Friday, June 01, 2007

Academics express outrage at Israeli boycott

Debbie Andalo
Thursday May 31, 2007

Academics and students today hit back at the decision by university lecturers to support calls for a boycott of Israeli institutions.

Yesterday the University and College Union decided by 158 votes to 99 to circulate a motion to all its branches to discuss calls from Palestinian trade unions for a "comprehensive and consistent international boycott of all Israeli academic institutions". The motion is going to branches for "their information and discussion".

But the decision taken at the inaugural UCU national conference in Bournemouth was condemned by the Russell group of research-led universities, the National Union of Students and organisations with an interest in Israel and academic free speech.

Well done.
SHABBETAI ZVI'S CHILDHOOD HOME in Turkey is in danger of demolition. The Forward has the story:
Shrine of False Messiah in Turkey May Be Razed

Jay Michaelson | Fri. May 18, 2007

Far away from the eyes of the Jewish mainstream, in modern-day Turkey there live hundreds, if not thousands, of crypto-Jews — and today, one of their most sacred shrines is in danger.

This is the hidden, fascinating tale of the doenmeh, descendants of the faithful followers of the 17th-century false messiah Sabbetai Tzvi, who converted to Islam in 1666. Tzvi’s own conversion came under duress: The Ottoman sultan demanded that he don the turban or die after nearly one-third of European Jewry had come to believe he was the messiah and had begun swarming into Turkey, expecting the long-awaited triumph of the Jews.

Tzvi chose to convert, and most of his followers lost hope — but not all of them. Many saw the conversion as a heroic act of tikkun, or repair, and followed their messiah’s lead by outwardly becoming Muslims while secretly maintaining their messianic Jewish faith. They were called doenmeh, meaning “turncoats”— a pejorative term not unlike marrano (“pig.”) Among themselves, they were called ma’aminim, “believers.” Sabbateanism did not die out in 1666, or even 10 years later when Tzvi himself died. There were subsequent messiahs — largely forgotten men like Baruchiah Russo and Jacob Frank — and, as recent scholarship has shown, Sabbateanism greatly influenced the 18th-century emergence of Hasidism. And then there are the doenmeh, who live on until the present day, in secretive communities, at first primarily in Salonika and today almost entirely in present-day Turkey.

A move to tear down the Turkish home where Tzvi is said to have lived, however, may now disturb the balance the community has cultivated for centuries.

It sounds as though there actually is reasonable evidence that this is Shabbetai's house:
But is the house at 920 Agora Girisi, half-ruined and barely distinguishable from others in the old Jewish neighborhood (now mostly destroyed), really the birthplace of Sabbatai Tzvi, the “mystical messiah”?

Yes, according to Dr. Cengiz Sisman, an expert on Sabbateanism who received his doctorate from Harvard University. Sizman cited a wealth of evidence, including 1925 and 1940 newspaper reports of the house (the architecture of which is clearly described) being used as a “visiting site by believers,” a 1935 book by noted historian Abraham Galante, and a 1961 account by writer John Freely of a group of believers lighting candles and performing a ritual on the third floor of the building.
I've posted earlier on Shabbetai and Sabbateanism here, here, and here.

This sounds like a site of considerable historical interest and I hope it is preserved.

(This story via the article "Why I Study Sabbateanism" by Jay Michaelson in Zeek.)
HEBREW BIBLE/EARLY JEWISH STUDIES JOB AT EXETER - Louise Lawrence e-mails the following:
Lecturer in Hebrew Bible and/or Early Jewish Studies

The Department of Theology in the University of Exeter invites applications from high quality scholars for a new full-time lectureship in Hebrew Bible and/or Early Jewish Studies. Applications from those specialising in the language, literature or culture of the Second Temple period are particularly welcome. The lecturer will be expected to play a full role in the life of the department, including contributing to teaching at BA and MA level, and research supervision. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed on 27 and 28 June 2007. Informal inquiries to Dr Mike Higton (Head of Department) on or +44 (0)1837 840236 or to Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Lecturer in Hebrew Bible) on or +44 (0)1392 264290.

Please note that the deadline for applications is 13 June.

