Good News Friday

After the hard week we’ve just been through, it’s not easy to write about good news. Nevertheless, for reasons that will become clear further on, here is another Good News Friday installment.

Piles of salt at the Melach Haaretz mining company near Eilat

We’ll start with one of Israel’s greatest natural resources – salt! (via  Brian Goldfarb). Salt, of all things, is providing Israel with yet more commercial success.

Israel is known as the land of milk and honey – and now salt, too. Israel’s Salt of the Earth, which packages salt mined in Israel, has just won awards from SIAL Innovation Selection 2014. SIAL (Salon International de l’alimentation) is the world’s largest food trade show, and SIAL Innovation Awards are among the most coveted honors given out in the food business.

Salt of the Earth (“Melach ha’aretz” is the company’s Hebrew name), a part of the Arison Group, has been mining salt since 1922, selling to both the retail and industrial markets. The salt is mined in the areas of Eilat in southern Israel and Atlit, near Haifa, in an environmentally responsible manner, preserving
harvesting areas “as nature reserves, islands of greenery, hosting many species of animals and combining bird-watching and nature activities through setting up lookout points as well as habitation and nesting areas for thousands of waterfowls and migratory birds,” the company says, and it “cooperates with
Israel Nature & National Parks Protection Authority in the protection of sea turtles.”

While you might think not much could be done with salt, the company has dozens of products, including table salt, “gourmet” salt like black salt granules, white salt granules, rosemary salt granules and smoked salt granules, reduced sodium salts, industrial salts used in meat koshering, cheese production, pickling, leather tanning, plastics manufacturing, and more, and even salt for dishwashing powder products.

Salt of the Earth won the SIAL awards last week for three products: WonderSalt, a low-sodium sea salt for kids, naturally colored with fruit and vegetable extracts; a “fun-colored” salt designed to help children control sodium intake; Umami-Essence Sea Salt, derived from tomato extract, pure salt from the Red Sea that can reduce the level of a recipe’s sodium while boosting flavor via umami, the “fifth taste” (after salt, sweet, sour and bitter) that scientists agree is an important part of the taste universe; and Salt ‘N Easy, seasoned sea-salt roasting mixes for poultry, fish or vegetables.

Who knew that salt could be so interesting? Or so delicious? Kol hakavod to Melach Haaretz on winning the SIAL award. May they go on from strength to strength.

The dam at Nahal Taninim

Brian also recommends a wonderful Israeli tourist attraction, which though not new, received a fantastic write-up in the Times of Israel:  how an effort to stop the main road from Tel Aviv to Haifa flooding during winter led to the creation of a new nature reserve – Nachal Taninim (Crocodile River): – which despite its name, does not hold any crocodiles:

“Nahal Taninim includes a glistening lake, a flowing river, flora, fauna, quarries, a Roman aqueduct, and an entire ancient dam.”

If it hadn’t been for several torrential downpours in 1992 and a couple of heavy storms in 1995, Israel’s Nahal Taninim Nature Reserve as we know it today simply wouldn’t exist.

But fortunately for us nature lovers, water pouring into the sea near Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael and Zichron Ya’akov flooded the Tel Aviv-Haifa highway each time, and the powers that be decided that they had to take action.

The problem stemmed from a dam that the Romans built two millennia ago to transport water from Nahal Taninim to the coastal city of Caesarea. In any kind of serious downpour the 1,500-acre lake formed by the dam would fill up to the brim. And since openings that the Romans carved into the dam walls were blocked up with debris, the overflow would end up on the road.

This is certainly a highly recommended visit for tourists to Israel – and for Israelis too!

Hebrew Manuscript smuggled into Israel from Syria by the Mossad in the 1990s

The next item is, as Brian put it, just a jaw-dropping appreciation of the culture of the people I’m a part of.  This is an article about how Israel’s National Library hopes to digitize every possible Hebrew manuscript in the world. To publicize the project, there is an exhibition on to show off some of the documents they already have, such as Franz Kafka’s Hebrew vocabulary notebook, when he started to try and learn Hebrew; the first evidence of Yiddish; and Newton’s theological ponderings.

These are treasures that Israel doesn’t allow anyone to check out of its national library.

