Good News Friday

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.

A seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology (ourtesy of Eilat Mazar; photo by Ouria Tadmor)

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 Ophel archaeological site, immediately south of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, on June 21 2011. (Israel Antiquities Authority /Flash90)

The Ophel archaeological site, immediately south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, on June 21 2011. (Israel Antiquities Authority /Flash90)

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.

Iconic photo of a man reading a newspaper while floating in the highly salty 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.

Mr. Drori and a graduate student, Yaakov Henig, sampling Israel’s first indigenous wine. Credit Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

“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.”

I Like Wine Smiley Face, Emoticon


And I’ll drink to that!


And on this cheerful (and slightly alcoholic) note, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

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19 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    What a great post as usual.L’Chaim!.I must say I was astounded by the Abu Dhabi report!Wonders will never cease.How on earth will Israelis be able to get in and out,and live safely there?I wish them the best of luck.The Dead Sea arrangement with Jordan is also a sign of hope.Would that the Palestinians take note of their fellow brethren,(apart from seeing proof in all our archaeological finds that this always was and will be our land) and start to live in peace with us and prosper.But no, even their own policemen are intent on killing us.
    Shabbat Shalom

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for your kind comment, as always.

      And as always you are right regarding the Palestinians. The truth is they don’t want to live and prosper with us. They want to destroy us, even if they destroy themselves in the process.

  2. Pete says:

    First, the story about the re-creation of the ancient wine is very fascinating. are they actually trying to use the entire ancient process for wine, or only the same type of grapes. thank you for sharing this.

    Here in Southern California we are having our own troubles with terrorism. An American and his Saudi wife – both with Saudi lineage – shot 14 people and injured 20 more at a local treatment center. I am very sure that you read the news. An investigation reveals that the “true jihadist” in the family was actually Tashfeen Malik, the wife involved in the terrorist act. The man, Syed Farook, was living a quiet normal life – until he married Tashfeen. Both are Muslims. But after the marriage, their behavior switched to strongly jihadist traditions. Investigators are looking at links between Tashfeen and ISIS or Al Qaeda. It is really impossible for us to stop this type of carnage in the USA. Anyone can buy guns, so long as they do not have a criminal record or a record of mental illness. Syed Farook had a clean background. Hence, this type of local incident is impossible to stop. It is our own equivalent of your “Knife Intifada”, except that your incidents are happening on a daily basis.

    Best Wishes! As always, I am impressed by how Israelis continue to live “normal life” in the midst of mayhem, murder and terrorism.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Hi Pete, the process of creating the wine is by using the regenerated ancient types of grape, but with modern processes. There is very much a culture here of “returning to our roots” in all kinds of fields.

      Yes, I read about the terror attack in San Bernardino, and the story of how they were “radicalized” in Saudi and/or Pakistan is so familiar to Europeans. Less so to Israelis though. Our terrorists are radicalized right here at home by their preachers and politicians, and of course aided and abetted by corrupt UN organizations and antisemitic European NGOs.

      I have my problems with the lack of gun control in America – there is nowhere near enough vetting of gun buyers, and licencing and record-keeping seems to be almost non-existent, or honoured in the breach.

      However as you say, in the case of a terror attack, gun control is irrelevant.

      As for keeping up a normal lifestyle, if Americans and Europeans suffered the same amount of actual terror (not fear of terror) you too would learn to bounce back quicker and keep up a normal lifestyle. It’s called resilience. Without it our society would have collapsed long ago. We don’t have the luxury of collapsing in hysteria. We have to grit our teeth and get on with life because if we don’t, no one will come to our aid. There are no airlifts or NGOs out there to help us. We’re on our own in this fight (not ignoring of course our foreign supporters and our Jewish brothers, but they are equal to or outnumbered by those that oppose us) and that is a fine concentrator of minds.

  3. Pete says:

    and one small correction to my previous post. It appears that the two jihadists here in LA had connections to Pakistan, not Saudi Arabia as originally reported. The ‘facts in the media’ are changing constantly, as (initial) false reports are subsequently corrected. Apparently, Tashfeen Malik swore allegiance to ISIS on a FaceBook page, but later she eliminated the words. Again – this stories is not fully confirmed.
    But this type of behavior by jihadists is all too familiar to Israelis. And it appears that the actions of the jihadists are based largely on “personal decisions”, rather than any type of large plan by an outside group.
    Pete, USA

  4. Ken Kelso says:

    The Palestinians have succeeded in creating an entire generation of psychopaths.
    There is no cure for this

  5. Ken Kelso says:

    Palestinianism is a death cult.
    The death cult
    November 25, 2015

    Today, we learned the details of the interrogation of an 11-year old boy who decided to stab Jews on a light rail train two weeks ago:
    The 11-year-old, a sixth grader from Shuafat, is the youngest assailant arrested to date in the current upsurge of Palestinian terrorism. He is too young to face charges under current Israeli law; the 14-year-old is facing charges of attempted murder.

