Saturday, May 28, 2005

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: It appears that a terrorist attack has been narrowly averted.
2 armed Palestinians arrested at J'lem checkpoint
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

Two Palestinians were arrested Friday at a checkpoint outside of Jerusalem after three firebombs were found in their possession, police said.

The two 20-year-old suspects told police interrogators they had heard on the news that a group of Jewish extremists were preparing to ascend the Temple Mount, and that they were planning to use explosives against them, Jerusalem Police spokesperson Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.

Well spotted.
LAWRENCE MYKYTIUK, who has appeared before in PaleoJudaica (here, here, and here), has now published his book on Israelite epigraphy. Purdue University has a press release about it.
Researcher develops methods to test artifacts' links to the Bible

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. � A Purdue University professor has invented a system to judge whether ancient inscriptions refer to people in the Bible.

Lawrence Mykytiuk (MICK-ee-took) uses the system to test whether archaeological inscriptions refer to ancient Hebrew kings such as David, Omri, Jeroboam II, Uzziah and other Old Testament personages such as Mesha and the high priest Hilkiah. The system and results are detailed in his new book, "Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E." (Society of Biblical Literature, $42.95).


I look forward to reading it.

Friday, May 27, 2005

SPEAKING OF HISTORICAL REVISIONISM, David Bernstein over at the Volokh Conspiracy draws attention to the Egyptian State Information Service's web page on "Jerusalem in history", which has many wild, tendentious, historical errors. I doubt that I've caught all of them, but here are some.
Historical facts prove that Jerusalem has witnessed Arab urban and human stability since the year 3000 BC. In 2500 BC, Arab Jebusites, descendants of the Jebusite Ben Canaan, made the City their capital and called it Orsalem, from which the Europeans derived Jerusalem, which means the City of Light.

The "Jebusites" are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as one of the pre-Israelite peoples in the land. The word may be an Amorite name. The Amorites, for whatever it's worth, spoke Northwest Semitic dialects related to Hebrew, not Southern Semitic Arabic. The Bible associates the Jebusites with Jerusalem and give pre-Israelite names of kings of Jerusalem as Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18) and Adoni-zedek (Joshua 10:1-4), again, West Semitic names, not Arabic ones. In any case, we are deep in the realm of legend here and we cannot say with any confidence what the ethnic background of the Jebusites was. There is no positive evidence of their being Arabs and such evidence as we have indicates that they were not.

The etymology of the name "Jerusalem" is not very clear, but it doesn't mean "City of Light." It looks like a West Semitic name (again, related to Hebrew but not Arabic), perhaps meaning "foundation of (the god) Shalim" or some such.
The Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar expelled the Jews from the two kingdoms. In 580 BC, he destroyed the City, burned the Temple and expatriated the Jews to Babylon in Iraq.

Since then, namely 600 years BC, the political history of the Jews had ended in Palestine.

Actually Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Jerusalem was in 586/87 BCE, but let's not quibble. The last sentence is misleading. It is true that from this point on Judea was almost always under foreign rule, but there remained a large Jewish population in Palestine with a considerable political presence. Note that this section entirely ignores the second temple, which stood in Jerusalem between about 520 BCE and 70 CE.
In 232 BC., Alexander the Great invaded Palestine and annexed it to the Greek Empire. Afterwards, Mark Antonio reinvaded it in 189 BC. Then came the Nabataean Arabs to invade it in 90 BC as was annexed to their capital till the Roman invasion in the 1st. Century AD.

Alexander the Great's dates are 356-323 BCE. Mark Antony's are c. 83-30 BCE. The Nabatean King Obodas I defeated Alexander Jannaeus in 90 BCE and took territory from him (Moab and Gilead) but he did not annex Palestine.
Under the Roman reign, the Jews informed the Roman ruler about Jesus Christ in 27 AD and accused him of atheism. Consequently, the Roman ruler crushed them all and destroyed the City and established a new one where the Jews were inhibited to enter.

The causes of the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-70 CE are complex, but the issues did not have to do with Jesus.
1- Excavations under the western wall (the base of the so-called Wailing Wall) proved nothing related to the Israelis. All What they found were only two sentences on some rocks about Isaiah engraved in type of writing that makes attributing them to Kings David or Solomon impossible.

