Saturday, July 27, 2013

Over a hundred Palestinian prisoners to be released - almost all murderers

The Israeli government will probably be releasing over a hundred Palestinian prisoners (almost all of them murderers) as part of the process of restarting the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, and their names have just been released. (The decision has to be voted on by the cabinet, and according to Haaretz, Netanyahu may have a hard time getting enough people to vote for the releases). It's painful to see who some of these people are:

In the fall of 1988 Jumaa Adem and Mahmoud Kharbish killed Rachel Weiss and her three children (Ephraim, Raphael, and Netanel) and David Dolorosa, who tried to save the lives of the four. They died in a molotov cocktail attack on the vehicle in the Jordan Valley. I remember this - I was in Israel then, during the first intifada.

In 1989 Israeli Prize Laureate Menahem Stern was murdered in the Valley of the Cross as he was walking to National Library on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. I was also in Israel at the time. His murder was especially painful, because he was a great scholar of Second Temple Jewish history. These are some of his publications (list from Wikipedia):
  • The Great Families of the Period of the Second Temple (1959)
  • The Documentation of the Maccabee Rebellion (1965)
  • Greek and Latin authors on Jews and Judaism/ edited with introductions, translations and commentary by Menahem Stern. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, (c1974-c1984)
  • Studies in the History of the People of Israel in the Period of the Second Temple (1991, published posthumously)
  • The Reign of Herod (1992, published posthumously)
  • Hasmonean Judea in the Hellenistic World: Chapters in Political History (1995, published posthumously)
Mahmoud Issa, who led the terrorist cell that kidnapped and murdered Border Guard officer Nissim Toledano on December 12, 1992 (The ynet article has the date wrong). I remember this murder too. I was in Israel for the year doing research for my dissertation, and I was sitting in the Scholem Library when the word came that Toledano had been killed. He had been kidnapped with the aim of exchanging him for Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, who was in an Israeli prison. When the deadline for the exchange passed, Toledano was killed by his captors.

Note: Ynet has just published the complete list in Hebrew:,7340,L-4410284,00.html.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jerusalem from Har Gilo

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine took me up to the top of Har Gilo (Mt. Gilo), which is just south of Jerusalem, across the Green Line (the border that used to exist between Israel and Jordan from 1949 to 1967). As my last post notes, Israeli settlements on the other side of the Green Line are not recognized as legitimate by any other state, but that has not stopped the Israeli government from either deliberately planning them or allowing them to be built. Har Gilo is right next to the Palestinian village of Walaje. Israel has almost entirely enclosed Walaje with the separation wall, even though since 1967, Walaje is within the Israeli-defined Jerusalem municipal boundaries.

In this map (a screenshot from Google Maps), the 1949 armistice line is represented by the dotted grey line.

After the 1967 war, Israel annexed east Jerusalem and a good deal of other land north and south of the city, including where Walaje is. This map shows the post-1967 municipal boundaries. I've marked where Har Gilo is. It's from PASSIA (Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs).

And here are some of my photographs from the visit to Har Gilo. The first two are of Jerusalem north from Har Gilo.

In the top of the photo you can see the Chords Bridge, at the western entrance of Jerusalem.

The hideous tall building in the center of the photograph is of the tower from the Holyland apartment development, surrounded by less tall but equally ugly buildings. Several people have been convicted of corruption in the building of the development.
On the horizon, the left hand tower is part of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at Mt. Scopus. The right hand tower is on the Mt. of Olives.

We're looking north towards the Jerusalem Zoo. The low building with a domed roof close to us is of the aviary.
Part of Walaje. Notice the high concrete wall - this is the separation wall, cutting of Walaje from the rest of Jerusalem.
Another photo of Walaje, also showing the separation wall, and beyond it, a large cleared area - for what, I don't know.
A view from Har Gilo towards the west, I think - I don't know what the hill we're looking toward is.

I took this photo on our way back to Jerusalem because I wanted a picture of the misty hills going off in the distance. I'm not sure what this view shows.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New EU guidelines limit funding to pre-1967 borders of Israel

The EU has just issued new guidelines for funding entities in Israel which restrict grants to the pre-1967 boundaries of Israel. This means that it will not fund anything based in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or the Golan Heights. On the other hand, there will be no bar to funding anything involving the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Below are the guidelines, as published today in Haaretz.



on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activities in the territories occupied by Israel since
June 1967 for grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU from 2014 onwards


1.  These guidelines set out the conditions under which the Commission will implement key requirements for the award of EU support to Israeli entities or to their activities in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967. Their aim is to ensure the respect of EU positions and commitments in conformity with international law on the non-recognition by the EU of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967. These guidelines are without prejudice to other requirements established by EU legislation.

