It’s been a very busy week for me so I’m glad to sit back and present you with this week’s Good News Friday post.
Starting with some very exciting news in archeology, an ancient seal of the Prophet Isaiah has been unearthed in Jerusalem:
The hand of the Prophet Isaiah himself may have created an 8th century BCE seal impression discovered in First Temple remains near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, according to Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar.
“We appear to have discovered a seal impression, which may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah, in a scientific, archaeological excavation,” said Mazar this week in a press release announcing the breathtaking discovery.
Mazar’s team uncovered the minuscule bulla, or seal impression, during renewed excavations at the Ophel, located at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The discovery was published on Wednesday in an article, “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” as part of a massive March-June issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review dedicated to its recently retired founding editor, Hershel Shanks.
The clay impression is inscribed with letters and what appears to be a grazing doe, “a motif of blessing and protection found in Judah, particularly in Jerusalem,” according to the BAR article.
The oval-shaped bulla, however, is not intact. On its legible portion, there is an inscription with First Temple Hebrew letters that seem to spell out the name l’Yesha’yah[u] (Belonging to Isaiah). On a line below, there is the partial word nvy, which presumably spells out “prophet.”
“Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at the end of the word nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph, which would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah,” Mazar said.
In the BAR article, Mazar leaves room for the possibility that the inscription on the Isaiah bulla does not refer to the biblical prophet. “Without an aleph at the end, the word nvy is most likely just a personal name. Although it does not appear in the Bible, it does appear on seals and a seal impression on a jar handle, all from unprovenanced, private collections.”
“The name of Isaiah, however, is clear,” she said.
This is incredibly exciting news for the country, for historians, archeologists and most importantly, for the Jewish People, for once again this little seal proves the eternal and unbroken link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
Kol Hakavod to the archeological team and researchers led by Dr. Eilat Mazar.
Moving back to the present day, following the US’s lead, Israel appointed its first female haredi judge this week (via Reality):
The Judicial Selection Committee on Thursday appointed Havi Toker to serve in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, making her Israel’s first female ultra-orthodox judge.
Toker, 41, was born in England and grew up in Bnei Brak as the eldest of 12 brothers and sisters in a well-known ultra-Orthodox family.
She began her legal career in 2003 and has since spent time clerking in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, before working as an attorney in the police investigators unit followed by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office.
The mother-of-four’s nomination was widely praised in Haredi media.
According to the ultra-Orthodox Kikar Hashabat website, Toker defines herself as “modern Haredi,” but a friend told the outlet that she is more Haredi than modern, “even though her eldest son serves in the army.”
Thursday’s appointment of Toker came just over a year after the US appointed its first female ultra-Orthodox judge, Rachel Freier, who began serving on the Brooklyn civil court.
Kol hakavod to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and the Judicial Selection Committee for their forward thinking, and of course mazal tov to Judge Havi Toker. We wish her every success.
And now some excellent news for a change from British academia as we welcome the death of Israel Apartheid Week on British campuses (via long time reader and contributor Brian Goldfarb):
This week, thousands of Jewish students are walking onto their university campuses to be greeted by… nothing. Well, nothing out of the ordinary, that is. Academics are teaching; students are studying. There are sports games, library visits, lunch breaks, submission deadlines, placements, supervisions, J-Soc socials… But that’s all.
Why is this noteworthy? Surely a regular week at university does not warrant a 500-word article. But this week is not like all other weeks.
It’s Israel Apartheid Week.
Since the campaign began in 2005, events have taken place on more than 20 campuses in the UK. In previous years these have been coordinated efforts designed to intimidate Jewish students and cause a commotion: for example, in 2012 a mock checkpoint and an ‘Israeli Apartheid Wall’ were erected at the London School of Economics, leading to physical confrontation.
In stark contrast, this year a scattered handful of speakers will address fewer than 10 universities across the country.
Clearly, Israel Apartheid Week is weakening.
It’s losing the momentum it gained a few years ago; it’s being dragged by tired, worn-out campaigners who can’t admit defeat.
The decline of Israel Apartheid Week mirrors a drop in the presence of the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement on our campuses.
The battle is not over completely unfortunately, but it’s a start:
To be clear, BDS has not disappeared altogether. Jewish students fought at City University, London and UEA recently. They faced awful intimidation and abuse for doing so (a disturbing, but distinct topic); but these are the only two motions we have faced this academic year. This is a drastic drop from the seven we fought last year.
There are still battles to be fought — and we will continue to fight them. A handful of Israel Apartheid Week events is still too many, and Jewish students must be able to challenge BDS motions free from intimidation and abuse; so we still have a long way to go.
We have to keep pushing back at the haters and bigots until they are defeated.
And since we are talking of BDS, here’s a huge #BSDFail: two huge foreign pharmaceutical companies, Merck and WuXi AppTec have partnered together to launch a Biotech incubator in Israel:
Darmstadt, Germany-based multinational chemical, pharmaceutical, and life sciences company The Merck Group, announced Tuesday it has partnered with Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company WuXi AppTec Group to launch ExploreBio pharma and biotech startup incubator in Israel.
Israel-born businessman Mori Arkin and life sciences-focused venture capital fund Pontifax Ltd. are also involved in the venture, Merck said in a statement.
Located at Merck’s existing complex in Yavne, a town in central Israel, the incubator will focus on pre-seed and early stage biotechnology startups. The program will operate with a five-year budget of 20 million euros ($25 million).
In a statement, Merck said that the incubator is looking to invest 1-1.5 million euros ($1.2-1.8 million) per company every year.
This is the third incubator operated by Merck in Israel. Merck’s Yavne site already hosts BioIncubator, the company’s healthcare and life sciences incubator, which was started in 2011 with a budget of 10 million euros ($12 million).
Established in 2000, WuXi AppTec is one of the largest clinical research providers in the world, focusing on biological, cellular and genome medical research as well as on medical equipment inspections.
This new investment in Israel’s scientific future says more about Israel than all the stupid slogans of BDS. It shows that these foreign giants have confidence in Israel’s future and in its scientific and technological prowess. Kol hakavod to the investors and we wish them and the Israeli companies huge success.
This week in the Synagogue we read the portion called “Zachor” – “Remember” – where we are commanded to “remember what Amalek did to you when you left Egypt”. We are also instructed to destroy Amalek and its memory.
There is no better way to destroy our enemies than by building ourselves up, whether by searching for our historical roots through archeology or by building up our innovative, technological industries. The articles I have brought to you here show that we are well on the way to success.
On this note I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!