Thursday, July 30, 2015

How Jonathan Pollard Freedom Crusade United American Jews

Nathan Guttman for The Jewish Daily Forward

The organized Jewish community celebrated as one the news July 28 that Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard will be released from prison in November, after completing 30 years of his life sentence.

“We have long sought this decision and we believe this action is long overdue, with Pollard serving a longer sentence than anyone charged with a comparable crime,” read a statement by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the communal policy umbrella organization.

The unified response to Pollard’s release might lead one to believe that the community had pushed together for three decades to win Pollard’s freedom. But in fact, the American Jewish community was pointedly slow to take on his case as its own — and only the past decade had it began to lobby for his release in earnest.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Ancient Jewish necropolis named World Heritage Site

UNESCO adds Beit She’arim’s Roman-era catacombs, where author of Mishnah is buried, to list of protected locales

By Stuart Winer for The Times of Israel

A top UN cultural organization on Sunday declared a 2nd century CE Jewish burial complex at Beit She’arim in northern Israel a World Heritage Site.

A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization committee met in Bonn, Germany, and voted on including the Beit She’arim tombs in its list of sites notable for cultural heritage. The proposal passed with 17 votes in favor and four against.

Lebanon, Qatar, Algeria, and Malaysia opposed the motion.

The World Heritage List enshrined Beit She’arim because its catacombs contain a “treasury of artworks and inscriptions in Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew” and bear “a unique testimony to ancient Judaism under the leadership of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, who is credited with Jewish renewal after 135 CE.”

Zvika Zuk, the chief archaeologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which manages the park where the necropolis is located, welcomed the decision.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jerusalem family finds 2,000-year-old ritual bath under living room

By Ilan Ben Zion for The Times of Israel

Home renovation usually entails picking paints, buying furniture, and dealing with contractors. For the Shimshoni family living in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood, it meant calling in archaeologists after stumbling upon a perfectly preserved 2,000-year-old ritual bath under their living room.

Last week the Israel Antiquities Authority finished excavating the subterranean bath, which archaeologist Amit Reem said Wednesday was “a significant find” and may have belonged to a private home in a first century Jewish village.

The ritual bath adheres to Jewish halachic requirements and measures 1.8 meters (5 feet, 11 inches) deep, 3.5 meters long and 2.4 meters wide.

More intriguingly, it lends some support to Christian tradition linking Ein Kerem, today a quaint neighborhood clinging to a hill on Jerusalem’s southwestern edge, with the birthplace of John the Baptist.

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