Guest Post: Despite it all – Good News Friday

This is a guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb. I had second and third thoughts about posting it today, after the dreadful news this week, which seems to get worse and worse. But weeping and wailing won’t help us overcome our troubles, and – as I have stated on so many occasions these last few weeks – Shabbat is still approaching and we need some good news to lift our spirits.

So here is this week’s Good News Friday installment, courtesy of Brian.

At a time like this, my inclination is to try and find the positive. However, this is increasingly hard to do, what with the mounting number of deaths and serious injuries in Israel since the start of the “stabbings”, and peaked for me last week (on 13 November)  with the massacres in Paris. Fortunately, none of my family or friends have so far been attacked, and, I hope, this will continue to be the case. Which doesn’t make the situation any the less appalling.

Less than happy Iranian Revolutionary Guards

So, after that, where’s the good news? Oddly enough, it’s not that far away, and nor is it that difficult to find. Let me start with this: it would appear that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on secondment to Syria are less that happy bunnies in the Ayatollahs chosen battleground. Indeed, some reports (such as this one linked here) are suggesting that these highly dedicated to the Ayatollahs’ desire to rule the world soldiers of the revolution are actually mutinying! Actually refusing to fight the opponents of the blessed Assad. The report asserts that:

A rising death toll within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria is leading to a mutiny among some senior commanders, who have refused to obey orders to fight in the war-torn country, according to a source close to the Revolutionary Guard

and it goes on to claim that

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat the commanders, who are also joined by a number of junior officers, have now been referred to a court-marshal(sic) on charges of “mutiny and treason.”

Couldn’t, in my humble view, happen to nice clerico-fascists. Well, if they will support, with their bodies and lives people like the Ayatollahs…

Of course:

Iran, which alongside Russia is Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s main international ally, has denied it has combat troops in Syria, claiming it has only sent officers and generals within an advisory capacity to assist both the Syrian army and Hezbollah militias.

Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin – not such good friends after all

While still, sort of, on the subject of Syria, it would appear that not everyone is convinced that Bashar Al-Assad is Vladimir Putin’s new best friend. Who’d have thought it? Well, The Times of Israel, for one. Linking to a London Daily Telegraph article suggests that:

A senior Iranian general has hinted at a growing rift with Russia over the future of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

Back to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Yet again, couldn’t happen to nicer clerico-fascists (you will gather that I rather like that label!). Indeed, the source went as far as to suggest that:

“The northern friend who came to Syria to provide military support recently [did so to serve] its interests,” said Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari. He added that Moscow “may not care if Assad stays as we do”.

Long may dissent reign between such “friends”!

It seems that I can’t get away from Syria (journalistically speaking), because the next item keeps us in that benighted country. It would appear that Hezbollah is being drawn ever further into the war to keep Assad on his throne, at least according to this Times of Israel article, which argues that

...Hezbollah is redeploying its fighters in Syria to help embattled ally President Bashar Assad defend Damascus, Lebanese news agency NOW reported Saturday. The report says that the Assad regime is struggling to defeat opposition forces around the Syrian capital.

It’s the old argument: while they are struggling to defend Assad and Damascus, they can’t be in any state of readiness to attack Israel. The report continues:

Quoting Arabic-language pro-opposition website All4Syria, NOW says that Hezbollah fighters and Syrian National Defense Force militiamen are redeploying “en masse” from positions in the mountains west of Zabadani, a former rebel bastion near the Lebanese border that has been reclaimed by Assad-allied forces. Much of Hezbollah’s fighting had been concentrated in that area.

According to NOW, a rebel source told All4Syria that the forces were headed toward Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, where the Islamic State-allied Jaysh al-Islam has bisected the Damascus-Homs highway, and Darayya, a suburb of the capital that the regime recently failed to retake.

As many have noted on this conflict, this is one civil war that the Israelis (among many others) devoutly hope both sides lose…badly.

Moving on, I found this next article very encouraging, in that it claims that archaeological evidence for the existence of King Josiah (7th century BCE) has turned up. Why is this so interesting (to say nothing of vitally important to the likes of Anne and me)? Because it demonstrates, yet again (as if it needed demonstrating, and sadly, it does), the historicity of the Jewish people. The article, (linked above) appears to be all about the natural wonders of a site now known as Palmachim…until you get half-way through it, when you come to the following:

Settlement at Yavne Yam began about 3,500 years ago, and continued off and on until the Middle Ages. In the beginning, it was populated by Canaanites who were under Egyptian control, but during the late 7th century BCE, the region came under Judean rule. Residents were a mixed bunch, ranging from Israelites to Phoenicians.

