This past week was relatively quiet on the terrorism front until yesterday when three incidents took place: first, a Palestinian Authority intelligence officer (!) opened fire on an IDF checkpoint at Hizmeh, north of Jerusalem, seriously injuring one soldier and lightly injuring another before being shot dead; in the second incident a policeman was stabbed and seriously injured in the Old City of Jerusalem, and in the third an Israeli driver had a miraculous escape with no injury, although 10 bullets hit his car when terrorists opened fire on his car, north of Jerusalem.
Nevertheless we have much to be thankful for, that these were “only” injuries. I wish all the wounded a refuah shlema. I also extend condolences to the bereaved families and wishes for a speedy recovery to the victims of the dreadful shooting and apparent terror attack in San Bernardino, California.
To help soothe our ragged nerves, here is another Good News Friday post with the hope that it will lift our spirits before Shabbat.
My first item is about another fantastic archeological discovery: this week, just in time for the approaching festival of Chanukah, a seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah was unearthed next to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem:
Archaeologists deciphered a seal impression bearing the name of the 8th century BCE biblical King Hezekiah recently found during excavations next to the Old City of Jerusalem, the Hebrew University announced Wednesday.
The bulla, a stamp seal impression, was one of dozens found in recent years in a royal building in the Ophel, excavation leader Dr. Eilat Mazar said at a press conference held at the Mount Scopus campus, and bears the name “Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, king of Judah,” an 8th century Judean ruler.
Mazar called the artifact “the closest as ever that we can get to something that was most likely held by King Hezekiah himself.” She said that the bulla “strengthens what we know already from the Bible about [Hezekiah].”
The bulla in question used to seal a papyrus scroll and an impression of the fibers was preserved on the inverse, Mazar said, suggesting the seal once enclosed a document signed by the king himself.
Hezekiah ruled the kingdom of Judah from around 715 and 686 BCE. During his reign the kingdom was invaded by the ascendant Assyrian Empire and the capital, Jerusalem, was besieged by the army of King Sennacherib. The Book of Kings II 18:5 says of Hezekiah that “after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among them that were before him.” He’s also mentioned in the annals of Sennacherib.
According to the biblical narrative, Hezekiah ordered the excavation of a water channel to bring water from the Siloam Spring into the city and foil the siege. That tunnel was discovered in the 19th century and an inscription found inside it gives an account of its construction.
The Ophel is part of the ancient city of Jerusalem situated immediately south of the flashpoint Temple Mount, the site of two Jewish temples in antiquity. It is the holiest site to Jews and the third holiest site to Muslims.
The excavations were a collaborative effort by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Hebrew University.
Excavations at the site are contentious for taking place in East Jerusalem. Nonetheless, they have unearthed some of the earliest known artifacts in the city, dating as far back as the 12th and 11th centuries BCE. According to Mazar, these include evidence supporting the historicity of the biblical kings David and Solomon, founders of the Judean dynasty.
I don’t need to tell you how exciting this discovery is, both for the pure historical value and of course for the religious value of having our Biblical history confirmed by these findings. But of equal importance is the fact that these discoveries prove over and over that the Jews have an unbroken historical connection to Jerusalem and Israel, no matter how much the Arabs try to deny this and rewrite history.
Kol hakavod to Dr. Elat Mazar who is unstinting in her efforts to unearth the priceless artefacts before the Arab criminals on the Temple Mount completely destroy them.
Moving back to the 21st century, despite our complicated relations with the nations around us and the cold peace that holds between our countries, it is excellent news that Israel and Jordan have issued a joint tender to build the “Red-Dead Canal”, joining the Red Sea and the Dead Sea:
The two countries made their joint announcement on Monday, after a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and Jordanian Water and Irrigation Minister Hazim El-Nasser. The meeting was held on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.
The canal will carry water from the Red Sea north to the Dead Sea, which has been steadily drying out. A fixed amount of canal water will be siphoned off and desalinated to supply drinking water to Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, with the saline byproducts used to replenish the mineral-rich Dead Sea.
“Today we took an additional historic step to save the Dead Sea,” Shalom was quoted as saying on Monday. “The joint international tender to be published tomorrow is proof of the cooperation between Israel and Jordan, and a response to those who cast doubt on whether the canal project would ever go ahead. This is an exceptional environmental and diplomatic achievement that testifies more than anything to the fertile cooperation between the countries.”