2. The territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 comprise the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

3. The EU does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over any of the territories referred to in point 2 and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory(1), irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law(2). The EU has made it clear that it will not recognise any changes to pre-1967 borders, other than those agreed by the parties to the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).(3) The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council has underlined the importance of limiting the application of agreements with Israel to the territory of Israel as recognised by the EU.(4)

4. These guidelines do not cover EU support in the form of grants, prizes or financial instruments awarded to Palestinian entities or to their activities in the territories referred to in point 2, nor any eligibility conditions set up for this purpose. In particular, they do not cover any agreements between the EU, on the one hand, and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation or the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand.
On the territorial application of the EU-Israel Association Agreement see Case C-386/08 Brita  [2010] ECR I-1289, paragraphs 47 and 53. 
Under Israeli law, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are annexed to the State of Israel, whereas the Gaza Strip and the rest of the West Bank are referred to as 'the territories'. 
See inter alia  the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on the MEPP adopted in December 2009, December 2010, April 2011, May and December 2012. 
The Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on the MEPP adopted on 10 December 2012 state that 'all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967'.

5.  These guidelines apply to EU support in the form of grants, prizes or financial instruments within the meaning of Titles VI, VII and VIII of the Financial Regulation(5) which may be awarded to Israeli entities or to their activities in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967. Their application is without prejudice to specific eligibility conditions which may be laid down in the relevant basic act.

6. These guidelines apply:
(a)   for grants – to all applicants and beneficiaries, irrespective of their role (sole beneficiary, coordinator or co-beneficiary). This includes entities participating in the action on a no-cost basis(6) and affiliated entities within the meaning of Article 122(2) of the Financial Regulation. This does not include contractors or sub-contractors selected by grant beneficiaries in conformity with procurement rules. As regards third parties referred to in Article 137 of the Financial Regulation, in the cases where the costs of financial support to such third parties are eligible under a call for proposals the authorising officer responsible may, where appropriate, specify in the call for proposals and in the grant agreements or decisions that the eligibility criteria set out in these guidelines also apply to the persons that may receive financial support by the beneficiaries.
(b)   for prizes – to all participants and winners in contests;
(c)   for financial instruments – to dedicated investment vehicles, financial intermediaries and sub-intermediaries and to final recipients.

7. These guidelines apply to grants, prizes and financial instruments managed, as the case may
be, by the Commission, by executive agencies (direct management) or by bodies entrusted
with budget implementation tasks in accordance with Article 58(1)(c) of the Financial
Regulation (indirect management).

8. These guidelines apply to grants, prizes and financial instruments funded from appropriations of the 2014 financial year and subsequent years and authorised by financing decisions adopted after the adoption of the guidelines.
 Regulation (EU, Euratom) No. 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No. 1605/2002, Official Journal of the EU L-298 of 26 October 2012. 
6 In which case the Israeli entity will finance its participation with funding from other sources, but will nonetheless be treated as a beneficiary and may therefore have access to know-how, services, networking and other opportunities developed by the other beneficiaries as a result of the EU grant. 

9.  As regards the place of establishment of Israeli entities:
(a) In the case of grants and prizes, only Israeli entities having their place of establishment within Israel’s pre-1967 borders will be considered eligible.
(b) In the case of financial instruments, only Israeli entities having their place of establishment within Israel’s pre-1967 borders will be considered eligible as final recipients.

10.  The place of establishment is understood to be the legal address where the entity is registered, as confirmed by a precise postal address corresponding to a concrete physical location. The use of a post office box is not allowed.

11. The requirements set out in section C:
(a)   apply to the following types of legal persons: Israeli regional or local authorities and other public bodies, public or private companies or corporations and other private legal persons, including non-governmental not-for-profit organisations;
(b)   do not apply to Israeli public authorities at national level (ministries and government agencies or authorities);
(c)   do not apply to natural persons.


12.  As regards the activities/operations of Israeli entities:
(a)   In the case of grants and prizes, the activities of Israeli entities carried out in the framework of EU-funded grants and prizes will be considered eligible if they do not take place in the territories referred to in point 2, either partially or entirely.
(b)   In the case of financial instruments, Israeli entities will be considered eligible as final recipients if they do not operate in the territories referred to in point 2, either in the framework of EU-funded financial instruments or otherwise.

13. Any activity or part thereof(7) included in an application for an EU grant or prize which does
not meet the requirements set out in point 12(a) will be considered as ineligible and will not be considered as part of the application for the purpose of its further evaluation.

14.  The requirements set out in section D:
(a)   apply to activities under point 12 carried out by the following types of legal persons: Israeli regional or local authorities and other public bodies, public or private companies or corporations and other private legal persons, including non-governmental not-for-profit organisations;
(b)   apply also to activities under point 12 carried out by Israeli public authorities at national level (ministries and government agencies or authorities);
(c)   do not apply to activities under point 12 carried out by natural persons.

