother’s Grave While in Jerusalem

October 14th, 2016

By: Times of Israel Staff; timesofisrael.com

British royal took advantage of his attendance at Peres funeral to stop by burial site of Princess Alice of Battenberg, on Mount of Olives.

Britain's Prince Charles (left) at Jerusalem's Church of Mary Magdalene on September 30, with Archimandrite Roman Krassovsky, head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem (Facebook photo)

Britain’s Prince Charles (left) at Jerusalem’s Church of Mary Magdalene on September 30, with Archimandrite Roman Krassovsky, head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem (Facebook photo)

Britain’s heir to the throne, Prince Charles of Wales, quietly visited his grandmother’s grave at a Jerusalem convent on Friday following his attendance at the funeral of former president Shimon Peres.

Charles stopped at the Mount of Olives’ Church of Mary Magdalene before heading back to the UK, where his paternal grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg, who saved a Jewish family during the Holocaust, was interred in the late 1980s.

It was a rare opportunity for Charles to visit the site of his grandmother’s burial.

A Telegraph report in late 2015 said British royals were unlikely to visit Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

“The Royal family can’t really go there,” a British government source told the newspaper at the time. “In Israel so much politics is caught up in the land itself that it’s best to avoid those complications altogether by not going there.”

Prince Charles and Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev at the state funeral of former president Shimon Peres on Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, on September 30. At right is French President Francois Hollande (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prince Charles and Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev at the state funeral of former president Shimon Peres on Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, on September 30. At right is French President Francois Hollande (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

But the Peres funeral in Jerusalem, attended by dozens of world leaders, may have provided the perfect justification, one that is unlikely to repeat itself anytime soon.

Alice of Battenberg was recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial as a “Righteous Among the Nations” and by the British government as a “Hero of the Holocaust.”

During the Nazi occupation of Greece, she hid a Jewish woman and two of her children from the Nazis. In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip visited Israel for a ceremony to mark his mother’s valor.

Born in 1885 as Princess Alice of Battenberg and congenitally deaf, she spent much of her life in Greece after marrying Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (he was simultaneously prince of two different European countries).

Alice moved to London in 1967 to live in Buckingham Palace with her son, Philip, and daughter-in-law, the present queen. When the princess died two years later, her body was interred in a crypt at Windsor Castle. But in 1988, she was transferred to the crypt at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives – honoring a wish she had expressed before her death.

Queen Elizabeth II’s mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Battenberg, with one of her daughters circa 1910. (Wikimedia Commons/JTA)

Queen Elizabeth II’s mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Battenberg, with one of her daughters circa 1910. (Wikimedia Commons/JTA)

In October 1994, on a trip that marked the first time that a member of the British royal family had visited the State of Israel, Prince Philip attended a ceremony honoring his mother at Yad Vashem. Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, met with members of the Cohen family whom his mother hid in her Athens palace for 13 months during the Nazi occupation of Greece.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, June 19, 2015. (AFP/Adrian Dennis)

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, June 19, 2015. (AFP/Adrian Dennis)

At the ceremony at Yad Vashem, he accepted the Righteous Among the Nations award that was bestowed posthumously upon his late mother. He also planted a maple tree in her memory along the Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations, which commemorates gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust. “God brings everything we do to judgment,” the prince wrote in the visitors’ book at Yad Vashem.

Prior to the ceremony, Philip, accompanied by his sister Princess Sophie, visited the crypt where his mother’s coffin lies.

In September of 1943, members of the Cohen family, from the Greek town of Trikala, had appealed to Princess Alice for refuge. An acquaintance of theirs, she took them in and hid them until the Nazis withdrew in October 1944.

The story was not known until the early 1990s, when Michel Cohen, 78, told officials at Yad Vashem of how he, his mother and sister were saved by the princess. The surviving members of the Cohen family flew to Israel from France to attend the ceremony in 1994.

 

Syria’s ‘Army of Islam’ Says It Wants No War With Israel

October 13th, 2016

By: Eli Lake, bloomberg.com

ARMY OF ONE, FOR ALLAH. PHOTOGRAPHER: ABD DOUMANY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

ARMY OF ONE, FOR ALLAH.
PHOTOGRAPHER: ABD DOUMANY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

 

There was a time when you could count on hard-core Sunni Islamists in the Middle East to be reliably opposed to the existence of the Jewish state. Organizations ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaeda disagreed on everything from jurisprudence to short-term strategy, but when it came to Israel there was consensus.