Application packs are available from; e-mail; or Answer-phone (01392) 263100, quoting reference number M09-N117.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

WHILE WE'RE ON SCI-FI TELEVISION, Ed Cook gives us Lost in Hebrew. And tells us the Hebrew word for "dude." Really.
DOCTOR WHO as an instance of kenotic Christology: Mark Goodacre gives us the exegesis, along with a YouTube clip of the relevant episode.
ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL by the major British academic labor union is in the works, right on schedule.
British Academics’ Union Endorses Israel Boycott

Published: May 31, 2007 (NYT)

LONDON, May 30 — The main union representing 120,000 British college teachers voted Wednesday to endorse a Palestinian trades’ union call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The boycott resolution, approved at the inaugural congress of the University and College Union, called on British college lecturers to “consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions.”

In theory, a boycott could sever academic contacts and exchanges of personnel between British and Israeli academic institutions.

The union leaders insisted, though, that rules endorsed in a separate resolution earlier on Wednesday would forestall any immediate moves toward any action of that kind.

I don't think there's any way that there will be an actual academic boycott of Israel, but the union leaders will have their little annual anti-Israel political statement. In lieu of further comment (for the moment) I'll just quote some of what I said last year, which still applies.
I think the proper response ... [is] to heap international ridicule and scorn on the union for picking leaders who are more interested in making a cheap and cowardly political statement than in doing their actual job of representing the interests of British academics. In fact, those interests have been notably set back by this move. It's a pity, because there is a real need for such representation. But this isn't it.
For the earlier boycott attempts by earlier incarnations of the same union, see here and here.

UPDATE (1 June): More here.

UPDATE (6 June): Petition information here.

UPDATE (24 July): More here.

UPDATE (30 July): More here.
Jordan: Stop Temple Mount digging
AMMAN, Jordan

A Jordanian official called on Israel Wednesday to stop archaeological excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, the official Petra news agency reported.

Israel has been carrying out excavations on a ramp leading up to a disputed holy site. The digging has sparked clashes between police and Muslims in Jerusalem and touched off fierce criticism throughout the Muslim world.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

THE PALEOJUDAICA ARCHIVE IS BACK. (See the bottom of the links bar to the right.) I'm still trying to sort out the search engine just above it, which at present does not work. Patience.
Dichter rules area near Temple Mount off-limits to Muslim burial
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent

Police have prevented Muslim burial at the foot of the Temple Mount for several months, as Public Security Minister Avi Dichter responded to pleas to reserve the area as a significant archeological site.

The area is one of the most sensitive in Jerusalem's Old City, bordering on the eastern wall of the Temple Mount and running parallel to it.

Dichter became convinced recently that a burial area at the southeast foot of the mount, outside the walls, had stretched into an area defined as a national park and an area of great archaeological significance, an area which had not previously been used for burial.


The archaeologists persuaded the police that the area "annexed" for the burial ground was tremendously important archaeologically.

[Archaeologist Gabriel] Barkai says it is a rare contact point between Second Temple-era construction and earlier remnants from the First Temple age.

"Muslim burial on the site, which was never a cemetery in the past, could end any possibility of excavating the area in the future, as has been done at the foot of the southern wall and the bottom of part of the Western Wall," Barkai noted in the petition.

The court heard that the area had well-preserved 2000 year old construction from Herod's time and a clear seamline between the northern construction, Hasmonean, and the southern construction, Herod's. British archaeologist Charles Warren, who excavated there 140 years ago, found cornerstones for the five lowest layers of construction built into a layer of terra rosa, which includes remains from the First Temple. The first sealing rings stamped "for the King," found in Israel, dated to late 8th Century B.C.E., were found in the red soil.

INTERESTING SEALS AND FISH BONES from the early Iron Age II period have been excavated in the fill under a house that was build in a derelict rock-hewn pool near the Gihon Spring. Haaretz has the story:
How did fish reach Jerusalem?
By Ran Shapira

Jerusalem's ancient water system, which excavations over the past decade are gradually uncovering, included a large pool hewn into rock. The pool, next to the Gihon Spring in the City of David, ceased to be used and dried up in the late eighth century B.C.E., after King Hezekiah of Judah built a new water project in the city, the Siloam tunnel. But according to Prof. Roni Reich, of the University of Haifa's Archaeology Department, and Eli Shukrun of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who are overseeing the excavations at the site, the pool hewn into the rock did not remain desolate for long: Toward the end of the eighth century B.C.E., a Jerusalem resident decided to build himself a house inside it, thus sparing himself a lot of work, since the pool's four hewn walls served as a base for the external walls of his home.