15.  Notwithstanding points 12-14 above, the requirements set out in section D do not apply to activities which, although carried out in the territories referred to in point 2, aim at benefiting protected persons under the terms of international humanitarian law who live in these territories and/or at promoting the Middle East peace process in line with EU policy.(8)
7 For example, these could be nation-wide projects to be implemented in Israel, which involve both activities within pre-1967 borders and activities beyond pre-1967 borders (e.g. in settlements).  
8 For example, these could be activities under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility and/or the Partnership for Peace programme. 

16. Each Israeli entity referred to in points 11(a)&(b) and 14(a)&(b), which applies for an EU grant, prize or financial instrument, shall submit a declaration on honour as follows:
(a)   In the case of grants and prizes, the declaration will state that the application of the Israeli entity is in accordance with the requirements under points 9(a) and 12(a) of these guidelines, while also taking into account the applicability of point 15 thereof.(9) For grants, this declaration will be drafted in accordance with Article 131(3) of the Financial Regulation.
(b)   In the case of financial instruments, the declaration will state that the application of
the Israeli entity as a final recipient is in accordance with the requirements under points 9(b)
and 12(b) of these guidelines.

17. The declarations under point 16 are without prejudice to any other supporting documents required in the calls for proposals, rules of contests or calls for the selection of financial intermediaries or dedicated investment vehicles. They will be included in the package of application documents for each concerned call for proposals, rules of contests and call for the selection of financial intermediaries or dedicated investment vehicles. Their text will be adapted to the requirements relevant for each EU grant, prize or financial instrument.

18. The submission of a declaration under point 16 that contains incorrect information may be
considered as a case of misrepresentation or a serious irregularity and may lead:
(a)   for grants – to the measures set out in Article 131(5) and 135 of the Financial Regulation,
(b)   for prizes – to the measures set out in Article 212(1)(viii) of the Rules of Application
of the Financial Regulation(10) and,
(c) for financial instruments – to the measures set out in Article 221(3) of the Rules of Application of the Financial Regulation.

19. The Commission will implement these guidelines in their entirety, and in a clear and accessible manner. It will notably announce the eligibility conditions set out in Sections C and D in the work programmes(11) and/or financing decisions, calls for proposals, rules of contests and calls for the selection of financial intermediaries or dedicated investment vehicles.

20. The Commission will ensure that the work programmes and calls for proposals, rules of contests and calls for the selection of financial intermediaries or dedicated investment vehicles published by the bodies entrusted with budget implementation tasks under indirect management contain the eligibility conditions set out in Sections C and D.

21. In order to clearly articulate EU commitments under international law, taking into account relevant EU policies and positions, the Commission will also endeavour to have the content of these guidelines reflected in international agreements or protocols thereto or Memoranda of Understanding with Israeli counterparts or with other parties.

22. The award of EU support to Israeli entities or to their activities in the form of grants, prizes or financial instruments requires engagement with Israeli entities referred to in points 11 and 14, for example, by organising meetings, visits or events. Such engagement will not take place in the territories referred to in point 2, unless it is related to the activities referred to in point 15. 
9 In the case of Israeli public authorities at national level (ministries and government agencies/authorities), the declaration will contain an address for communication purposes that is within Israel’s pre-1967 borders and that complies with point 10.  
10 Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No. 1268/2012 of 29 October 2012 on the rules of application of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No. 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, Official Journal of the EU L-362 of 31 December 2012.  
11 Subject to the outcome of the comitology procedures that may be required by the relevant basic act. 

"The Gate of Mercy" - for a sad Tisha B'Av

This is a beautiful song by Meir Banai, for Tisha B'Av



I going around in the old city
and noise comes from every corner
I already know,
I know my way already
on the way to the gate of mercy

I don't look around
I don't listen
I'm a dreaming man
and so it was always
but I already know
I know my way already
on the way to the gate of mercy

I live once, just once
there's a sense, there's no sense
with strength, without strength
the gate of mercy.
Come with me together
come from the midst of fear
because you, you are also a part
of the gate of mercy.

The sign boards over the stores
they watch over the streets
in my heart there's a scream and it's great
show me the gate of mercy.

I live once, just once...

Confirmed: Fracking Triggers Quakes and Seismic Chaos

I haven't been that eager to jump on the bandwagon against fracking, despite the fact that it seems like everyone I know in Ithaca is vehemently opposed to it - perhaps because I simply haven't done enough reading about its dangers. This study reported in Mother Jones, however, seems pretty good proof that fracking can cause local earthquakes, in response to earthquakes far away. Here's part of the article, but read the whole thing at Mother Jones.