The slaughter in Syria is changing that. Take, for example, Jaish al-Islam, a Syrian coalition of rebels whose name translates conveniently to “Army of Islam.” Mohammed Alloush, the political leader of the group, Wednesday told me his fighters did not seek war with Israel.

“We have no intention to make war against anyone except for the Syrian regime,” he said. “If we compare all the killing in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Syrian regime has committed many more crimes than the whole conflict. Our aim now is to get rid of the Syrian regime,” he said.

Alloush went further. He said President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, the Iran-supported Lebanese militia backing the Syrian government, have exploited the issue of Palestinians to support their war. “The regime and Hezbollah use the Israel conflict to recruit supporters and build armies and all of these armies are used to kill us, to starve us,” he said.

This is significant for a few reasons. To start, Alloush is saying something out in the open that many Sunni Arab governments are saying in private. Israel has enhanced its diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states during Barack Obama’s presidency, as America’s traditional allies fear the U.S. is seeking a new partnership with their archrival, Iran.

Alloush’s statements also show that Israel has purchased some goodwill among the Syrian opposition. Israel operates a field hospital on its side of the Syrian border for many Syrian rebels, including at times members of terrorist groups like the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusrah. Israeli officials have told me that they do not expect much intelligence value from the hospital, and Alloush told me he thinks it’s an important humanitarian gesture.

All of that said, Alloush is not ready to start selling Israel bonds. Like Saudi Arabia, which has supported Jaish al-Islam, Alloush is not giving up on the Palestinians. He told me that he supports the U.N. resolutions that call for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Golan Heights. A spokesman for Jaish al-Islam stepped down under pressure last month after he spoke to an Israeli think tank.

Alloush is an important figure in the Syrian opposition. His group, which is comprised of several smaller Islamist, Salafi and nationalist rebel militias, is a key part of what remains of a respectable opposition. Al-Nusrah and the Islamic State fight Assad as well, but they also conduct terrorist attacks all over the world. Jaish al-Islam does not. What’s more, Alloush’s organization fights the Islamic State and has kept al-Nusrah out of its territory in and around Damascus.

To be sure, Alloush’s organization is not comprised of Jeffersonian democrats. “Jaish al-Islam is one of the more frustrating rebel groups to anatomize in Syria. In every sense but one they are unpalatable to the West,” Michael Weiss, co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” told me. “They have trafficked in murderous sectarian rhetoric and paraded allegedly pro-regime prisoners in cages, purportedly as ‘human shields’ to forestall airstrikes.” The group has also been accused, although they deny it, of kidnapping the human rights activist Razan Zeitouneh.

Charles Lister, a senior scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told me he estimates there are between 12,000 and 15,000 fighters in Jaish al-Islam. Alloush said he has 20,000 fighters. Lister said that since Alloush’s brother Zahran was killed, their official rhetoric against Syrian minorities has toned down considerably.

On the issue of Israel, Lister said Alloush was expressing a view he has heard from many Syrian rebels. “Armed groups have been able to take a longer-term perspective,” he said. “As far as they are concerned, Assad is the most evil, and anyone who is not supporting Assad is comparatively better. Even Israel, which was seen for so long as the archenemy of Syrians, is considered better than Assad, Russia, Iran or Hezbollah.”

This issue has caused a split among pro-Palestinian activists in the West. Some now support a no-fly zone in Syria, a proposal backed for years by interventionists on the left and right. This spring, the activist group Avaaz began a petition to urge Obama to establish such a safe zone. Meanwhile, a major Palestinian militia, the Quds Brigade, hasjoined the fight in Syria on Assad’s side.

The lack of solidarity from many Palestinians confounds Alloush. Using the language familiar to them, many of whom still keep the keys to homes they fled in the 1948 war of independence, he told me: “It’s crazy to think people in a country with 3 million homes destroyed by Bashar al-Assad would want a war with anyone except for Bashar al-Assad.”


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