This is so garbled that I'm not at all sure what it is supposed to mean. I am not aware of any inscriptions found under the Western Wall or which mention Isaiah. A Hebrew inscription from Silwan village from roughly the time of Isaiah comes from a tomb that may be mentioned in Isaiah 22:15-16. That and the Siloam tunnel inscription (cf. here) do demonstrate that the people living in Jerusalem and its vicinity c. 700 BCE spoke Hebrew and engaged in substantial public works in the city.
2- Excavations proved that the Jewish temple had been totally ruined thousands of years ago. This was clearly cited in the relevant Jewish references. Dr. Cathleen Cabinpus, Director of Excavations in the Jerusalem-based School for Monuments, affirmed that there was no trace of the Temple of Solomon.

Yes, the Jewish (second) temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, pretty close to 2000 years ago. I am not sure what that is supposed to prove. It was there for centuries. And yes, no archaeological remains of the first temple have been found, but given Herod's extensive rebuilding and expansion of the Temple Platform, the remains of the first temple may have been virtually entirely removed in his time. In any case, given the lack of access to the site by archaeologists and the deliberate destruction wreaked upon it by the Palestinian Authority, there hasn't been much opportunity to check. The recent salvage operation (follow the last link) has found material culture (including Hebrew inscriptions) from both the first and second temple periods.
4- There is no historical evidence that Al Bouraq Wall, the so-called Wailing Wall, was part of the Temple of Solomon. Besides, the real name of this wall is Al Bouraq Wall as mentioned by Prophet Mohammed, PBUH in his Hadith (speech) about his journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and his Ascension to seventh heavens.

Whatever one calls it, the "Wailing Wall" is part of the Temple Platform built by Herod the Great, not Solomon (no one claims it is Solomonic), and clearly dates to the Herodian period (around the turn of the era -- 2000 years ago). Herod's work, particularly on the temple, is mentioned frequently in contemporary literature. There was no such massive construction project on the Temple Mount in the Islamic period.

Now let us be clear: this is a website published by the Egyptian Government. It is riddled with both tendentious and simply careless errors about the history of Jerusalem. If this is what they come up with on matters about which I know something, I'm not inclined to assume that anything else they say is reliable.

UPDATE (28 May): Reader Gary Greenberg e-mails:
In your comment on the Egyptian Government's lies about Jerusalem, you might have noted in response that the Maccabees ruled an independent Jewish empire about as large as David's for about a century prior to the Roman conquest.

Yes, that's another one. You can read more about the Hasmonean dynasty (142-63 BCE) here and here. Also, an independent Jewish goverment was declared during the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 CE), but although the revolutionaries controlled much of the countryside, they appear not to have gained control of Jerusalem, and the Romans put the revolt down after a few years.

UPDATE (2 June): An article in the Forward gives some Egyptian political context for this sort of thing: "Report Slams Egypt Over Antisemitism."

UPDATE (1 July): Greetings, History Carnival XI readers. You may also be interested in reading my recent article, "Assimilated to the Blogosphere: Blogging Ancient Judaism."
DELENDA EST CARTHAGO -- NOT? Tunisians are now claiming that the ancient Carthaginians did not engage in child sacrifice.
Carthage tries to live down image as site of infanticide

Thursday, May 26, 2005
By Andrew Higgins, The Wall Street Journal [reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

CARTHAGE, Tunisia -- Mhamed Hassine Fantar has a bone to pick with the Roman Empire, French writer Gustave Flaubert and a group of Americans who specialize in digging up old graves.

An expert on ancient Carthage -- a city obliterated by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago -- Mr. Fantar is campaigning to clear his forefathers of a nasty stigma: a reputation for infanticide.

"We didn't do it," says the 69-year-old archaeologist, rejecting accusations that the ancient citizens of this North African land sacrificed babies to appease their gods.

At a time of roiling debate across the Arab world about the future, rewriting the distant past can also be an urgent matter. Modern Carthage, dotted with ancient ruins and the luxury villas of the nation's current elite, looms large in Tunisia today. The country's president, an admirer of Mr. Fantar's work, lives here in a waterfront palace. Tunisia's national identity, forged by a secular regime fearful of political Islam, rests on the celebration of Carthage's pre-Islamic glories.


A major excavator of Carthage disagrees:
Lawrence Stager, a Harvard University archaeology professor and expert on the subject, calls the revisionism a whitewash. He's now editing a book that will include the results of long forensic analysis of charred bones he helped dig up in Carthage in the 1970s. This, says Mr. Stager, will prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Fantar and his followers are wrong. Still, he isn't expecting to win them over. "No one really relishes having ancestors who committed such heinous acts," he says.

