Saturday, October 15, 2005

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS ON STAGE. With live music too.
A DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION is coming to Charlotte, North Carolina, in February:
Charlotte's Discovery Place Presents The Dead Sea Scrolls

POSTED: 3:34 pm EDT October 14, 2005 (, NC )
UPDATED: 6:57 pm EDT October 14, 2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Charlotte’s Discovery Place will feature two scrolls never seen outside of Israel.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the 20th century. They include the earliest written texts of the Bible and are nearly 2,300 years old.

Charlotte’s exhibit will include 10 original scrolls and three replicas. It will be at Discovery Place Feb. 17-May 29, 2006.

The scrolls coming to Charlotte that have never left Israel are transcripts of Numbers and Isaiah. ...
THE INK AND BLOOD EXHIBITION is moving to the Florida International Museum in January.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A NEW ADDITION to the Bible and Interpretation website:
The Mamzer Jesus and His Birth

So why did some people accuse Jesus of being born of fornication (porneia, John 8:41)? Was it for the same reason he was called “son of Mary” in his own town (Mark 6:3) rather than “son of Joseph”? What emerges from both Rabbinic literature (supplemented by Origen) and the New Testament is that Jesus’ mother was clearly known and that the identity of his father was contested.

By Bruce Chilton
Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion
Bard College
October 2005
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: As a number of people have noted, Ha'aretz has an article ("Gems in the dirt") on the Waqf's Temple Mount debris and the controversy between archaeologists Gabriel Barkay (who is leading the project to sift the material) and Meir Ben-Dov on whether the material is worth analyzing. Be-Dov thinks that the inscribed bulla fragment may not be from the Temple Mount debris. I can't let one of his comments pass:
Ben-Dov: "Let's say that there is a bulla and it has three letters on it. Yigal Shiloh [excavator of the City of David] had 70 intact bullas. This bulla says nothing. There is no discovery, so why blow things up like this?"

Well, it has more than three letters (see the article for details) but that's not the point. Genuine ancient Hebrew inscriptions -- even poorly preserved ones -- are very hard to come by and each one adds a bit to the corpus and is of cumulative importance. As I've noted before (see second link above), for an archaeologist Dr. Ben Dov (if he's been quoted correctly) expresses a suprisingly casual attitude toward the recovery of ancient artifacts.
MORE ON JOEL BEININ'S ONLINE COURSE. Daniel H Jacobs, the writer of the Stanford Review article, e-mails in response to my comments:
This is my first time following my article onto the blogosphere so bear with me. Your comment on my article in the Stanford Review was interesting. I believe the Nachmanides' synagogue was established by Nachmanides' pupils shortly after his death, but you described that as a "minor point." Joseph Caro did publish his work during the Ottoman period, but the example was meant to show that a productive Jewish community existed. The more major point is whether Beinin knows that a Jewish community existed continuously between 70-1516. Undoubtedly he does know. In my article I stated that Beinin's lectures IMPLIED there was no such community, meaning that his lectures were deliberately deceitful, intended to omit Jewish history, but cleverly to maintain deniability if actually called for his words. The class, as you know from the course description you downloaded, is intended for novice historians. I did download Beinin's lecture transcripts and have the videos at my house. Here is the pertinent transcript from week one:

"The total number of Jews was about 25,000, and they lived in the four Jewish holy cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias. Some of them had lived in Palestine since the 16th Century when Ottoman authorities invited Jews who had been expelled from Spain to settle in Palestine. These were religious Jews, not Zionists. They came to the Holy Land to study Jewish religious texts and to be buried there."

The purpose of Beinin's lectures is to imply, without actually saying so, that most Jews left with Titus and came back due to Arab hospitality. If you were one of the 50 odd students who had little background, that is what you would have believed. It is brilliant, comical and evil all at the same time.