The bathhouse at Tel Yavne Yam (Shmuel Bar-Am)

There follows a brief history of the place before coming to the Maccabees, who were responsible for:

…the Jewish Revolt against the Greeks, Yavne Yam apparently favored the Greeks. Judah Maccabee set fire to the town (according to the Second Book of Maccabees, to save the city’s Jews) but it was only conquered and finally destroyed later, by one of the Hasmonean kings.

This was, for those unaware of when this was, about 148BCE, and gives us the festival of Chanukah (the festival of lights). It’s due soon in the Jewish calendar and I’m sure that Anne will want to write about it then. However, it takes until we are at least three-quarters of the way through this article before we come to the bit that started this segment off: King Josiah!

A vastly important pottery shard was discovered immediately south of Yavne Yam, as well. Written in biblical Hebrew, it dates back to King Josiah (end of the 7th century BCE) In the shard, a field hand appeals to the governor about an unjust confiscation of his cloak and mentions finishing his work before the Sabbath (Shabbat). This is the oldest known reference to the Sabbath, outside of the bible.

Another place to visit when we next visit Israel, hopefully next year for Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

Anne noted in an earlier article that evidence had been found of mention of King David, some 300 or so years earlier than this, so here is evidence this continuity later – up to about the time of the Assyrian Chronicles, which historians of the Ancient Near East accept as both eminently datable and mostly reliable as to the events of this period.

Yet another Times of Israel article informs us that a new bridge is to be constructed across the Jordan River, connecting Israeli and Jordanian business zones:

Tenders have been published for the construction of a new bridge across the Jordan River that will connect Israel and Jordan, the Ministry for Regional Cooperation announced Sunday. The bridge is a key part the Jordan Gateway project — a joint industrial and business area spanning the river that is a natural border between the two countries.

Present Jordan River crossing between Israel and Jordan

As I noted to myself, you make peace with your enemies, but you build bridges to your friends – and this demonstrates, yet again, that despite the bumpy ride, Jordan and Israel are friends. This development is important because:

Relations between the neighboring countries have become increasingly frayed against the backdrop of violent clashes on the Temple Mount in the Old city of Jerusalem.

The Deputy Minister for Regional Development, MK Ayoub Kara, said that:

“The Jordan Gate project is one of the most important in the relations between Israel-Jordan and will greatly contribute to improving the relations between the two peoples,” Kara said.

“I am happy that the tenders are published specifically at this period, as it is proof that the peace between Israel and Jordan is stronger than any extremists who are trying to drive a wedge between the countries and damage our joint attempts to bring a better future to the peoples of the area.”

From the map provided, it appears that the bridge will be in the north, not too far from Beit Shean, while the existing bridges are both between the West bank and Jordan, hardly a  reliable site for development due to be a joint Israel/Jordan effort and to persist over time.

Ugly outside, ugly inside: anti-Semitic “comedian” Dieudonne

My reaction to the next item was a mixture of the unprintable and fist-pumping joy. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the antisemitic “comedian” Dieudonne. In a brief item reprinted from Associated press, The Times of Israel reports that:

Europe’s top human rights court has ruled against the controversial French comic Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, saying the right to free expression does not protect anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial

and continues by noting that:

Dieudonne, as the comic is known, finished up a December 2008 show by inviting a prominent Holocaust denier on stage, then having an actor dressed to resemble a concentration camp detainee offer him a prize. He was convicted by a French court in October 2009 of hate crime charges and fined 10,000 euros. He lost repeated appeals, until finally bringing it before the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

The court noted Dieudonne’s stated desire to stage “the biggest anti-Semitic meeting since the last World War” and ruled Tuesday that the show was not a show but the expression of an ideology.

Sadly. it has taken 6 years to get to this stage, but at least we know that, in some parts of Europe, antisemitism is, as with other blatant forms of racism, not a fit topic for “a show”.

Anne adds:

Brian, thank you so much for providing us with good news precisely at a time when I was not in the mood to look for such, and even had second thoughts about posting it. When I read through your post, it gave me such a lift that I feel a black cloud has lifted from me.

I want to add some other good news that I found this week, (h/t Hadassah via Facebook) similar to your item about the archaeological find on Palmachim.  An exquisite 1,700 year old mosaic was unveiled this week in the central Israeli city of Lod – which was itself found while a visitor center for another mosaic was being constructed!