Human sacrifice was common in many ancient cultures. But Carthage was particularly notorious, branded as a serial killer of children for at least 600 years in a site now known as the Tophet, a Hebrew word meaning "roaster" or "place of burning." Most Western scholars believe the practice was organized around the worship of two deities. Mr. Stager says it may also have been a primitive mechanism of population control. Others suggest a more sporadic activity connected to spring fertility rights.

I'm pretty suspicious of this sort of revisionism that comes an obvious political agenda. But it's not my area of expertise. For the debate between Professor Stager and Mr. Fantar see here. (Full disclosure: Larry Stager is one of my teachers.)

UPDATE (29 May): More here.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

AUT ISRAEL-BOYCOTT UPDATE: The boycotts have been voted down. The Guardian and the BBC have the story. I'm pleased. Too busy to comment further now, but I'll try to say more later on.

LATER: It's good that the boycott has been defeated, but this whole controversy is a symptom of a larger problem. The people who have been most active in the AUT have come disproportionately from the hard left and up to now they have been able to use the union as a mouthpiece for their own political agenda. This is no secret, and is one of the big reasons I never joined. AUT members now have a choice: they can get more involved and start making the union speak with a voice representative of the membership -- a voice that focuses on issues actually important for British academics -- or they can leave things as they have been. In the latter case, the Sue Blackwells will be back and will provide more international embarrassments and any good the union might do will be undermined before it starts. The reputation of the AUT is already in tatters from this episode, but if it turns out to be a wake-up call to the membership, it may be a mercy that it happened. Maybe then the AUT will get out of politics and concentrate on working for improvements (higher salaries, less bureaucracy, etc.) in the lot of university lecturers. If that were to happen, I might consider joining myself.

Meanwhile, I will be keeping an eye on the AUT and will let you know if I notice anything interesting.
LAG B'OMER begins this evening at sundown. And in Israel festivities are planned in Meron to commemorate the birth and death date of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the traditional (but not actual) author of the Zohar.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Forward has an article on the salvage operation on the Temple Mount materials that were illictly dug by the WAQF. The project is still in very urgent need of funding.
Troubles Mount for Effort To Rescue Temple Artifacts
By Eric J. Greenberg
May 27, 2005

Israeli archaeologists are threatening to pull the plug on a historic effort to rescue invaluable artifacts from Judaism's ancient First and Second Temples because the project has run out of money.

Organizers and supporters of the rescue project are blaming the Israeli government for failing to fund the initiative, which marks the first time in history that archaeologists have been able to analyze materials dug up from the only excavation of the Temple Mount � Judaism's holiest site and the third holiest site in Islam. During construction of a new mosque at the holy site six years ago, the Islamic Trust in charge of the Temple Mount dumped the artifacts � mixed in with 10,000 tons of rubble � at a Jerusalem garbage facility.

Archaeologists told the Forward that if they cannot quickly raise $60,000, the effort will be shelved � with 80% of the work still to be done � and potentially invaluable relics will be reburied ...
AUT ISRAEL-BOYCOTT UPDATE: The vote to reconsider the boycotts of Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities is today, by 4:00 pm. It seems very likely that the boycotts will be rescinded. More when the result comes in.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

MARK GOODACRE IS MOVING TO DUKE UNIVERSITY! Britain's loss is America's gain. Congratulations Mark! We'll miss you, but I trust that you'll remain in the Blogosphere same as ever.

UPDATE (26 May): Congratulations also to Torrey Seland, who is making an institutional move within Norway. I hope the Philo of Alexandria blog will continue.
IRAQI JEWISH ARCHIVE UPDATE: National Public Radio has posted an audio file from All Things Considered, dated 9 May.
Funds Lacking to Restore Iraqi Jewish Archives

All Things Considered, May 9, 2005 � In 2003, U.S. forces discovered a cache of documents and sacred texts that had belonged to Iraq's once-thriving Jewish community in a flooded basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police. The records were transported to the U.S., where efforts to restore them are stalled by a shortage of funds.

I don't have time to listen to it right now, but there you have it. I may have comments later.

(Via the IraqCrisis list.)

Speaking of not having time, I'm swamped with exams and other work now and for some time to come. If you've e-mailed me recently, thanks, and I have read your message. Replying to any e-mails that aren't work related is a low priority at present, but if your message requires a reply, I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
SOME IMPORTANT TECHNICAL TERMINOLOGY, courtesy of Michael Turton. It's good to know these things.
CNN, White House Falling for Palestinian Mythology?
15:58 May 24, '05 / 15 Iyar 5765
(Arutz Sheva)

A White House photo and a CNN article include "misleading" information about Jewish historic connections to Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount - playing into the hands of PA incitement.