Major earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger reflex quakes in areas where fluids have been injected into the ground from fracking and other industrial operations, according to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday. 
Previous studies, covered in a recent Mother Jones feature from Michael Behar, have shown that injecting fluids into the ground can increase the seismicity of a region. This latest study shows that earthquakes can tip off smaller quakes in far-away areas where fluid has been pumped underground.
Drillers inject high-pressure fluids into a hydraulic fracturing well, making slight fissures in the shale that release natural gas. The wastewater that flows back up with the gas is then transported to disposal wells, where it is injected deep into porous rock. Scientists now believe that the pressure and lubrication of that wastewater can cause faults to slip and unleash an earthquake. 
Illustration: Leanne Kroll. Animation: Brett Brownell

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More on Semitic cats

I should be heading off to the library to work on my chapter on Testament of Job, Joseph and Aseneth, and Philo, instead of writing blog posts, but when it comes to cats, it's hard to resist.

My cat Zachary, a North American cat
One of the commenters on my earlier blogpost about cat names pointed me to an interesting article by John Huehnergard on Semitic (in particular, Arabic) names for cats. The article is entitled "Qitta: Arabic Cats," in a Festschrift for Wolfhart Heinrichs, Classical Arabic Humanities in Their Own Terms (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 407-418.

On page 407, he says that "while a common word for 'dog' appears in nearly all of the Semitic languages, allowing us to reconstruct a Proto-Semitic word *kalb-, there is no pan-Semitic word for 'cat'; instead, a variety of terms is attested." The situation is similar in Indo-European. He posits that this is because the cat was domesticated so much more recently than that the dog, and says that "It is generally agreed that the cat was first domesticated in Egypt, some four thousand years ago." Recent genetic studies, however, have shown that cats were domesticated about 10,000 years ago, at about the dawn of agriculture (as I have posted earlier in this blog).

On page 408, he uses a delightful story to illustrate the wide variety of terms for cats in Arabic: sinnawr, hirr, qitt, daywan, hayda, haytal, dam. The article then goes on to discuss these and several more.

One name for cats in Arabic is bass or biss - meaning "cat" and "sound made to a cat." As he comments, "They are similar, of course, to English puss (also in other Germanic languages) and to Berber muss (found also in Moroccan Arabic), all of which are probably onomatopoetic imitations of feline hissing."

On page 408, he writes about the word haytal, and he speculates that the word might be connected to Mishnaic and later Hebrew hatul (חתול) and Jewish Aramaic htula (חתולא). "All of these may
have been influenced by medieval Latin cat(t)ulus 'kitten,' i.e., small cat(t)us."

Another name is sinnawr. As he writes (p. 411), "Several eastern Aramaic dialects, namely, Syriac, Babylonian Jewish Aramaic, and Mandaic, have a form sun(n)ara 'cat'. This form is a metathetic variant of surana, which is also attested in Babylonian Aramaic. The latter first appears in the consonantal writing srn in the eighth century BCE Aramaic inscription from Sefire, where it probably denoted a local wildcat; it occurs in a curse formula alongside other animals that frequented abandoned sites:
May Arpad become a tell for [the inhabitants of the si,] the gazelle, the fox, the hare, the wildcat (srn), the owl, [...] and the magpie.
On page 412 he writes that the earliest attested Semitic word for "(wild)cat," Akkadian suranum, appears in an Old Babylonian text from the time of Hammurapi (early 18th century BCE). In Old Akkadian texts from the third millennium BCE, suranum is a personal name.

On page 413 he writes about qitt(a), dialectically qatt and qutt. This name is connected with Syriac qatta/qattu and "unavoidably, it seems, with Greek kattos, katta, and Latin cat(t)us, catta from the early centuries C.E. (the latter replacing feles when the domestic cat was introduced into Rome) and the wide array of similar forms in European languages." Some of the Arabic lexicographers considered the word qitt already to be a borrowed word. This word was not borrowed from Egyptian, where the word was miw, with Coptic emou - as he says, miw is imitative, and seems to me to be like our English word miaow, for the sound a cat makes. On page 414 he comments that one of the Arabic terms for cat is al-ma'i'a or al-ma'iyya - "the form of a participle of the onomatopoetic verb ma'a, 'to mew.'" It might also reflect the ancient Egyptian miw.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Templers: How the German Colony (and Emek Refaim) got their names

The BBC News magazine has a fascinating article today on the "Templers: German settlers who left their mark on Palestine."
In the late 19th Century a group of German Christians called the Templers settled in the Holy Land on a religious mission. What began with success though ended three generations later, destroyed by the rise of Nazism and the war.