A breathtaking ancient mosaic in Lod – unearthed by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) while building a visitor center for another famous mosaic – will be opened to the public for the first time this week.

The find came during an excavation from June to November 2014, when IAA archaeologists worked in the Neve Yarak neighborhood of Lod where the previously discovered mosaic was found. That earlier mosaic was the living room floor of a villa some 1,700 years ago, and is being exhibited in museums around the world.

The new excavation was meant to prepare a visitor center to house the mosaic when it returns from its tour of world museums – but during the new excavation, another colorful mosaic 11 x 13 meters in dimension was found, which served as the courtyard pavement of the same villa.

“The villa we found was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods,” explained Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director on behalf of the IAA.

“At that time Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital, until it was replaced by Ramla after the Muslim conquest. The building was used for a very long time.”

The previously discovered mosaic in the northern part of the complex, where the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center” will be constructed, was exposed when the IAA was inspecting development work being carried out in the early 1990s prior to the construction of Highway 90.

That mosaic, which was discovered and excavated in the 1990s by the late Miriam Avissar, is among the most beautiful in the country, and has been exhibited in recent years in some of the world’s leading museums, including the Metropolitan, the Louvre and the State Hermitage. It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and in the future it will be housed in the main building to be erected in Lod.

As for the southern part of the complex where the new mosaic was found, it includes a large magnificent courtyard that is paved with the mosaic and surrounded by porticos (stoas – covered galleries open to the courtyard) whose ceiling was supported by columns.

This story demonstrates what an amazing country Israel is, with layers upon layers of history waiting to be discovered – even underneath other archaeological excavations!

I hope this week’s post brings some uplift to your souls and calm to frayed nerves.

May we have a week of better news, may the Shabbat bring comfort and solace to the bereaved and the injured.

May we all have a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat of peace and safety.

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8 Responses to Guest Post: Despite it all – Good News Friday

  1. JudyPrager says:

    After feeling totally depressed with the awful news yesterday ,I was wondering what on earth you could find to say today.Wellyou came up trumps with Brians very clear article , long may he continue to contribute his wise words, and also your news reports which keep us up to date with what is going on here all the time.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for your support and your compliments. I really was in two minds about posting this at the time, but as soon as I finished I realised it was exactly the right thing and what we needed.

  2. Reality says:

    Reading this was just what I needed after yesterday. Thank you so much.
    Another nice reason for a good feeling to go into Shabbat with,is that finally after 30 years Jonathan Pollard is free,(we’ll sort of free,) and is home,able to make Kiddush over wine at his own table,with his wife by his side.May these good newses keep on coming.Shabbat Shalom

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks. Pollard’s release is for sure good news, but there are still so many injustices re the terms of his parole that I feel it’s still unfinished business. Still, as you say, it’s great that he’s finally out. I never thought I’d see the day to be honest.

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Thank you both for your responses to my post: this is just the response I was hoping for.

    I would like to add one further “good news” item: when the antisemitic Gerald Kauffman, MP, made his loathsome comments about Jewish money funding the Conservative Party, we (or rather, my wife Ros on both our behalfs) wrote to the Labour Party Chief Whip, Rosie Winterton) and our still fairly new local Labour MP, Catherine West, drawing attention to the unacceptable nature of these remarks.

    We are still waiting for a reply from the Chief Whip. However, our MP responded most positively, noting that the remarks had been unfavourably received within the Labour Party. She also noted that she would invite him to the next meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism! Not, of course, that he will go.

    It is good to note that she attends this group, and that she holds a “surgery” at the local Orthodox Synagogue on a regular basis.

    As the meeting of the Group are generally open to the public, I am about to write to her asking her if she might be able to provide an invitation to the meeting next April (“the mills of God grind exceeding slow”) which is to be a symposium on the definition of antisemitism.

    I make this point because I was not convinced of her positive views on matters such as these before this recent exchange with her.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you Brian for your post and for this additional good news. It would be even better if the Whip would express an opinion for once and do the right thing though. I look forward to updates on this matter.

  4. Amy Cheung says:

    In case you’ve not read this one, I think it’s kind of uplifting… to see some Chinese travel all the way to propose to his girl friend (also Chinese) in front of the Western Wall:,7340,L-4721181,00.html

    • anneinpt says:

      Amy thank you for that beautiful story! I hadn’t seen it before, and it is so moving! And of course the added bonus of the business ties is excellent.

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