    In their interrogation, the two children said they carried out the attack as an act of revenge, without planning in advance and with no encouragement from any adults.

    “We travelled from Shuafat to Damascus Gate in order to stab a soldier but did not do it because the soldiers were in groups and we didn’t find one standing alone,” recalled the 11-year-old. “Then he told me ‘let’s do an attack together to revenge the death of Muhammad Ali.’ He opened his bag and showed me the knife. At Damascus Gate I bought a pair of scissors and then we boarded the light rail and looked for Jews to stab.”

    Two light rail security guards boarded the train, but the boys decided “not to stab them because there were two of them. Later on one of them got off and we immediately attacked the one that remained.”

    “I stabbed him in his head, my cousin stabbed him in his chest and stomach until the guard pushed me and fired three bullets in my stomach,” said the 11-year-old.

    The two cousins had decided they were ready to die as shahids, or martyrs, he said.

    Any person with a the slightest sense of morality would be aghast at the words from this child.

    I have yet to find a single article in Palestinian media that shows the slightest regret that they have raised a generation of children who literally want to die for a chance to kill a Jew.

    Think about that. Not a single Palestinian adult is willing to publicly express anything negative about children being brainwashed to die.

    The children listen to music that extols death. They watch videos making murderers and even those who die failing to murder into heroes. Their teachers tell them that there is no higher calling than to be a martyr. Their preachers preach hate for Jews. Their newspapers publish cartoons that incite stabbings. Their friends brag about how they manage to throw rocks at soldiers.

    But the worst part is not the hate and the incitement and the antisemitism. The worst part is the fact that there are no Palestinians willing to publicly say, in Arabic, that this is disgusting.

    There is no debate about whether it is a good or bad thing for children to put themselves in danger to stab Jews. On the contrary – there are football tournaments named after the stabber children.

    In the past eight weeks of reading Palestinian Arab media from all political viewpoints I have yet to find anyone who is willing to say anything negative about a culture that literally raises children to kill.

    Not that every Palestinian parent supports their kids going off with the family knives to stab anyone with a kipah. Surveys show that roughly half are against violence and I have no reason to doubt them. But Palestinian society is set up in such a way that no one is willing to stand up and say the obvious – “We must stop raising our children on a steady diet of hate.”

    The apparent exceptions like Khaled Abu Toameh and Bassem Eid prove the rule. As far as I can tell they don’t even bother to try to get their messages out in Arabic anymore because their words carry no weight within Palestinian society. Because they are wiling to take positions that are so obviously moral, they are ostracized, and as a result no one wants to join them for fear of being labeled a collaborator.

    That is how a cult works – any independent thought that goes against the official line is silenced and the people behind it punished and blacklisted.

    Palestinianism is a death cult.

    If that statement is offensive to you, then kindly point me to the editorials or school curricula or cartoons or TV shows or music videos in Arabic that say that it is not a good idea to die while trying to murder Jews. I will happily retract and publish the articles that criticize a generation that glorifies death.

    But you won’t easily find them, because the such ideas cannot be safely said in Palestinian society.

    The next issue is, why are so many Westerners coddling this death cult instead of criticizing it?

  6. Ken Kelso says:
    The ‘Palestinian Cause’ is a criminal enterprise
    By Tuvia Brodie

  7. Ken Kelso says:

    Netanyahu refuses to close these roads to Arabs that Jews travel on like the 443 road.
    Is Netanyahu worried what the EU and Obama will say.
    This is a war. Arabs should have been on complete lockdown weeks ago. No driving, no leaving their own villages. Period.
    How many young Jews have to die? it is time to show no mercy and NO treatment in our hospitals for these demon terrorist, send them to Gaza… ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    • anneinpt says:

      I agree with you about the road 443. My brother lives in Modiin and works in Jerusalem. The straightest and most obvious way to work is on the 443. But he’s now taken to the long way round on route 1 which is much longer (1/2-1 hour longer) to avoid the stones and fire-bombs. It is a disgrace that the 443 is still open to Arabs in this situation..

  8. Ken Kelso says:

    Who are the Palestinians? An Arab Invention.

