Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, right, visiting an Iron Dome missile intercept control centre Nov. 14, accompanied by Israel Defence Forces Brig.-Gen. Ran Kochav. (photo from IGPO via Ashernet)
Iron Dome has a success rate of around 90%. Each Israeli missile costs some $50,000 and the cost of each battery has been put at some $100 million, but the number of lives saved and buildings protected makes Iron Dome one of the most significant military developments.
A 1,400-year-old hammer and nails, found at the ancient city of Usha. (photo by Yoli Schwartz/IAA via Ashernet)
An Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) excavation some 15 kilometres east of Haifa at the ancient city of Usha revealed a 1,400-year-old hammer and nails, confirming that the ancient inhabitants of Usha manufactured iron tools.
The IAA’s community excavation, carried out predominantly by youth and volunteers, has exposed part of a Jewish settlement with ritual baths, oil presses and winepresses. Indications are that the primary occupation of the Usha inhabitants was the large-scale processing of the olive trees and vines they cultivated on the surrounding hills. The discovery of the ritual baths indicates that the Jewish press workers took care to purify themselves in the ritual baths in order to manufacture ritually pure oil and wine.
According to Yair Amitzur, director of the excavation and of the Sanhedrin Trail Project for the IAA, “the settlement of Usha is mentioned in the Jewish sources many times in the Roman and Byzantine periods, as the village where the institution of the Sanhedrin was renewed, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and after the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE. The Sanhedrin was the central Jewish council and law court, and it was headed by the president, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel the Second, who presided in Usha, and then his son, Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi. Here, in Usha, the rabbis of the Sanhedrin made decrees to enable the Jewish people to recover after the war against the Romans, and to reconstruct Jewish life in the Galilee.”
A mosaic revealed during the excavation of the “Burnt Church” in Hippos. (photos by Michael Eisenberg via Ashernet)
A mosaic was revealed during the excavation of the “Burnt Church” in Hippos, which was built in the second half of the fifth or in the early sixth century CE and was probably burnt down during the Sasanian conquest in the beginning of the seventh century. According to the researchers, the descriptions in the mosaic, along with the location of the church, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, raise the connection to the “Feeding the Multitude,” the miracle performed by Jesus in the area, according to the New Testament. “There can certainly be different explanations to the descriptions of loaves and fish in the mosaic, but you cannot ignore the similarity to the description in the New Testament: for example, from the fact that the New Testament has a description of five loaves in a basket, or the two fish depicted in the apse, as we find in the mosaic,” said Dr. Michael Eisenberg, head of the excavation team in Hippos on behalf of the Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa, along with colleague Arleta Kowalewska. The excavation of the church specifically was placed in the hands of Jessica Rentz from the United States, who has exposed its entire internal area.
During the preservation process, headed by Yana Vitkalov from the Israel Antiquities Authority, most of the mosaic area was cleaned and preserved, and most of its decorations and two inscriptions in Greek were exposed. The first one tells about the two fathers of the church, Theodoros and Petros, constructing a sanctuary for a martyr, while the second one, which is located inside a medallion at the centre of the mosaic, exposes the name of the martyr, Theodoros. An initial reading of the inscriptions was done by Dr. Gregor Staab from the University of Cologne in Germany, expedition epigraphist.
Eisenberg continues to be cautious about the interpretation of the new mosaic. “Nowadays, we tend to regard the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, on the northwest of the Sea of Galilee, as the location of the miracle, but with careful reading of the New Testament, it is evident that it might have taken place north of Hippos within the city’s region.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin talks to Rabbi Eitan Shnerb at Hadassah Medical Centre in Ein Kerem on Aug 26. On the right is Shnerb’s son, Dvir, 19, who was also seriously wounded in a bomb blast near the settlement of Dolev. The rabbi’s 17-year-old daughter Rina was killed instantly. The three were hiking when the bomb was detonated. Rina’s funeral was held in the family’s hometown of Lod on Aug. 23. The blast was the latest in a series of terrorist attacks and clashes recently in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
A few years ago, the sight of a parrot in the Israeli sky was a rare event but invasive species have arrived, causing agricultural and other damage and threatening native biodiversity. Brought to the Middle East and Europe as pets, escaped or released parrots have established numerous wild populations across the area. ParrotNet – a European and Middle East network of scientists, practitioners and policymakers dedicated to research on invasive parrots, their impacts and the challenges they present – has concluded that measures to prevent parrots from invading new areas are paramount for limiting future harm. According to lead researcher Dr. Assaf Shwartz of the Technion in Haifa, “Today in Israel there are more than 200 populations of parrot species originating in South America and India…. These populations are growing every year and, today, there are more than 10,000 ring-necked parakeets and monk parakeets in Israel.”
This pre-Columbian cultural artifact at the University of Haifa is one of the mysterious art objects from Puerto Rico that were alleged to have been made by members of the Ten Lost Tribes. “This is definitely one of the strangest and most fascinating stories I’ve ever been involved in,” stated the university’s Dr. Iris Groman-Yaroslavsky. “To date, we have not found any similar carved stone art objects from this region of the Americas and, therefore, many researchers assumed that they must be fake. However, the microscopic tests we performed show beyond any doubt that the stones were carved around 600 years ago.”