In a second e-mail he adds:
Beinin made a deliberate point of equating Jewish and Palestinian national claims. Therefore he omitted/minimized Jewish life in Palestine from 70 CE until the beginning of Zionism in the 19th century, stated that Jewish and Palestinian nationalism began "about the same time," and postulated that Palestinians might have originated from the Canaanites, and restricted Jewish archaeological finds to the "Wailing Wall." The combination of thoughts seems like a deliberate omission from an historian, who is quite eloquent and knowledgeable in many respects, and presents ideas very similar to the "history" emanating from the Palestinian National Authority, while cleverly protecting his deniability. My conclusion is that the historical talk at the very least deserves filling in. Readers can decide for themselves if they believe his omissions were dishonest.

Again, I do not have access to the course materials, and would not want to judge it on the basis of the limited information I have. If anyone else who took it wants to comment, drop me a note.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Last March and April you reported on the condition of the Shalom al-Yisrael synagogue in Jericho (thru Arutz 7), the first a worrisome account indicating the place might have been destroyed, the second more hopeful, that a) it had not been totally destroyed and b) that Jews were allowed back for prayers.

My questions are: a) What is the current situation; b) What is the condition of the mosaic floor (is it even there?); c) Would you know of any photographs of the actual remains of the original Byzantine era building? If you do not have any of this info handy (I do realize you are very busy), would you know who best to approach with this?

I've heard no more about it, but with Carla's permission, I am posting her query. Please let me know if you have more recent information.

UPDATE (14 October): Readers Menachem Brody and David Maltsberger point to additional Arutz Sheva articles on the synagogue here and here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

THE HARBOR OF TYRE has recently been the subject of important probe excavations:
History lies in the silt of Tyre
By Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent (Times of London)


Tyre was an island fortress until Alexander the Great took it in 332 BC and built a causeway linking it to the mainland. The island itself is said to have been created by Hiram, King of Tyre, who sent cedars of Lebanon to King David for his palace and to Solomon for the first Temple in Jerusalem. Hiram linked the two Ambrosian Isles to create his city, with the principal harbour on the north.

The French team have sunk boreholes and extracted cores of sediment that reveal the history of Tyre. While some sediment came from the Litani river to the south, there were also cultural contributions. Mudbrick architecture yielded clay particles that sluiced down the streets, agriculture inland led to erosion and runoff, and people dumped rubbish in the harbour.


(Via Bible and Interpretation News.)
YOM KIPPUR, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown today. An easy fast to those observing it. The biblical rules for this holiday are found in Leviticus 23:26-32.
AL JAZEERAH blasts Israeli archaeology in an article by Kevin Chamberlain ("Stealing Palestinian History") which was originally published in A few comments:
When a site is uncovered the Israelis institute a ‘salvage excavation,’ i.e. the rapid removal and recording of artefacts before the site is covered up. In most cases this results in the destruction of the site, although occasionally the site is covered up but not destroyed for future investigation, e.g. in the case of an important mosaic floor. Nevertheless the effect of these ‘salvage excavations’ is that the all-important context of the site is destroyed and the knowledge that it yields is lost forever. Such excavations fall under the authority of the archaeological staff officer, who is an officer of the Civil Administration (i.e. the Israeli military).

Mr. Chamberlain's characteriztion of salvage archaeology is quite misleading and unfair. Salvage archaeology is often necessary, even if it is not the ideal situation, and it is a common practice outside of Israel as well. Indeed, it is the most common type of archaeology practiced in North America. See also here and here. And here's an example in Arkansas. And there's a really cool British television show called the Time Team, which deals with salvage archaeology in Britain, a different site each week. Here, for example, is a summary of their emergency excavation of the Wemyss caves (pronounced "Weems") in Fife, which are threatened by sea erosion. I live not far from this site and have visited it with my family.
In addition to the loss of Palestine’s movable heritage there has also been extensive damage to, and destruction of, immovable cultural heritage. The press release of the World Archaeological Congress issued on 7 January 2004 expressed concern at the destruction of archaeological and heritage sites in the OPTs by Israeli forces, mentioning Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron.

Regarding the statement of the World Archaeological Congress, there is a detailed reply by Dr. Uzi Dahari, Deputy Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, here.