The high concentration of seals, the graphic motifs on them, which are not typical of Jerusalem of the First Temple era, in addition to the impressive amount of fish bones, are likely to provide evidence of the Phoenician or Israelite presence in Jerusalem during the second half of the ninth century, B.C.E. Reich notes that the dynasty of the house of Omri, the ruler of the Kingdom of Israel in the early ninth century, had family ties to the Phoenicians. These ties reached the Kingdom of Judah when King Jehoram, the son of Jehosaphat, who controlled Judah during the second half of the ninth century, B.C.E., married Athaliah, the daughter of Omri or of his successor, Ahab, who was of Phoenician origin. Athaliah forcibly assumed power and ruled Judah for a number of years until being deposed (II Kings 11).

It is possible that the high concentration of fish bones and seals with graphic images typical of the Phoenicians - one seal depicted a Phoenician ship, another an image of a fish - indicates that before the house was built in the pool, an administrative center of the rulers who were close to the Phoenicians operated nearby. Reich and Shukrun note that apart from Athaliah, also her predecessor, Jehoram and her successor, Ahaziah, were likely to maintain close ties with the capital of the Kingdom of Israel and with Phoenician cities, such as Sidon.

The hypothesis regarding ties between Jerusalem and Phoenicia in the late eight and ninth centuries, B.C.E. is reinforced by other findings, including a pomegranate made of ivory that was found in the earth. The Phoenicians, who were talented sailors, builders and merchants served as cultural intermediaries in the Mediterranean basin, where they sailed. Among other things, they engraved ivory, a craft they learned in Egypt, where they found raw and etched ivory to bring back to Assyria. They also brought artistic motifs from one place to another, such as Egyptian symbols that appeared on the seals. As seafarers, it is likely that the Phoenicians did not want to give up the fish they were so fond of, even when they were far away from the coast, and took the trouble to bring the fish from the coastal cities to Jerusalem.
HEROD'S TOMB (if that's what it is) is used in an L.A. Times essay as a launching point for an essay on archaeology and modern Israeli-Palestinian politics. Palestinian Temple denial also comes up.
King Herod's return
How Israelis and Palestinians put their own spin on archeology to claim an ancestral homeland.

By Walter Reich, WALTER REICH is a professor of international affairs, ethics and human behavior at George Washington University, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former d
May 30, 2007

AFTER 2,000 YEARS of indignity and ignominy, Herod the Great has finally gotten his revenge.

During their revolt against Roman rule over Judea between AD 66 and 72, Jews who remembered King Herod as a Roman puppet smashed his sarcophagus, which had been interred with royal pomp about 70 years before. Christians have identified him as a baby killer who forced Jesus' family to flee Bethlehem. And Herod's habit of having his rivals and relatives killed has hardly burnished his image.

True, he built monumental projects — not only Masada and Caesarea but the grand expansion of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, the best-known remnant of which is the Western Wall. In the main, though, he's been a forgotten and derided historical figure.

But now Herod is back, at least in spirit. Israeli archeologists announced earlier this month that they've found his tomb, eight miles south of Jerusalem. And that tomb has become yet another impediment on the already impassable road to Israeli-Palestinian peace.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

THE AUTHOR OF RASHI'S DAUGHTERS is interviewed by the Cleveland Jewish News:
Rashi becomes real for novelist Anton

By SORIYA DANIELS, Freelance Writer

Rashi’s Daughters: Book One - Joheved.
By Maggie Anton. Banot Press. 368 pp. $15.95.

A mesmerizing tale, part fiction and part fact, by first-time author Maggie Anton takes readers of Rashi’s Daughters: Book One - Joheved back to medieval 11th-century France. The book explores the personal lives, hopes, trials and tribulations of the great Talmudic sage Rashi and his immediate family.

It is also a story of love, marriage, and family - and the timeless struggles life can bring, such as finding an appropriate spouse, dealing with infertility, caring for a parent with dementia, difficulties earning a living and dealing with challenges within marriage, particularly communication problems. As the title implies, Rashi’s Daughters: Book One — Joheved is the first novel in what Anton anticipates will be a trilogy to explore the personal and intellectual lives of Rashi’s three daughters. Book Two, focusing on daughter Miriam, hits bookstones on July 31.

More on the novel here.