Kafka’s Hebrew vocabulary notebook. The first written evidence of the Yiddish language. And the Crowns of Damascus, Bibles smuggled out of Syria 20 years ago in a Mossad spy operation so classified that their very existence in Israel was kept secret for years.

Many nations maintain official libraries of their countries’ most prized historical manuscripts. Israel’s is unique: It seeks manuscripts from every country in the world where Jews have ever lived.

Now the National Library of Israel is dusting the cobwebs off some of the most prized jewels of its collection as it seeks to draw attention to a new effort to preserve — and publicize — these treasures.

It’s pioneering a worldwide initiative to digitize every Hebrew manuscript in existence. It’s building a new home next to the Israeli parliament. On Sunday, it sent a prized manuscript handwritten by medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides to France accompanied by bodyguards for a first-ever display at the Louvre Museum.

Here’s a look at a few of those manuscripts, and the unlikely route they took to Jerusalem.



These “crowns,” a Jewish term for revered biblical manuscripts, are some of the earliest complete manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. Written in the Middle East and Europe between 700 to 1,000 years ago, they were safeguarded by Syria’s ancient Jewish community in Damascus for hundreds of years.

The exhibition sounds and looks fascinating. I’m sure the publicity is hardly needed because the public interest is going to be huge.  Read the rest of the article to see some of the other amazing exhibits.

A monumental Roman inscription found in Jerusalem by the Israel Antiquities Authority. (photo credit: Moti Tufeld)

Speaking of historical finds, the most important 2,000 year-old monumental stone with Hadrian’s name inscribed on it was uncovered in Jerusalem, it was announced this week:

The massive limestone slab, roughly a meter wide, with Latin text inscribed in six lines with letters several inches high, was part of a monumental arch dedicated to the emperor in 130 CE in honor of Hadrian’s arrival. It’s one of a rare few Latin inscriptions found in Jerusalem from that period. The slab’s discovery sheds light on the timeline of Jerusalem’s reconstruction following its destruction by Rome in 70 CE, demonstrating that it was in large part rebuilt just 60 years later.

“To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with the tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country [dedicated by] the 10th legion Fretensis (second hand) Antoniniana,” the text reads.

The 10th legion Fretensis, garrisoned in the ruined city of Jerusalem after the first revolt and also known for its participation in the siege of Masada, dedicated the monument at the city’s entrance to Hadrian before his historic visit.

Two years after Hadrian’s visit, and after the monumental arch was erected, the province of Palestine was consumed by a second Jewish insurrection against Rome known as the Bar Kochba revolt.

“This is an extraordinary find of enormous historical importance,” said IAA archaeologist Dr. Rina Avner, who headed the dig. A find of this kind “is once in a lifetime, if at all.” Speaking outside the IAA headquarters at the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, Avner explained that her team found the stone slab during excavation at a construction site on Nablus Road. They uncovered a Byzantine cistern and were surprised to find the Roman inscription used as a capstone. Part of the inscription was missing because a semi-circular hole was cut from the stone.

“It provides us with an exact date for the official construction of the city,” Avner said. “It indicates that there was monumental, official construction projects in the city at least two years before the Bar Kochba Revolt.”

By 130 CE, just 60 years after Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, the city had its main roads, piazzas, temples and monuments, she said.

One matter that the stone does not resolve, however, is the name of the city, which was changed by Hadrian to Aelia Capitolina. Scholars debate whether it took place before the Bar Kochba rebellion in 132, or after it was crushed as a punitive measure.

Jerusalem is such a fascinating city, with layer upon layer of history lying beneath our feet. Some layers have been discovered, others remain yet to be revealed – as long as the Muslim supercessionists can be stopped from destroying priceless relics on the Temple Mount and at other Jewish holy sites.

Shabbat table

And now, with a complete subject change, this Shabbat is the week of the Shabbos Project – a brilliant idea whose principle is that as many Jews as possible should observe Shabbat (Shabbos) together on one day. The Jewish Press gives more details:

In 340 cities around the world Jews from all walks of life, stars and simple folks, academics and others across the spectrum this week are all going to be ‘Keeping it Together.’

Shabbat. Shabbos. The Sabbath.

However you refer to it, even vocalist Paula Abdul is joining in with Nobel Prize laureates for 25 hours this weekend to keep the seventh day holy, as God commanded His Chosen People.