This is of course excellent news for the region, both for the cooperation between the two countries, and for the environmental and economic gains to be achieved by both countries. This surely will do more for peace and normalization between us than all the peace talks and land concessions in the world. Interestingly, a different version of this canal was the brainchild of Shimon Peres. We always thought he was rather deluded but it turns out that with some fine tuning he was right! Let us hope this will be a great success!
Speaking of normalizing relations with the Arab world, this week we learned of another breakthrough: Israel will be opening an office for renewable energy in Abu Dhabi! (h/t OP, HDK):
The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed plans to open a mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, following a visit to IRENA headquarters there last week led by Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold.
The announcement does not signal any change in the non-existent relationship between the two countries.
However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tells ISRAEL21c this will be the first Israeli mission located in a country with which Israel has no diplomatic ties, and the first time current Israeli citizens will go to live in the UAE.
The Jewish state’s mission to IRENA in Abu Dhabi will be manned by Israeli diplomat Rami Hatan, formerly director of the Foreign Ministry’s World Religions Department.
Of course it’s not all perfect, as Abu Dhabi still does not allow non-diplomats to enter the country on an Israeli passport. But it’s a start, a crack in the wall. We wish Rami Hatan the best of luck (and security!).
And finally, what better way to end this week’s post than with wine – Israeli wine that with indigenous grapes attempts to recreate the wine drunk in Biblical times: (Please excuse references to occupied territory which I crossed out – this is from the New York Times after all):
HEFER VALLEY, Israel — The new crisp, acidic and mineral white from a high-end Israeli winery was aged for eight months — or, depending on how you look at it, at least 1,800 years.
The wine, called marawi and released last month by Recanati Winery, is the first commercially produced by Israel’s growing modern industry from indigenous grapes. It grew out of a groundbreaking project at Ariel University in the
occupiedWest Bank that aims to use DNA testing to identify — and recreate — ancient wines drunk by the likes of King David and Jesus Christ.
“All our scriptures are full with wine and with grapes — before the French were even thinking about making wine, we were exporting wine,” he said. “We have a very ancient identity, and for me, reconstructing this identity is very important. For me, it’s a matter of national pride.”
Wine presses have been uncovered in Israel — and the West Bank — that date to biblical times. But winemaking was outlawed after Muslims conquered the holy land in the seventh century. When Baron Edmond de Rothschild, an early Zionist and scion of a famed Bordeaux winery, helped restart the local craft in the 1880s, he brought fruit from France.
Enter Mr. Drori, who has a Ph.D. in agriculture and in 2005, started a boutique winery, Gvaot, near his home in a West Bank settlement. There he noticed a neglected vine with small, very sweet white grapes that he thought might yield tasty wine.
With a budget of about $750,000, mainly from the Jewish National Fund — a century-old Zionist organization that has helped transform Israel’s agricultural landscape — Mr. Drori and a dozen colleagues have since 2011 identified 120 unique grape varieties whose DNA profiles are distinct from all imports. Around 50 are domesticated, Mr. Drori said, 20 of them “suitable for wine production.”
Separately, researchers have identified 70 distinct varieties, using DNA and a three-dimensional scanner that has never before been successfully employed this way, from burned and dried seeds found in archaeological digs. The idea is to match such ancient seeds with the live grapes, or someday perhaps to engineer fruit “Jurassic Park” style.
Back at Ariel University’s research winery, small cooled trailers with eight wood-aging barrels, Mr. Drori and a graduate student, Yaakov Henig, have made tiny batches from about 30 different grapes in search of the great new — or perhaps ancient — Israeli wine. Their bottles are labeled with masking tape and handwriting recording the date and location of the harvest.
There is a rich red from the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and a white from Sorek in the foothills of Jerusalem. A few specimens were so scarce they yielded only a small juice bottle. Mr. Henig has named his favorite, found in Nitzanim kibbutz near the Gaza Strip, “Yael,” after his 2-year-old daughter.
“Very good color, very good balance acid and sugar, body, structure,” Mr. Drori observed as he sampled it. “That’s a very good wine grape, even without the story.”
And I’ll drink to that!
And on this cheerful (and slightly alcoholic) note, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!