  9. Pete says:

    Let me make ONE POSSIBLE SOLUTION for Israel.
    I think that this idea would be excellent for Irael – and it stands a great chance of being a success. Perhaps someone in authority in Israel will read this. I must note – with irony – that this idea can never work in America. That is because the whole subject of “gun ownership” has been embroiled in such controversy and emotional drama … that common sense has been thrown out of the window. But Israel can make this idea work!

    All you need to do … is to have about 10% of the population licensed to carry guns .. probably s simple automatic pistol. But a good revolver would also be fine. But these people with guns must pass two strict criteria: (1) They must be very balanced people with good judgment and very calm under stress, (2) They must agree to undergo a lot of training, and continue to go through regular training updates.

    This simple idea will work wonders. If you think about it – any public incident of terrorism probably occurs with 10 civilians in close proximity. Or perhaps many more. Therefore, the chance that one of these people will be holding the handgun, and have very good training, is excellent. and really THIS IS ALL THAT YOU NEED. The calm person with the gun only needs to walk up to the terrorist and calmly shoot them. That’s it. It’s not drama. It is very simple logic. The rest of the public is relying upon the official shooter to make good judgment, so that the ‘background’ for their shot does not include other civilians. But again, really this is not a huge problem. It only requires good training, and calm decisions.

    Good training and very calm decisions can win this battle against random “personal terrorists”. Game over for the terrorists.

    Ironically, in America we have many people who own guns. But a great many of those people are not proficient – and they pose a substantial threat to themselves and others nearby. I have a personal joke about Public Firing Ranges in the USA. “The safest place to be is the bulls eye in the paper target – because that’s the ONE PLACE where the bullets never go!”. Really, it is true. but Israel can overcome this with a thorough training program.

    Game over for the ‘Knife Intifada.’

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Pete, LOL, we’re WAY ahead of you here.

      I’m sure that AT LEAST 10%, and probably a MUCH higher number of the population are already armed. Firstly, nearly all the IDF is armed at all times. It is a very common sight to see soldiers heading to or from home (remember, the front line is just up the road here) on buses ro hitch-hiking, all carrying guns.

      Israel’s gun-licencing laws are very strict and are ENFORCED – unlike the US. A gun-owner first has to obtain a licence before he is allowed to buy a gun. To get this licence he has to fill in numerous forms, explain WHY he needs a gun (living and/or working in the West Bank, or in or near Arab villages, or travelling in these areas, working in security etc.). He/she has to undergo rigorous physical and mental health exams, provide a police report of any criminal background, and undergo firearm-training and pass an exam in firing weapons.

      Only THEN will he get a licence (and not always, though at the moment the gov’t is being slightly more lenient in granting these), and then he can buy a gun.

      The rules for keeping the gun at home are also very strict. The gun has to be kept in a locked drawer or cupboard, and the ammo in a separate locked cupboard. This has prevented the kinds of accidental shootings at home that are so common in the US.

      As for fighting terrorism, first of all, what you describe is already happening on the streets. In almost every case the terrorist has been taken down by passers-by or security forces who are on the spot. That is why our casualties have been much lower than could have been expected, thank G-d. However drive-by shootings of the kidn that killed the Henkins and the Litmans are almost impossible to prevent unless the army gets advance tip-offs and go in to arrest the terrorists before the attack.

      In any event, nearly all the latest attacks have been against army or police personnel, and they are armed already. So while the terrorist might wound or even kill one person, they are usually shot and killed immediately by other security personnel.

      The good training and calm decisions are part and parcel of IDF training. And keep in mind that most of the Israeli population has undergone such training, and those who haven’t are aware of how to act in these attacks because of years of bitter experience.

      It’s not really enough to overcome the knife intifada, but so far it is enough to keep it from getting worse. I hope…. We are still nowhere near the danger levels of the 2nd Intifada where busses and restaurants were blown to bits with dozens killed in each attack, and the roadside shootings almost every day. Let’s pray such a situation never returns.

      And let’s pray that America takes on board Israel’s well-learned lessons both on firearm safety and on combatting terorism.

      • cba says:

        And don’t forget the 3 attackers who were neutralized in the early days by alert citizens using (respectively) nunchuks (he happened to be a martial arts expert), an umbrella, and a selfie-stick.

        Eretz Nehederet (Pete, that’s one of Israel’s leading satirical programs) produced a great video in reaction, which I’m sure Anne has already seen – and which I hope she’ll find because I can’t anymore 😦

  10. Ken Kelso says:

    All Israeli’s need to be armed and with no restrictions to kill Arab murderers.

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