It is interesting to note that the White House website has already corrected the errors in the photo caption. Would that the media would respond so quickly and responsibly with corrections.

As for CNN, I can't see that their wording is objectionable. They seemed to be trying to describe both Muslim and Jewish views of the Temple Mount with a reasonable amount of sympathy. Perhaps the objection is to their saying that the Temple Mount is "believed" to contain the ruins of the temple. True, this may be a politically correct attempt to distance themselves from the claim that a temple was there at all, but it could also refer to the fact that the actual remains of the temple architecture are still buried. I'm not inclined to make a big deal of this wording.

The Arutz Sheva article also has a good example of wild Palestinian historical revisionism.
ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Philip Harland, assistant professor at Concordia University, has started a blog on Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean. In his first entry he writes:
This blog on the religions of the Roman empire and the social history of Christianity serves two main purposes. On the one hand, it will provide an opportunity for me to share interesting (to me and hopefully to you) things I encounter in my research (I am an assistant professor in the Religion department at Concordia University in Montreal). My own interests focus on archeological and epigraphic (inscriptions) evidence for small groups or associations in the Roman empire and on comparing groups of various kinds (Jewish, Christian, and "pagan") from a social historical perspective. More recently I have also focused attention on the intersection of travel and religion in antiquity (e.g. pilgrimage, ethnography, immigrant groups). On the other hand, this blog will offer a venue for interactions with students on topics addressed in my courses, which include courses not only on ancient religions but also on the history of Christianity generally.

Welcome Philip!

Another promising unit has been absorbed into the biblioblogosphere.

UPDATE: Yet another unit assimilated.
FINKELSTEIN ON FIRST-TEMPLE JERUSALEM: The Jerusalem Post has a column by Calev ben-David on comments by Ronny Reich and Israel Finkelstein on the archaeology of the first-temple period. Excerpt:
This week I joined a group on a tour of the site given by Ronny Reich, the archeologist who has directed its excavation for over a decade, and Israel Finkelstein, chairman of the archeology department of Tel Aviv University, recent winner of the prestigious Dan David prize.

At one point in the tour, the group came upon a contemporary illustration of Jerusalem as the artist imagined it might have appeared in the time of David and Solomon; an impressive-looking walled city on a mount, complete with grand royal palace and topped by a towering First Temple.

"Is that how Jerusalem looked at that time?" I asked Reich.

"Well," he replied with a diplomatic smile, "let's just say I wasn't consulted when they made that picture."

Finkelstein, as is his style, was more blunt. "That drawing," he said, "is a hallucination."

Behind that remark lies what is probably the biggest controversy (and certainly the most publicized) in contemporary biblical archeology, and one in which Finkelstein is the central figure.

His citation for the Dan David Prize [my link - JRD] notes his "innovative research... revealing a revolutionary interpretation of the history and archeology of Israel in the Bronze and Iron ages."

That "revolutionary interpretation" is in essence his assertion that certain impressive ancient structures (such as the "Solomonic gates") found at sites throughout the Land of Israel (Meggido, Hatzor, Gezer) which previous archeologists had dated to the time of David and Solomon � roughly the 10th century CE � were actually built a century or so later. Since those structures were used as evidence that the Bible accurately described the grandeur of the united Israelite kingdom of David and Solomon, Finkelstein asserts that his "low chronology" calls that assumption into question.

As we walk about the City of David, the archeologist points out in the ruins further indications to back up his belief that the Jerusalem of David and Solomon was more a small, hillside village of 200-300 inhabitants, rather than the magnificent capital of the great Israelite kingdom described in the Old Testament, or even the regional urban center other archeologists believe it to have been.

Interesting. I haven't read Finkelstein's book yet, although I hope to get to it this summer. I may have more to say after that.

By the way, that annoying ad continues to make the Jerusalem Post virtually unusable for my Firefox browser. Safari lets through the obnoxious music but at least doesn't crash, which makes me considerably less enthusiastic about Firefox. A browser ought to be able to deal with such things.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

AUT ISRAEL-BOYCOTT UPDATE: I don't doubt that the AUT will rescind the boycotts of Israeli institutions in its meeting on Thursday. Eve Garrard on Normblog explains why that is only part of the battle.