The Art Newspaper article mentioned in the piece was actually published in 2002, not September of this year. You can read the Forbes reprint of it in this Google cache item. A great deal has been written about the Israeli invasion of the West Bank in the spring of 2002. I'll just refer you to the UN Secretary-General's report and you can draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

METATRON WATCH: It seems that the angel Metatron is a mover and shaker in the music industry:
Ex-Employee Sues Santana
• Bruce Kuhlman, a former personal assistant to the musician, alleges wrongful termination and age, gender and religious discrimination.

By Donna Horowitz, Special to The [Los Angeles] Times

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- A former employee of Carlos Santana is suing the Grammy-winning musician and his wife, alleging that the couple fired him because he wasn't spiritual enough.


The Santanas have long been spiritual seekers. Carlos Santana, in a 2000 interview with The Times, credited an angel named Metatron for helping inspire his career comeback. At that year's Grammy Awards, he won eight.


Monday, October 10, 2005

DUBYA THE DOUBLET? Anduril publishes a compelling historical reconstruction.
THE LEVITICUS SCROLL FRAGMENTS recovered by Hanan Eshel are covered briefly in an article in Israel Today. Nothing new, but there's a nice photo.
FRONT PAGE MAGAZINE blasts a book by Nadia Abu El-Haj on Israeli archaeology. I haven't read the book, so I won't comment further.

UPDATE: In June, Solomonia posted a review in Isis by Bar-Ilan University archaeologist Dr. Aren M. Maeir.
THE STANFORD REVIEW (an alternative student newspaper at Stanford University) has published an article ("Joel Beinin Doesn’t Deserve Tenure") criticizing the teaching about ancient Judaism by Joel Beinin, a tenured history professor and former president of MESA, in an online course. The author, Daniel H Jacobs, MD, writes:
Beinin teaches an online course sponsored by Stanford, Oxford and Yale entitled “Palestine, Zionism and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.” Beinin prepared a syllabus and a videotape that was mailed to students that introduced the material for each of the ten weekly classes. The rest of the class consisted of readings, a weekly online chat, and an open bulletin board, that was monitored by a young Ph. D.

The bulletin board allowed students the opportunity to correct countless mischaracterizations by the teacher. A few examples are mentioned below. In the video narrative by Beinin for the first week, Beinin stated that, following the destruction of the Jewish Second Temple by the Romans in the year 70, C.E., Jews had next come to Palestine in the sixteenth century, at the invitation of the Moslem Turks, “to study religious books and to be buried there.”
A poster noted that, in fact, the past two millennia in Palestine that Beinin had implied had little Jewish history were actually chock-full of events. These included Jewish revolts, for over five centuries; the writing and the publication of the Jerusalem Talmud and later, the Shulhan Aruch; and the establishment of a synagogue in Jerusalem by Nachmanides after 1270, a city in which Jews have lived since. Only during the First Crusades, when the Jewish community was burned alive, was there a brief period in which Jerusalem did not have a Jewish community.

Beinin lectured that the “only” remnant of the Herodian Jewish Temple was the “Wailing” Wall (an archaic term) and that the Haram, or the Moslem holy site, was located above. A post reminded the class that, actually, the whole Western and Southern Walls were remnants of the Herodian temple, and that the area above had been the Jewish Temple seven centuries before Mohammed was born. A link was presented to pictures of excavations with Hebrew inscriptions such as the Trumpeter’s stone covering an area about ten times larger than the one Beinin incorrectly described.

There's more, but this is the part that has to do with ancient Judaism. A couple of problems occur to me. The Shulhan Arukh was published by Joseph Caro in Safed in the mid-1500s, so it's not a useful counter example to what Professor Beinin is reported to have said. Also, Nachmanides died in 1270 (in Palestine), so he wasn't founding any synagogues after that. These are small points, but they do show a certain carelessness in the article.

That said, if the statements of Professor Beinin have been represented accurately, they are disturbing. It is certainly bizarre to say that there were no Jews in Palestine between 70 CE and the sixteenth century.

The course description has been taken down, but here is the Google cache archived page. I don't have access to the course materials or the online chat archive and I can't judge whether the presentation here is fair and accurate. If anyone out there took the course, let me know what you think.

UPDATE (14 October): More here.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

VOLUNTEERING ON ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIGS is the subject of an article in the New York Times. Israel is featured, along with numerous other countries. Good publicity.