Kurt Eppinger's community of German Christians arrived in the Holy Land to carry out a messianic plan - but after less than a century its members were sent into exile, the vision of their founding fathers brought to an abrupt and unhappy end.

The Germans were no longer welcome in what had been first a part of the Ottoman Empire, then British Mandate Palestine and would soon become Israel.

"On 3 September 1939, we were listening to the BBC and my father said: 'War has been declared' - and the next minute there was a knock at the door and a policeman came and took my father and all the men in the colony away."

Aged 14 at the time, Kurt was part of a Christian group called the Templers. He lived in a settlement in Jerusalem - the district still known as the German Colony today.

By the late 1940s though, the entire Templer community of seven settlements across Palestine had been deported, never to return.

They had landed two generations earlier, led by Christoph Hoffmann, a Protestant theologian from Ludwigsburg in Wuerttemberg, who believed the Second Coming of Christ could be hastened by building a spiritual Kingdom of God in the Holy Land.

Kurt's grandfather, Christian, was among several dozen people who joined Hoffmann in relocating from Germany to Haifa in Palestine in 1869.

Hoffmann had split from the Lutheran Evangelical Church in 1861, taking his cue from New Testament concepts of Christians as "temples" embodying God's spirit, and as a community acting together to build God's "temple" among mankind.

But building a community in what was then a neglected land was an immensely difficult endeavour. Much of the ground was swamp, malaria was rife and infant mortality was high.

"The Templers saw 'Zion' [Biblical synonym for Jerusalem and the Holy Land] as their second homeland," says David Kroyanker, author of The German Colony and Emek Refaim Street. "But it was like being on the moon - they came from a very developed country to nowhere....

Symbols of their fervent religious beliefs are still evident in the Jerusalem neighbourhood where the Templers began to settle in 1873. They named the district Emek Refaim (Valley of Refaim) after a place in the Bible, and verses from the Scriptures, inscribed in Gothic lettering, survive on the lintels of their former homes.

Most of the buildings, with their distinctive red-tiled roofs and green shutters, are intact (protected by a preservation order) and lend the district a continental elegance which has helped make it one of Jerusalem's most expensive areas....

Rosemarie Hahn, who was born in the Jerusalem colony in 1928, recalls the period with a deep sense of nostalgia.

"I have only happy memories," she says, her German accent, like Kurt's, still discernible. "For us as children it was like living in our own homeland - we didn't know anything else. We were friends with everybody - my best friends in kindergarten were a Jewish girl and an Arab girl. English, Jewish, Arab, Armenian - everybody was accepted into our school. But that changed after 1934. My Jewish friend was taken out of school, and my brother had a Jewish friend who never came back - because of the politics."

By this time, the Nazi party had risen to power in Germany and the ripples had spread to expatriate communities, including in Palestine. A branch was established in Haifa by Templer Karl Ruff in 1933, and other Templer colonies followed, including Jerusalem.

While National Socialism caught the imagination of many of the younger, less religious Templers, it met resistance from the older generation.

"The older Templers were afraid that the Fuehrer would overtake Jesus ideologically," says Mr Kroyanker. Many of the young people were easily influenced by Nazism - there were many young Templers who studied in Germany at the time... and when they came back they were very excited about Nazism. At the beginning there was some sort of disagreement between the older generation and the newer generation, and in the end the newer generation won the battle."

In Jerusalem, a teacher at one of the Templer schools, Ludwig Buchhalter, became the local party chief and led efforts to ensure Nazism permeated all aspects of German life there.

The British Boy Scouts and Girl Guides which operated in the German Colony were replaced by the Hitler Youth and League of German Maidens. Workers joined the Nazi Labour Organisation and party members greeted each other in the street with "Heil Hitler" and a Nazi salute.

Under pressure from Buchhalter, some Germans boycotted Jewish businesses in Jerusalem (while Jews did the same in return)....

The extent to which the Templers as a whole adopted Nazism is a matter of historical debate. While some were enthusiastic followers, others were less committed, and among others still there was defiance and resistance.

"You can find dozens of those who were really active and you can find those who were going with the stream and others who were afraid not to go into the party, exactly as you could find in Germany," says Dr Eisler.

Figures vary, but according to Heidemarie Wawrzyn, whose book Nazis in the Holy Land 1933-1948 is due to be published next week, about 75% of Germans in Palestine who belonged to the Nazi party, or were in some way associated with it, were Templers. She says more than 42% of all Templers participated in Nazi activities in Palestine.

As war loomed in Europe, once again the position of the Templers in Palestine became insecure. In August 1939, all eligible Germans in Palestine received call-up papers from Germany, and by the end of the month some 249 had left to join the Wehrmacht.

