Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Writing on the Wall

While I was writing this article, Arabs desecrated the ancient synagogue of Naaran, near Jericho.  I thought maybe I should write instead about Jericho and it's Jewish history.  Then a week later Jews desecrated the ancient synagogue in Hamat Tiberias.  Which made me think that maybe I should write about the many synagogues  in Israel that were built in the Byzantine era.
    
However, I soon realized that I can't write a post about such weighty subjects in a week.  The posts will have to wait, but I don't want to ignore these events either.  These mosaic floors are part of our heritage.  They were built by Jews who lived here in the days when most people think we weren't here.

For example, in a recent Yesha Council Parsha page (PDF here), the children's story ended with the following sentence:  "Jerusalem became a Roman city … And yet Jews continued to reside in the Land of Israel for centuries more, until they left to Exile".

Everybody 'knows' the Jews went into Exile because that's what we hear over and over again.  The Jews left the Land and only came back when Herzl led them back.  The romanticism of Zionism trumps reality.  The author of the story had no idea when this mythical Exile started, but he knew it had to have been somewhere in the past 2000 years.

But Exile doesn't mean "Diaspora".   The Jews who lived here didn't "leave for Exile".  They "lived in Exile", because they were living under occupation, because they were not allowed to pray at our most holiest of sites, and to rebuild the Temple.   That is why we find Piyyuttim where Israeli poets mourn the Exile they were in.  The Exile was steady oppression and neglect by foreign rulers who couldn't care less about this country, and Jews living here and yearning and working for national redemption. 

Historical Precedent


There is an old Jewish custom to leave one's name on holy sites.  This is probably the root of the modern custom of leaving a note by the Western Wall.

Binyamin of Tudela, who visited Israel in the 12th century, prayed by the Golden Gate (at the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount) and mentioned that Jews would write their names on the wall.  He also visited Rachel's Tomb, next to Bethlehem, and describes how Jews would write their name on the tombstone.

In 1654 a Karaite Jew named Moshe ben Eliyahu Halevi, visited the Tomb of Joshua in Timnat Heres (Kifl Hares) and wrote "And there on the walls of the cave are written the names of those who came there, and we also wrote our names".

In 1785 another Karaite Jew, Binyamin ben Eliyahu, wrote of his visit to sites around Jerusalem: "Every prophet we visited, we'd pray and read from the prophecies of that prophet and we'd write our names on the stones."

In 1838 Dr. Eliezer Levi (Louis Loewe) describes Rachel's Tomb as a building painted white, with tens of thousands of names written on it in Hebrew script.  In Hebron he visited the Tomb of Avner, which was also covered with the names of many visitors.

A year later, Judith Montefiore writes of her visit to the Tomb of the 70 Elders in Awarta that many Jewish names were written and inscribed on the walls of the cave.   When she reached Rachel's Tomb, she writes "and we wrote our names among the tens of thousands of other names".

So why don't we see those names today?

Because our history was literally white-washed away.

Prof. Shmuel Klein writes "We still remember the inscriptions on the stones of the Western Wall until recent times, until the 'tyrants' (ie, British) came and erased them in the summer of 1930, in preparation for the arrival in Jerusalem of the international commission on the issue of the Western Wall".    And so with a few swipes of a brush, history was re-written  for the benefit of a UN commission which was to decide the fate of a Jewish holy site.

Temple Mount Inscriptions


In this article, I'll focus on the inscriptions left by Jews on the Temple Mount.  Such inscriptions, all written in Hebrew, were found all around the Temple Mount (all four walls as well as inside the structure).  Three of these inscriptions are easily accessible, the others not so much. 

Many more inscriptions have been found, all are evidence of the eternal bond between the Jewish people and our most holiest of sites, the Temple Mount.

Accessible Inscriptions


All these inscriptions are in the archeological garden in the Southern Wall area.  In a normal country, these inscriptions would be protected from both humans and the elements.  Since they're not: please DO NOT TOUCH, and so ensure they are to be preserved for the next generations.

1.  "And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and their bones as grass"


Location: Western Wall, under Robinson's Arch.    This site explains exactly how to find it.  The site is in Hebrew, but has very helpful pictures. 

(it's unclear whether there's an 'aleph' at the end or if it's a scratch)

 The most famous inscription is also the most unusual.  It is a partial (mis)quote of Isaiah 66:14 : "And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like young grass". 