UPDATE: I'm losing track of all the people who have condemned the boycott, but we can now add twenty-one Nobel laureates to the list, including writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

Oh, and the Electronic Intifada relays an Al-Jazeera article on academic freedom in action in the Palestinian university teachers' union:
Palestinian teachers union dismiss Sari Nusseibeh
Khalid Amayreh, Al-Jazeera, 24 May 2005

A Palestinian teachers union has called for the dismissal of Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh for "normalising ties with Israel" and "serving Israeli propaganda interests".

A statement by the Palestinian Union of University Teachers and Employees (PUUTE), published on the front page of the Ramallah-based daily Al-Ayyam, on Monday accused Nusseibeh of "normalising relations with the Sharon government" despite the Israeli prime minister's policy of "bullying the Palestinians and stealing their land".

"This constitutes a strong blow to the Palestinian national consensus against normalisation with Israel," said the statement.


Last week, Nusseibeh, who signed a cooperation agreement with Hebrew University, reportedly criticised the British boycott, describing it as "wrong and unjustified". He was quoted as saying that "problems should be resolved through dialogue not through sanctions".

MORE ON SAN DIEGO'S UPCOMING DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBIT: The San Diego State University website has an article on the curator, Professor Risa Levitt Kohn:
Kohn will be part of the Natural History Museum team of curators for the Dead Sea Scrolls display. As director of educational programming, she will help create a story line for the throngs that will pass through the 8,000-square-foot exhibition hall. She will also engage local biblical scholars at UC San Diego and the University of San Diego in the preparation of the narrative and supporting materials for the exhibit.

The first to earn a doctorate in ancient history and Hebrew bible from UC San Diego, Kohn has been to Israel many times, and viewed some of the scrolls at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, part of the Israel Museum. She has been teaching at SDSU since 1997.

I've never met Professor Kohn, but I spent a few semesters at SDSU as an undergraduate in the Classics Department. I do hope I get to see the exhibition.
"ANCIENT BOOK?" Why do journalists -- even at the Jerusalem Post -- think that something from the 17th century qualifies as "ancient"?

While I'm griping, is anyone else having trouble with the new banner ads for a company named Jamster which advertises "ring tones?" These seemingly ubiquitous ads either play obnoxiously loud music or, worse and true to the name, freeze my Firefox browser entirely so that I have to force quit it. This has happened twice this morning from the article linked to above, so clicker beware. Is this just me or is it a widespread problem?

By the way, I'm glad the Roman Jewish community got their book back, even if it isn't ancient.

Monday, May 23, 2005

TECHNOLOGY-AND-ANTIQUITY WATCH: While we're on the subject of cool ancient manuscripts and creative technologies for reading them, there's this Yahoo News article about an important Archimedes manuscript:
Using state-of-the-art circular particle accelerators called synchrotrons, the scientists shone ultra-fine light beams onto three pages of the aged texts. Tuned to a specific energy, the light caused traces of iron in the ink to fluoresce, revealing for the first time the wispy outlines of Archimedes' 2,000-year-old ideas etched onto a goatskin document known as the ``Palimpsest.''

Though much of its text has been deciphered over the years by visible or ultraviolet light, about a quarter of the 174-page document remains unread, said SLAC scientist Uwe Bergmann. Efforts have been hampered by a form of medieval recycling in which parchment pages were erased and written over, allowing the rare material to be reused -- in this case replacing mathematical theorems with prayers.

Odd circumstances brought this ancient book into the realm of modern science and engineering.

While attending a 2003 conference in Germany, Bergmann came across a magazine article that mentioned the Palimpsest and other religious texts whose ink contained iron. ``I immediately thought it would be possible to use our X-rays to image the document,'' said Bergmann, whose own research uses synchrotron X-rays to detect extremely small amounts of iron within proteins.

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes.

(Via Cronaca [which has background links] and Archaeologica News.)
"TISCHENDORF WAS A STUD." "Sinaiticus is way old. Fourth century old." Rick Brannan notes some crucial facts for the New Testament textual critic to bear in mind. And I'm glad someone finds my SBL abstract inspiring.
OXYRHYNCHUS PAPYRI WATCH: I know that pointing out media errors regarding the Oxyrhynchus papyri story is starting to seem like shooting fish in a barrel, but I just can't let this one pass. Newsday has a piece that came from the Chicago Tribune (here's the link) and which covers the usual information, but includes this:
In the past few weeks alone, researchers have succeeded in deciphering a 70-line fragment from a lost tragedy by Sophocles and a 30-line fragment from Archilochos, a Greek soldier-poet who chronicled the Trojan Wars.