On 3 September 1939, when Britain (along with France) declared war on Germany, all Germans in Palestine were, for the second time, classed as enemy aliens and four Templer settlements were sealed off and turned into internment camps.

Men of military age, including the fathers of Kurt and Rosemarie, were sent to a prison near Acre, while their families were ordered into the camps. For the next two years at least, the Templers were allowed to function as agricultural communities behind barbed wire and under guard, but it was the beginning of the end.

In July 1941, more than 500 were deported to Australia, while between 1941 and 1944 400 more were repatriated to Germany by train as part of three exchanges with the Nazis for Jews held in ghettos and camps.

A few hundred Templers remained in Palestine after the war but there was no chance of rebuilding their former communities. A Jewish insurgency was under way to force out the British and in 1946 the assassination by Jewish militants of the former Templer mayor of Sarona, Gotthilf Wagner, sent shockwaves through the depleted community.

Contemporary reports say Wagner was targeted because he had been a prominent Nazi. Sieger Hahn, Wagner's foster son, says Wagner was killed because he was an "obstacle" to the purchase of land from the Germans.

With the killing of two more Templers by members of the Haganah (Jewish fighting force) in 1948, the British authorities evacuated almost all the remaining members to an internment camp in Cyprus.

The last group of about 20-30 elderly and infirm people was given shelter in the Sisters of St Charles Borromeo convent in Jerusalem, but in 1949 some of them too were ordered to leave the country - now the State of Israel - accused of having belonged to the Nazi party. The last Templers left in April 1950.

Jerusalem crescent moon - Av 6, Ramadan 4

I was sitting on my porch this late Shabbat afternoon, listening to the people in our yard and across the street talking, playing soccer, yelling, dogs barking, and the like, when I looked up and saw the crescent moon. Today is the sixth day of the Hebrew month Av. The first day, which is celebrated as the holiday of Rosh Hodesh, was last Monday.

Ramadan began here in Jerusalem on Wednesday (July 10), so this is the 4th day of Ramadan, and the breaking of the fast celebrations come after sunset. According to the Islamic Finder website, which gives the prayer times for Jerusalem, the fast can be broken at the time of the evening prayer, at 7:49 pm tonight, which is about 20 minutes ago. Sunset in Jerusalem tonight is 7:46. The fast began this morning at 4:07 am.

The Jewish fast of the 9th of Av goes from shortly before sunset on Monday, July 15th, to after dark on the evening of Tuesday, July 16th, so this year both Jews and Muslims will be fasting on the same day (although the Ramadan fast is only during daylight hours).

Did Israel bomb Syria a fourth time? Will Syria react?

There's an article on the Haaretz website today about the mysterious bombing of Latakia, Syria, that happened on July 5.  The target was apparently Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles, which the IDF sees as a threat to Israel. It wasn't clear last week what had happened, but there were reports that "fighter jets" were seen over the city. Yesterday, CNN reported, on the basis of interviews with three US officials who were not named, that Israel had bombed the site. If this report is correct, it will be the fourth time this year that Israel has attacked a Syrian site. After the third one, Assad threatened that if Israel attacked again, he would respond militarily.

The question I have is - why would American officials spill the news to CNN? What possible interest does the US have in provoking fighting between Israel and Syria? If Israel in fact bombed these missiles in Latakia, and subsequently both Syria and Israel studiously avoided saying anything about it in public, what purpose is there in revealing the information? One could say the same about the alleged Israeli destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor a few years ago. Both Israel and Syria kept their mouths shut (what I recall is that the North Koreans protested the bombing at the time, which was curious, but became clear later on when it came out that they had probably built it for the Syrians). It was US officials, again, who revealed that Israel had hit the reactor - but why? Was it in the interest of the US to reveal this information? Why?

And now that this report is out there - what will Syria do? The Haaretz report comments:
If indeed it was Israel that attacked last week, the attack has largely flown under the radar, at least until the CNN report. After the two suspected Israeli attacks in May, Assad clearly stated that he would not ignore another Israeli infraction, and Israel would pay a heavy price for any attack. Assad hinted then that he was considering opening a terror front in the Golan Heights. The fact remains that if CNN is correct regarding the identity of last week’s attacker, Assad must know it as well, and if he chooses to ignore this attack as well, we can learn that he still has no intention of directly confronting Israel, despite his aggressive declarations. Assad’s silence relies upon his ability to comprehensively deny the attack, much like in the past, and totally ignore the violation of Syrian sovereignty.
The CNN report makes comprehensive denial rather difficult – but it comes rather late, more than a week after the incident took place. During the coming days, it remains to be seen if Assad, who is concentrating all his efforts at putting down the fierce rebellion within Syria, will chose to ignore this latest attack, believing that slight humiliation in the media is still preferable to a direct confrontation with Israel.
I hope that Assad decides that it's best to ignore this report and not attack Israel - I have a personal interest in this, since I'm in Jerusalem until early August, and even if I weren't here, I certainly wouldn't want Israel to get involved in the Syrian civil war.