The misquote might be intentional or not.  "Their bones" makes more sense in the context of the verse (the living and dead shall each rejoice in their own way).  It might also be a reference to a nearby cemetery.

In any case, from early times Rabbis said this verse speaks of Redemption and the rebuilding of the Temple.
     
The inscription is usually attributed to the 4th century - in 363 Emperor Julian (Julian the Apostate) ordered the Temple rebuilt.  One of the Jews who came to rebuild the Temple might have excitedly written about it.
    
However, this inscription was written at what was street level up to Crusader times, and there were quite a few other times in that period when Jews thought Redemption was around the corner.

In the 5th century, Empress Eudocia, wife of Emperor Theodosius II, influenced her husband to allow the Jews to come back to Jerusalem.  A Christian monk writes that the Jews sent a letter to their brethren: "The time of our Exile is over, and the day of the in-gathering of our tribes has arrived, for the Roman Emperors have commanded that our city of Jerusalem be returned to us.  Hurry and come to Jerusalem on Sukkot, because our Kingdom will be established in Jerusalem."

In 613, the Jews helped the Persians conquer Israel , and were rewarded with a promise that the Temple will be rebuilt and Jews will regain some measure of autonomy.  A few decades later, the Muslims conquered Israel, and they too allowed Jews to settle in Jerusalem.

And, of course, it's possible this was simply written as a hopeful prayer sometime during the Byzantine or early Muslim period, with no connection to any specific event.


The next two inscriptions are dated from the Middle Ages.  Throughout this period,  Jews continued to come to the Temple Mount to offer prayer.

2. "Son of Caleb RIP, son of Joseph RIP was healed"


Location: Southern Wall, left post of the triple-arched Hulda Gates, about a meter high.


Caleb was a common Jewish name in the Balkans in the Middle Ages.   This was probably written by a Jew who came to Jerusalem to thank G-d after he was healed from illness.

3.  "Jeremiah son of Gedaliah son of Rabbi Joseph"  


Location: Southern Wall, 15 meters east of the double-arched Hulda Gates, at about eye-level.


Inaccessible Inscriptions

There are quite a few inscriptions which are not accessible today to the general public.  Some are inside buildings, others were painted over, and some were not seen again since they were first discovered.

The next two inscriptions are inaccessible, but I thought they were quite interesting.

4. "Jonah and Shabatiah his wife from Sicily be strong in life"


Location: In the passage leading from the double-arched Hulda Gate into the Temple Mount, under al-Aqsa mosque.   



This inscription was discovered in 1863, along with several others, and was since covered following renovations.

We know from Jewish and non-Jewish sources that after the Muslim conquest Jews prayed on the Temple Mount.  They were later only allowed to pray at the gates, and later limited to just one gate.

Some researchers (Sukenik, Dinur) think this inscription is proof that Jews had a synagogue there, and that Jonah and his wife either donated to this synagogue or wanted to encourage others to come to Israel now that praying in the Temple Mount was allowed.  Dinur points out that according to the Israeli midrash "life" is "Israel".  "Be strong in life" might mean "be strong for Israel".
   
In any case, Jews frequented this site throughout the Middle Ages.  A 13th century chronicler tells us of caves under the Temple mount which led into the area of the Holy of Holies.   As late as the 17th century:  Moshe ben Eliyahu Halevi, mentioned above, visited those 'caves under the Temple Mount'.

5. "G-d, Lrd of Hosts, build this House.  Give life to Jacob son of Joseph and Theophylactus and Cicnia and Anastasia.  Amen and Amen.  Selah.


(according to another reading: Build this house in the lifetime of.. )

Location: Northern Wall


This inscription, as well as a few others, were found inside a madrassa built in the 14th century.  It is located a few meters from the "Dark Gate".  The northern Temple Mount area is filled with buildings bearing Jewish names, which points to a Jewish neighborhood in that area.

The names in the inscription are Byzantine, with Christian connotations.  This inscription was probably written either during Byzantine times, or by Jewish pilgrims who came from Byzantium.


[All images were copied from Cathedra 40 (1986), available online as PDF.  The original article, written by Meir Ben-Dov includes additional inscriptions and pictures.]

