The days and weeks run away with us and it’s time for another Good News Friday post.
Starting with antisemitism news, or rather anti-anti-semitism (☺) here is some excellent news from England.
The execrable Malia Bouattia lost her position as President of the National Union of Students in their elections this week – and not a moment too soon. Even better, the incoming President, Shakira Martin, has a positive record on Israel and antisemitism:
Malia Bouattia has been defeated in her bid for re-election as President of the National Union of Students (NUS). Shakira Martin has been elected to succeed Bouattia and we look forward to getting to know her better and working with her to root out antisemitism in the organisation
Bouattia has previously called Birmingham University a “Zionist outpost in higher education” because it has “the largest Jsoc [Jewish student society] in the country.” She has railed against “Zionist-led media outlets”, defended Palestinian terrorism as “resistance” and voted against condemning ISIS. When called on by Campaign Against Antisemitism and countless student leaders to retract her comments, she penned an article in TheGuardian claiming that her accusers were simply sexists and racists. Bouattia since refused to confirm that Israel has a right to even exist, and told an audience at the School of Oriental and African Studies that the government’s anti-terrorism strategy is led by “Zionist and neo-con lobbies”. Last July Bouattia drew further condemnation when she used her casting vote to strip Jewish students of their ability to elect their own representative.
Let’s hope Ms. Martin lives up to her promises. We wish her, the NUS and the Jewish students lots of success.
David Ward, the former Liberal Democrat MP who accused Jews of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians” has been sacked as a general election candidate by the party.
Mr Ward had intended to stand as a Lib Dem candidate in Bradford East, where he lost his seat at the 2015 election.
Tim Farron, Lib Dem leader, said: “I believe in a politics that is open, tolerant and united. David Ward is unfit to represent the party and I have sacked him.”
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) said: “The action taken by Tim Farron to sack David Ward as a candidate for the 2017 General Election is the right one and we welcome it.
“The selection of David Ward for Bradford East was an error, and rightly criticised by politicians from all parties. Mr Ward’s views are offensive, and he has been an unrepentant serial offender. It is important that all parties have a zero tolerance approach to antisemitism”.
Of course there is a still a long way to go to remove antisemitism in the Lib-Dem party, as Sir Eric Pickles remarked, but this is a very good start – and one that Labour would do well to emulate, but almost certainly won’t.
Let’s take a totally different track now, and head back to Israel, to an incredible biotech-related story: Glowing bacteria which can discover landmines:
Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem say they may have found a way to remotely detect unexploded landmines by using a combination of lasers and molecularly engineered bacteria that glow in proximity to the explosives.
Buried landmines, which injure or kill 15,000-20,000 people each year, emit tiny quantities of explosive vapors which accumulate in the soil above them. This observation prompted the Hebrew University researchers, led by Prof. Shimshon Belkin of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, to use bacteria that emit a fluorescent signal when they come into contact with these vapors to detect the mines.
They enclosed the bacteria in small polymeric beads, which were then scattered across the surface of a test field in which real antipersonnel landmines were buried. Using a laser-based scanning system, the test field was remotely scanned and the researchers were able to determine the location of the buried explosives.
The Hebrew U researchers said that the signals from the bacteria can be recorded and quantified from remote locations, making their test field, they believe, the first time landmines have been detected remotely.
“Our field data show that engineered biosensors may be useful in a landmine detection system,” said Belkin in a statement.
If this experiment turns out to be successful it could save the lives of thousands of people each year who are killed or maimed in landmine explosions. Kol hakavod to Prof. Shimshon Belkin and his team of Hebrew University researchers for their innovative work.
And from futuristic almost science-fiction, let us head back into the distant past (via Reality) where a unique mother-of-pearl menorah etching was discovered in Caesarea, in northern Israel, during an extensive restoration project of the ancient city:
A 1,500-year-old mother-of-pearl tablet inscribed with a six-branched menorah, which was likely part of a box housing a Torah scroll, was recently found at the ancient Roman city of Caesarea, on Israel’s coast, archaeologists announced Wednesday.
The artifact, the first of its kind made of the precious material bearing Jewish iconography, was among an assortment of discoveries made by the Israel Antiquities Authority amid new excavations carried out as part of the restoration of the ancient port. It was found close to a Roman-era temple dedicated to Augustus Caesar that was constructed by King Herod in the first century BCE, but dates to the fourth or fifth centuries CE.
The find was made just a few days before the Jewish festival of Passover, which began on April 10, said Israel Antiques Authority archaeologist Peter Gendelman.
According to Gendelman the small slab of mother-of-pearl, likely dating from the late Roman-Byzantine period of the 4th-5th centuries CE, “points to clear Jewish presence at Caesarea during this period.”
The tablet came from what was “probably some kind of box,” he added, “I can even say probably for a Sefer Torah,” the handwritten scroll containing the first five books of the Old Testament that lie at the heart of Jewish law.
What a fantastic find! The object is both beautiful and of enormous historical interest, particularly as it is one more proof – if ever such proof were needed – of the Jews’ ancient and historical presence in and ties to the Land of Israel.
This is the perfect note to conclude this post, as we read our own Sifrei Torah in shul tomorrow, on Shabbat. And so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.