If you want to read intelligent and passionate commentary on Palestinians, the Arab world in general, Egypt, Syria, and a lot of other things, you should be reading Hussein Ibish, who blogs at Ibishblog, and is employed by the American Task Force for Palestine. See here for his bio.

Understanding Joseph Massad on homophobia and gay rights

In a column published on his blog on February 4, 2010, Hussein Ibish provides a lucid explanation of Joseph Massad's take on homophobia and gay rights. What he writes makes far more sense that what I have read by Massad himself. I don't agree with Massad, but Ibish has explained where he's coming from and equally important, what is wrong and problematic in his stance towards gay and lesbian people living in the Arab world.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Photos from Jerusalem

Today I went to the renovated old Jerusalem train station (now called the תחנה ראשונה or "First Station"). Instead of the moldering old train station, there are now several restaurants, carts for people selling jewelry and other crafts, a farmers' market on Fridays, and places for kids to play. I had lunch with a friend at Landwer's Cafe and we walked around and looked at the stalls. Most of these photos are from today's visit and then my walk back home along the railroad trail.

The first photo, however, is from a couple of weeks ago, on the full moon. It's the view of the full moon from the garden of my apartment building.

This is one of the stands in the farmers' market.

 Graffiti on an electric box along the rail trail.

People walking and cycling down the trail.

A monastery next to the trail.

Some nice purple flowers.

Banners marking the trail just before you get to the Tahanah.

A pomegranate tree.

A nice house along the way.

Some pretty flowers.

Another interesting looking house.

More flowers.

Tiles attached to a wall made by students from the Studio for Ceramics.

Masaryk 12.

Pretty white flowers at 12 Harakevet, house of the Dayyan family.

Tile plaque on the home of the Schur family.

Numbered stones - I have no idea why.

A view down the trail towards Gilo (I think).

More graffiti - an Israeli soldier on a skateboard.

Israeli flag dangling from a balcony.

Inside a garden.

Poster on the outside of a synagogue, advertising the yearly pilgrimage to Uman, where Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav is buried.

A daisy, in the garden of the apartment complex where I'm staying.

The entrance to the garden in front of my building.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

What are the different names for "cat" in different languages?

A couple of days, Haaretz's Word of the Day was Khatool, meaning "cat." I have no idea if the article's discussion of the word "cat" is at all accurate, linguistically speaking, but it's fun.
Every language of mankind has a word for cat and most are of striking similarity. in fact there seem to be two main groups, apparently stemming from two ancient roots. In fact, the words for cat are so alike that they could serve as an argument for the postulated Ur-language– the "monogenesis" theory that there was an ancient proto-tongue spoken by an early clan of humans, which fathered the nations of man around today. 
As that clan scattered through the eons, with descendants slowly spreading around the globe, the theory says, their languages evolved. 
Of course, we can never know if there was a single proto-language, but it is fun to postulate, and how else did so many peoples on the planet wind up with such similar words for cat? 
The two roots, which seem to stretch back into eons long gone, are qat and mao. We can also give honorable mention to pusi
The common Hebrew term for cat is, as said, khatool– see the khat? The formal Arabic is qot (or qet); the vernacular Arabic is biss (shades of puss!), and the English is – figure it out for yourself. The ancient Assyrians and the Asturians called it the qatoo
Over the millennia the oo seems to have disappeared. Today's French has chat, German has katze, Greek has gata and Icelandic has kottur. Catalan settles for gat, like modern Arabic, and the Basque language that is said to be unique calls the noble animal the catua. [For another article on different cat names in European languages, see Etymon - cat].
Seeing a pattern here? Moving down to the African languages, we find katti in Nyanja, elkati in Zulu and pakka in Swahili. 
As for the second root, some mainly Asian tongues seem to have derived their word for cat from the meow: the Sanskrit call the cat marjara, while Mandarin goes straight for mao. (There you thought you were saying of your kid, "He's the cat's meow," but all along you were saying, "He's the cat's communist dictator".) 
Of course, where you have two peoples you have three opinions and somebody at some time evidently had an original mind. Gujaratis are among the minority that preserved neither the qat sound nor the musical meow, instead calling the cat biladi – the Hindi is billi. Tamils call it poonai. Go figure. 
Gypsies call the cat muca, preserving the meow and the ca. Romanian and Samoan lean towards the pusi section of cat words. 
The Japanese word for a generic cat is neko, also commonly known as yamaneko. Which brings us to the Iriomote-yamaneko, an exceptionally rare and primitive wildcat found on the remote island of Iriomote (sometimes also called yamamaya – there's that mao – which means "the cat in the mountain." Some call it yamapikarya – "that which shines on the mountain." Yeah.)
There's a problem with this idea when it comes to the Semitic languages. I can see how Hebrew khatool is related, in some fashion, to Arabic qot, although where did the ool part of the word come from? (Perhaps the oo is from Assyrian - but the l?). So how do we have shunra, in Aramaic? It's not related to any of the three basic words for cat in the world, at least according to this article.