The story of these art objects, known as the “Library of Agüeybaná,” goes back to the 19th century, when a Puerto Rican monk by the name of José María Nazario presented a collection of some 800 carved stone statuettes, some of which had a clearly human form while others appeared to be artistic or ritual items. No similar statuettes or art objects have ever been found from this region, and it was he who claimed the Lost Tribes connection. In 2001, a research student named Reniel Rodríguez Ramos saw the stones during a study trip and was enchanted. He completed his doctorate in pre-Columbian cultures and returned to investigate the stones. Eventually, he came to Groman-Yaroslavsky’s lab, which specializes in microscopic examinations.
Dozens of undamaged pottery vessels have been discovered so far at the site.(photos from Israel Antiquities Authority via Ashernet)
In 2015, archeologists began an excavation in the Judean Foothills, between Kiryat Gat and Lachish. In research conducted in a cooperative venture by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, the archeologists believe they have found the Philistine town of Ziklag. Dozens of undamaged pottery vessels have been discovered so far at the site, and it has been determined that the vessels are at least 3,000 years old.
Ziklag is a Philistine name, given to the town by immigrants from the Aegean. It is mentioned many times in the Bible in relation to David (in both Samuel I and II). According to the biblical narrative, Achish, king of Gat, allowed David to find refuge in Ziklag while fleeing King Saul and, from there, David departed to be anointed king in Hebron. Ziklag was also the town that the Amalekites, desert nomads, raided and burned, taking women and children captive.
“Until now, there has not been any meaningful direct archeological evidence of workshops for the production of purple-coloured textiles from the Iron Age – the biblical period – not even in Tyre and Sidon [in Lebanon], which were the main Phoenician centres for the manufacture of purple dye. If we have identified our findings correctly, Tel Shikmona, on the Carmel Coast [in Israel], has just become one of the most unique archeological sites in the region,” explained Prof. Ayelet Gilboa and PhD candidate Golan Shalvi from the University of Haifa, who are studying finds that have been guarded in various storerooms in Haifa since the 1960s and ’70s.
Tel Shikmona is known mainly for its surrounding Byzantine settlement, including some splendid mosaics. The Iron Age settlement dates to the 11th to 6th centuries BCE, corresponding in biblical terms to the period of the judges, the United Monarchy (Saul, David and Solomon), the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and the Assyrian/Babylonian epoch. It occupies about five dunams (a bit more than one acre) out of the 100-dunam site of the Byzantine city at its peak. A section of the tel was excavated between 1963 and 1977 by Dr. Yosef Elgavis on behalf of the Haifa Museum, with the active support of then-Haifa mayor Abba Hushi. The site was known by archeologists and experts to have yielded rich material findings; for various reasons, however, these have never been published in a comprehensive manner.
The wealth of findings is associated with the Phoenician culture, including an unusual number of vessels imported from overseas, and it is the largest collection of ceramic vats found anywhere in the world from the first millennium BCE that still preserve purple colouring (made from the glands of murex snails). “Rather than being considered a region of secondary importance in this period, the Carmel Coast can now gain its rightful place as one of the most important production areas of the dye in ancient times in general, and during the biblical period in particular,” concluded the researchers.
The Shikmona project is being undertaken under the auspices of the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa, with the support of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the National Maritime Museum in Haifa, where some of the findings are displayed.
A special cabinet meeting was convened in the Golan Heights on June 16 to name a new settlement there in honour of U.S. President Donald Trump. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, together with U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, attended the special meeting, unveiling a sign reading Ramat Trump (Trump Heights) in Hebrew and English. The decision to name the settlement after the U.S. president was as a sign of appreciation for the Trump administration’s support of Israel. While Ramat Trump does not presently exist, the planned location is next to an isolated outpost with no more than 10 residents. It appears on paper that the plan is to build some 110 new homes. The Golan Heights is of strategic importance to Israel – before 1967, when Syria had control of the area, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which is located below the heights, was constantly being fired upon from Syrian positions, making life unbearable for the residents of that part of the Galilee.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, in Jerusalem in May 2018. (photo from Ashernet)
Nechama Rivlin died June 4 at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, at the age of 73. She had undergone a lung transplant operation three months ago because of pulmonary fibrosis. She received a lung from Yair Yehezkel Halabli, 19, of Ramat Gan, who drowned in Eilat. President Rivlin extended his family’s thanks to the Halabli family, “who donated their late son Yair’s lung, for their inspiring nobility and wonderful deed.”
Nechama Rivlin was born in 1945 in Moshav Herut in the Sharon region. She completed high school at the Emek Hefer Ruppin Regional School. In 1964, she began studying natural sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After graduating, she worked at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a researcher in the department of zoology, and other departments. In addition, she studied modern, classical and ancient art. In 1971, she married Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin and settled in Jerusalem. They have three children and many grandchildren; she was sister to Varda.
Rivlin’s fondness for Hebrew literature and art led her to write from time to time about writers and artists, who particularly appreciated the posts she published on the official Facebook page of the president. She generally began her posts with the words, “Hello everyone, Nechama here,” and signed them “Yours, Nechama.” In 2018, she established the President’s Award for Hebrew Poetry.