See here for more articles about our history in Israel.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Haaretz on its daily warpath

Once again the Haaretz newspaper is on the warpath, targeting its bitter Zionist enemy, the State of Israel.

Note the following headlines from the past 24 hours:

"Hamas fires four rockets from Gaza into Israel, in rare move"  [Since when is it rare for Hamas to fire rockets at Israel or try to kill Jews? Just 3 days earlier, the Hamas orchastrated a rocket attack on Eilat]

"IDF deploys tanks near Egypt border, in violation of peace treaty" [Ooops, Haaretz forgot to mention in the headline this was to quash a halt a real-time terror attack originating from the Egyptian held Sinai deset, in which an Israeli was killed.]

"Israel agrees to release hunger-striking Palestinian soccer player" [Why bother mentioning in the headline that he's affiliated with terrorist organizations?]

Yet do we see Haaretz mention anything about Israeli MK Ahmed Tibi's refusing to allow a space museum in the Israeli Arab of town -- to be named for Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon?  Not a word.
Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) has asked Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) to cancel the plan to name a new space center in Tayibe after Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut.

Ramon was killed along with six other crew members of the Space Shuttle Columbia when it disintegrated upon re-entry on February 1, 2003.

MK Tibi explained his request by saying that during his service as a fighter pilot in the Israel Air Force Ramon took part in "bombings of civilian populations during the first Lebanon war and in attacks in other Arab countries." (ynet)
Unless you consider yourself an anti-Zionist, its best to avoid reading Haaretz.


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Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Paradox: Israeli Arabs vs. Illegal African Migrants

Ah, the tormenting mental gymnastics that the following paradox is causing Israeli leftists....

Today (Thursday) in Kfar Manda, an Israeli Arab village in the lower Galilee, Israeli Arabs lost their cool, and had an all out rumble with the illegal African migrants who have been occupying the town after too much noise was erupting from an apartment of Sudanese.
For over an hour, Kfar Manda became a battle zone between the residents and the illegal African migrants, and the Israeli police had to intervene with force, -- including the use of tear gas.  The Kfar Manda Arabs decided that they "had enough" of the Sudanese and decided to evict them all using bats, rocks and knives.  The Israeli police intervention prevented bloodshed, yet the police decided for the Sudanese protection to evict all of them from the village. (anwrs.net, rotter.net)
Here are some pictures after the rumble, the eviction of the illegal Sudanese, and a video of the police trying to clean up the mess.



The question is - how will Israeli leftists spin this story? They must sympathize with the Illegal Sudanese migrants because after all - they are illegal.  Yet its unethical to blame Israeli Arabs for their behaviour...

In fact, Haaretz is so embarrassed by the scenario they don't even have the report on their English edition website, only in Hebrew.   Yet even in Hebrew, they try to soften the blow by headlining the article "Due to altercation, 100 Sudanese leave Kfar Manda."  (Nothing about the eviction by the police).

I feel bad for the Israeli Arabs.  They have it tough enough as is without having to worry about the illegal African migrants occupying their town as well.

More on the illegals here.



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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Obituary: Rav Yishayahu "Nitzan Or" Rotter, Founder of Rotter Net

Rabbi Yeshayahu Rotter z'l
Last night, Rav Yishayahu Rotter from Hafia, Israel died of cardiac arrest at the age of 59.

Known throughout the Israeli internet by his web moniker "Nitzan Or", Rav Rotter was responsible for one of the most influential media outlets on Israel's digital landscape over the past 15 years.

His son Noam founded "rotter.net" at age 12, and Rav Rotter managed the site on a daily basis, as well as moderating and commenting on the extremely popular "News and Scoops" message forum on the rotter.net website.

Garnering over 2 million hits a day, rotter.net is one of Israel's most popular news sites. Rotter.net broke the monopoly of Israel's media by effectively allowing free information flow, reported by non-professional, "average" Israelis. Freedom of the Press at its finest, anyone can post and publish on rotter.net, and it became home to thousands of Israelis wishing to find alternative sources to media stories, without the subjective agenda of the rest of Israel's web.

If 20 years ago Israelis waited for hours to find out the details of breaking news stories, on rotter net, you could get details within seconds and minutes. Every rocket launch towards Israel from Gaza is reported, every siren, every newsworthy event (well, there are less newsworthy stories as well, which get their authors negative ratings), is found in real time on rotter.net, and the right/left, religious/secular debates rage on the forum.