When looking at the Wiktionary article on "cat" in Syriac, the mystery appears to be solved. The word for cat in Akkadian is shuranu, in Arabic it's sinnawr (this must be only one of the Arabic names for cat, because above the Arabic word for cat is qot or biss). (See also the entry in the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon).

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Lilith, women, and magic

Last night, I gave a talk on "Women in early Jewish magic" at the Conservative Center in downtown Jerusalem. I talked about my research, with an emphasis on the figure of Em, the mother or foster-mother of Abaye, the fourth century Amora from Babylonia, who is knowledgeable about many matters of health and illness, and is also an expert on incantations and the use of amulets. I compared her with some of the women who are named in the Aramaic incantation bowls, looking at one bowl in particular, Bowl #17 in James Montgomery's Aramaic Incantation Texts (1913, available in full text online), where Komish bat Makhlafta exorcises the liliths from her household by means of divorce formulas known from the get, the Jewish divorce document. The point of the talk was to show how rabbis in the Talmud both blamed women for being involved in sorcery and were at the same time willing to learn from Em on healing and the use of amulets and incantations, and to compare her to a woman known from a non-rabbinic Babylonian text who uses rabbinic ritual formulas to rid her household from demons.

It turned out that at the same time I was giving the talk, Israel's television Channel One was broadcasting a television show where I appear, talking about Lilith!

Today, in the National Library, Professor David Weiss Halivni, whom I first met when had a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia from 1996-1998, and who now lives in Israel and comes to the Judaica Reading Room of the National Library to do research, came up to me and said that he saw me on Israel television yesterday, just before the Channel One news. This was very surprising, to say the least.

It turned out that episode 9 of season 3 of the "Naked Archaeologist" (made by Simcha Jacobovici in 2010) was shown last night on Channel One. (A trailer for the episode is available on Youtube). It was called "Queen of the Night" and is about Lilith. I was interviewed for the show a few years ago, when I was in Jerusalem, talking about a variety of things, including the image of Lilith in the Alphabet of Ben Sira - as both a demon and as a rebellious woman whom some contemporary feminists take as a role model. I also talked about how Lilith is blamed for the death of children and for seducing men in their sleep.

The show interviews Dr. Dan Levene, who teaches at the University of Southampton and has written extensively about the Aramaic incantation bowls. The show (not Dr. Levene) claims that all the magic bowls were found at Nippur (which is not true, although later in the show Jacobovici says that all the bowls are from Babylon, which is true), and that after the Iraq War, hundreds of the bowls, looted from Iraq, made their way to the antiquities markets in Jerusalem (I don't know if this is true). Jacobovici is shown in an antiquities shop in the Old City looking at one bowl. It's not particularly visible on the screen. The owner of the shop says that of course it's authentic, but we have no way of knowing that.

At this point, Jacobovici says, "This is kabbalah!" and an image of the kabbalistic Tree of Life is shown on the screen. In fact, the Aramaic bowls have nothing to do with medieval kabbalah. Jacobovici then turns to the question of how the image of Lilith found its way into Christian art. He shows us a medieval carving somewhere in Europe depicting the creation scene, with Lilith coming out of the top of the Tree of Knowledge in between Adam and Eve; her top is a beautiful woman, while below she is a snake, wrapped around Adam and Eve. He finds the source of this image in the Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi, by equating Lilith with Sophia in Gnostic mythology. As far as I know, there is no relation whatsoever between Lilith and Sophia!

In between the interviews there are lots of clips from what look like movies from the 1940s and 50s depicting vampy actresses (who I suppose are supposed to be Lilith), kitschy images of ghosts, and other irrelevant images that jazz the show up. Jacobovici does present some of the research on Lilith accurately, but the show is marred by the mistakes he makes and his attempts to create links where none exist. It's entertainment, not archaeology or scholarship.

If you'd like to see a photo of an incantation bowl, here's one that Dan Levene has published (I took the image from this site that he maintains:

This bowl is from Dan Levene, 2003, A Corpus of Magic Bowls: Incantation Texts in Jewish Aramaic from Late Antiquity, New York pp. 31-38