“The Shabbat Project is an opportunity for the entire Jewish world to keep one complete Shabbat together – from Friday evening just before sunset on October 24, until Saturday night after the stars have come out on October 25,” says South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein.

It was Goldstein who originated the Shabbat Project last year in South Africa. His drive and enthusiasm sent the project around the world in 2014.

“The beauty of this is that it is so practical and manageable. It’s only one Shabbat. It’s something everyone can do…This approach is predicated on the idea that the real energy of Shabbat – its transformative power – is wholly dependent on immersing oneself in the full Shabbat experience.”

In Israel, the Rami Levy supermarket is, as usual, leading the retailers’ part in the initiative. The chain is offering a “challah for a shekel, wine for five shekels” special this week to encourage Jews to participate in the project.

Poster ads are running on Egged buses across the country and along its highways and byways. A local team in the “Startup Nation” has also launched the #Keeping It Together app .  It has everything anyone needs to know about keeping the Sabbath holy, and it’s programmed to put your phone to sleep over Shabbat. (After all, it is the ‘day of rest.’)

Read the whole article. It’s a brilliant idea, breathtaking in its simplicity, and with such a powerful message.  In Toronto my cousin Lynda and her daughter Dena are prime movers of their own local Shabbos Project, and I say a hearty kol hakavod to them.

The greatest thanks and Kol Hakavod go to Rabbi Goldstein (about whose South African Shabbos project I posted a while ago) who thought up the whole project. He is one of the Jewish People’s most influential leaders. May he and his ideas grow and and influence the world with its positive message.

Mixing Shabbat with family, here now is the reason why I was so determined to write a Good News post this week.

60 yearsIn a short while the whole family – we, my parents, my siblings, our children and grandchildren, a veritable tribe in fact – are heading out to a hotel for Shabbat to celebrate our parents’ Diamond Wedding, their 60th wedding anniversary.

My parents are a shining example of love, dedication and loyalty to each other, to the family and to the Jewish people.

I’m sure you all join me in wishing them good health, nachat (enjoyment) from their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and may they have many more years of happiness together עד מאה ועשרים – until 120.

Mazal tov!

And on that happy note, I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom!

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9 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Mazal tov to your entire clan on your parents anniversary. How wonderful!

  2. cba says:

    Mazal tov! Enjoy! Shabbat shalom and chodesh tov!

  3. Chaim says:

    Mazal Tov

  4. mysending says:

    The last is certainly the best! Mazal Tov and Shabbat Shalom!

  5. anneinpt says:

    Thank you for all the mazal tovs which I have passed on to my parents. We had a fantastic time, such a wonderful Shabbat with the entire hamula (clan). I especially enjoyed seeing our grandchildren all playing with each other, cousins and second-cousins. And the shul services all run by the younger generation. We all got a great boost of nachas.

    The noise level on the other hand… 🙂

  6. Reality says:

    what a great post as usual!!The archaeological finds together with National Library digitisation will yet again prove our connection to the Land Flowing with Milk &honey(&now salt)! .As if we ever needed to provide the west with more proof.

    The Shabbat project is such a fantastic idea. Well done those Canadians in our family. Dena was organising 2500 women from baking Challah on Thursday throughout the weekend.My mind boggles.!I can’t even organise my family!

    Mazal Tov to all of us this wonderful weekend we enjoyed with our huge extended family.I had this great feeling all day that if only our grandparents & their parents could see us.They would never have believed this 60years ago that one could celebrate a whole new tribe born out of the ashes of Europe here in the then nascent State of Israel.

    • anneinpt says:

      You expressed the exact feeling that I was having over Shabbat. I feel we are truly blessed to live here in Israel and to have helped rebuild the family after the Shoah. And to assist in Israel’s population explosion! 🙂

  7. Earl says:

    Mazel Tov to your family!

    I only wish that the National Museum’s capabilities could be brought to digitizing the pre-Uthman, Koranic fragments found in Sanaa’ Yemen a few decades back. There are thousands of slides taken by two German academics, and the collection must reside somewhere in D. I have no doubt that by letting Aramaic scholars loose on them, the entire rotten edifice of Islam could be destroyed.

    • anneinpt says:

      By “D” do you mean Germany?

      That is very interesting about the Yemenite Koran fragments. I had no idea. Yes, if they could be interpreted the world would be probably tilt on its axis.

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