The Archilochos fragment confirms what scholars have long suspected: that the Greeks got lost on their way to invade Troy and mistakenly landed at place called Mysia. There they fought a battle, lost and had to regroup before heading off again for Troy.

The Archilochos fragment will be published later this month. The newly discovered lines from Sophocles are scheduled for publication in August.

Archilochus was a 7th century B.C.E. Greek elegiac poet. The fragment in question deals with legends about the Trojan War (which happened many centuries earlier, if the Greek legends have any historical basis), but the author of this article seems to think that Archilochus was a contemporary who left a firsthand chronicle behind which tells us about actual events leading up to the war. Sigh.

Incidentally, the Oxford project now has some pages up about the multispectral imaging techniques they've been using. Also, back in April Dirk Obbink published an e-mail message that cleared up at least some of the confusion about recent media coverage of the Oxyrhynchus material. I don't think I ever got around to linking to it, so here it is, posted on Rogue Classicism.
Thieves caught selling ancient human bones
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

First the antiquities thieves sold stolen ancient burial boxes.

Now, they are trying to sell the human bones inside them as well.

Israel's Antiquities Authority announced Sunday that they had thwarted an attempt by two Jerusalem Arab men to sell four Second-Temple ossuaries - and the human bones inside them - to Israel's disaster victims' identification organization for reburial.

The 2,000 year old burial boxes, with Aramaic lettering on them, were dug up from an ancient Jewish cemetery located on the edge of east Jerusalem village of Issawiya, the head of the Antiquities Authority's anti-theft division Amir Ganor said.

The two Jerusalem Arab men, who are brothers, then allegedly contacted Zaka, the disaster victims' identification organization, offering to sell the ossuaries - and the bones in them - for $4000, he said.


More precious ancient artifacts ripped from their context so that much important information about them is now lost.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Laura Bush encountered protesters during her visits to the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock. She seemed unfazed.
Protesters Heckle Laura Bush in Jerusalem

Monday May 23, 2005 7:46 AM

AP Photo ISRV104


Associated Press Writer

ABU GHOSH, Israel (AP) - Laura Bush said Monday she was not surprised to be met by protesters during her tour of Mideast holy sites and pledged the United States will do all it can to help resolve age-old conflicts.

``As we all know, this is a place of very high tensions and high emotions,'' the first lady said while standing in the garden courtyard of the Church of the Resurrection. ``And you can understand why when you see the people with a deep and sincere faith in their religion all living side by side.''

Mrs. Bush said the protesters who heckled her during Sunday's visits to the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall did not surprise her and she denied that they ovovershadoweder goodwill visit.

``I think the protests were very expected. If you didn't expect them, you didn't know what it would be like when you got here,'' she said. ``Everyone knows how the tensions are and, believe me, I was very, very welcomed by most people.''


Sunday, May 22, 2005

ANCIENT JEWISH BONES FOR SALE according to Arutz Sheva:
Issawiya Residents in Custody for Selling Ancient Bones
09:43 May 22, '05 / 13 Iyar 5765

( A special border police unit arrested two Jerusalem Arab residents from the Issawiya area, suspected of robbing ancient burial graves and attempting to sell the bones.

AUT ISRAEL-BOYCOTT UPDATE: John Lyons has alerted me to the following link, which gives the text of around 31 motions to be debated in the meeting on the 26th. Most of the motions are against the boycott.

I think my favorite is #7:
Reading Whereas resolutions on boycotting specific Israeli universities were passed by council in circumstances which precluded due investigation, consideration and debate; whereas they offend against the fundamental principles of academic freedom to which the membership subscribes; and whereas their effect has been to damage AUT, bringing it into disrepute both nationally and internationally, those resolutions are now overturned by council with immediate effect.

Brief and to the point.

Then there's #18:
York Council instructs the executive committee to prepare proposals that prevent or hinder AUT from making mistakes similar to that of adopting motion 58 of council in April 2005. An appropriate change might, for example, prohibit AUT activities in a spectrum of political issues or require a very large voting majority before engaging in certain kinds of activities.

Not a bad idea.

Number 19 (Oxford) is also good.

Anyhow, the overall picture is encouraging and indicates that most of the membership understand what a miscalculation this boycott was and how badly it has damaged the reputation of the AUT.