Rav Rotter engaged everyone in debate, and was not ashamed to express his pro-Eretz Yisrael opinions.

Coming from a "Chareidi" background, Rav Rotter studied in the Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak and the Hebron Yeshiva in Givat Mordechai, Jerusalem.

He was an officer in the IDF, a PhD in Jewish Thought, a teacher in the Yavneh High School in Haifa, and an active member rabbi of Tzohar -- and he joyfully married over 1000 couples in Israel so that they could bypass the bureaucracy of the sometimes unfriendly formal Israeli Rabbinate.

Rav Rotter made his mark on the media in Israel, and was definitely one of the most influential individuals for improving freedom of the press over the past 2 decades.   The Muqata blog has translated hundreds of news scoops from rotter.net over the past 7 years.

May his memory be a blessing.  We'll miss him.



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Monday, June 11, 2012

A Sane Israeli is a Leftist Mugged by Illegal African Migrants

Israel has been under attack by the onslaught of illegal immigrants from Africa and over the past few months there has been an unbearable rise of crime -- brutal rapes and assaults of teenagers and women in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Netivot, Lod, Netanya, Eilat, Or Akiva, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer, and more.

These illegal job-seeking immigrants are being deemed as "refugees" by all sorts of "aid groups" in Israel, who vocally protest all government actions to evict these illegals -- estimates ranging from 90,000 to 700,000. Many of the same "social justice" advocates who demand a better quality of life for Israel's lower and middle class, are also demanding equal rights for these thousands of illegals as well.

These "activists" live in fiscal fantasyland.

Israel's conservative fiscal policy is the last barrier preventing Israel from plunging into a recession that has befell most of the developed nations around the world since 2008. As the Eurozone stronger countries struggle to keep Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy afloat with hundreds of billions of Euro in bailout loans, Israel has no such financial sugar daddy. No one will bail out Israel's fledgling economy if we over-spend. No one will come to our fiscal rescue if we go bankrupt providing services and social benefits to the tens of thousands of migrant workers who have illegally infiltrated Israel. We're on our own, and our first responsibility is to ourselves.

Despite the ongoing rabble from the "refugee aid groups" who routinely pine on the Israeli guilty conscience that "we too were refugees, and its our responsibility to accept these illegal Africans," MK Ophir Okunis correctly stated this morning on IDF Radio that 99% of these refugees are NOT legally considered refugees. Less than a few dozen have actually fled their countries due to political or military persecution and have directly entered Israel. They have all entered Israel via Egypt, via Libya, and via other countries. Once the refugee left their country where they were persecuted and entered another country where the threat of persecution ended, they are no longer refugees from their country of origin. As they continue their trek to Israel via other countries, they are no longer in search of protection, rather in search of opportunity and jobs. Entering Israel via Egypt they are here in the quest of economic opportunity and the benefits which Israel's left are more than happy to offer.

Unfortunately, Israel as a Jewish Democracy cannot tolerate this situation; not economically, not demographically, and certainly -- not the awful crime wave which has descended upon us.

Left leaning Israeli Journalist Guy Maroz slammed right-wing MKs in March 2010 for wanting to create "labor camps" for these illegal workers. He was among the most vocal activists demanding that Israel not deport the children of these illegal immigrants with their families.

Till it hit home for him.

Till he woke up and realized that the problem isn't only in South Tel-Aviv or Eilat (which obviously aren't his problem because he doesn't live there)...and the illegals started flooding all of Israel, his hometown as well.

In a heartfelt letter to Israel's Prime Minister via an opinion piece in NRG/Maariv, Maroz begs PM Netanyahu to take action against the surge of illegals:

"The writer of these lines, and his wife were among the most strident activists against the expulsion of the the children of [illegal African] foreign workers. That is why I permit myself to scream today, "No More. No more flooding of the streets and lives of Israel's poorest citizens [South Tel Aviv].

This week a friend hesitantly told me, and she is one of the most enlightened and liberal people I know, 'they have also come to us, to Hod Hasharon."

And they have arrived here as well."
Israel needs to quickly take decisive action to quash the illegal immigration from Africa.

This isn't racism. This isn't intolerance. This isn't immoral.

This is self-preservation. This is the responsibility of survival of the Jewish State, for us, our children, and generations to come.

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