Saturday, March 06, 2010

Riots on the Temple Mount

Dozens hurt in clashes at revered Jerusalem mosque
Ammar Awad
Fri Mar 5, 2010 11:34am EST

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli police and Palestinians clashed outside Jerusalem's flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque Friday and at least 35 people were injured, Israeli police and Palestinian medical workers said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israeli forces of "provocation" and "crossing red lines" in an effort to derail a resumption of peace negotiations expected shortly under U.S. mediation. In a statement, Abbas appealed to Washington to hold Israel back to prevent a "war of religion" in the Middle East.

Israel's security minister blamed Abbas's Islamist rivals Hamas for fomenting the trouble. It started after weekly prayers at the third holiest site in Islam, in an area that Jews also revere as the site of their biblical Temple.

Muslim worshippers staging a protest after prayers against an Israeli government plan to include holy sites in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in an Israeli national heritage plan flew Hamas flags and threw stones at police who had taken up positions in the compound surrounding the al-Aqsa mosque.

Background here.

Review of Fifth Symposium on Coptic Studies (Al-Ahram)

THE FIFTH SYMPOSIUM ON COPTIC STUDIES, with the theme "Early Christianity and Monasticism in Aswan and Nubia," is reviewed in Al-Ahram:
Revisiting the southern frontier

Coptic history never ceases to enthral. Jill Kamil attends this year's symposium near Aswan

Early Christianity and Monasticism in Aswan and Nubia" was the fifth symposium on Coptic Studies to take place at a monastic centre. Organised by Coptologist Gawdat Gabra, Fawzi Estafanous of the St Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies, Hani Takla, president of the St Shenouda Society, and under the auspices of Pope Shenouda III and Anba Hedra, archbishop of Aswan, it was held in the new Monastery of St Hatre (still under construction), within walking distance of the ruins of the famous Monastery of St Hatre in the Western Desert -- known for some unknown reason by early archaeologists and travellers as the Monastery of St Simeon.

Situated due south-west of the southern tip of Elephantine, the monastery is named after an anchorite who was consecrated by Patriarch Theophilus, bishop of Syene (Aswan), at the beginning of the fifth century.

This in particular is notable:
The temple-church of Qasr Ibrim was the subject of a presentation by Joost Hagen. Ibrim is all that remains of an important frontier post in Roman times that commanded a view of the Nile valley and desert for miles around. Between 30 BC and 395 AD it was the official border between Egypt and Nubia, and its control by the Roman general Petronius is well documented. His task was to contain the Blemmys (Beja) and the Nobodai tributes of the Eastern and Western deserts. Later, when Christianity spread throughout Nubia at the beginning of the sixth century, a Pharaonic temple on the site (built by the 25th-dynasty Nubian ruler Pharaoh Taharqa) was converted into a church, and the great cathedral on the summit was built in the 12th century. Threatened as it was with total inundation by Lake Nasser, excavations started in the 1960s when an important discovery was made. A body clad in episcopal robes was unearthed, and within its folds were long scrolls written in Arabic and Coptic. This was only a beginning. This site has proved vital for historical research. Among the most important discoveries made so far is a horde of ancient documents written in a host of languages -- Old Nubian, Arabic, Coptic, and Greek. They are private and official letters, legal documents and petitions, literary and documentary texts, dating from the end of the eighth to the 15th centuries.
Regular readers will recall that Dr. Hagen discovered Coptic fragments of 2 Enoch, an important pseudepigraphon known formerly only in Church Slavonic, in this manuscript hoard. More on that here and here.

Reconstructed ancient musical instruments

Artist makes ancient instruments

Written by Administrator (KC Jewish Chronicle)
Friday, 05 March 2010 12:00

The Kansas City Jewish Museum presents the exhibit “Moshe Frumin — Ancient Instruments” March 14 through May 2 at the Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom.

The show features 21 musical instruments created by Israeli professor Moshe Frumin, who has constructed authentic recreations of ancient biblical instruments based on depictions discovered in archaeological discoveries from Israel.


Friday, March 05, 2010

DSS arrive in St. Paul

SOME DEAD SEA SCROLLS have arrived in Minnesota for the upcoming exhibition:
Dead Sea Scrolls, live

The 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls and other artifacts have arrived in St. Paul from Israel.

Last update: March 4, 2010 - 8:35 PM (Star Tribune)

Helena Sokolov cradled a 2,000-year-old clay jar in her arms before gently placing it in a display case at the Science Museum of Minnesota on Thursday. "It's like a little baby," said Sokolov, a coordinator with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The jar is among 200 ancient artifacts found in caves along the Dead Sea that have found their way to the banks of the Mississippi.

The headliners of the exhibit, which opens next week, are five parchment fragments, part of what's known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. ...
Background here.

Maimonides Synagogue in Cairo restored

THE MAIMONIDES SYNAGOGUE in Cairo has been restored:
Egypt completes restoration of Maimonides shul
By RON FRIEDMAN (Jerusalem Post)
05/03/2010 06:00

Dignitaries from Israel and abroad fly in for Sunday’s rededication.

After a year-and-a-half of careful restoration work by the Egyptian authorities, the Maimonides Synagogue in Cairo is set to be rededicated on Sunday.

The 19th-century synagogue and adjacent yeshiva, which stand on the site where Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, the Rambam, worked and worshiped more than 800 years ago, was restored by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

That's good, but this news in the article, which I had not heard before, is disturbing:
In late February, a homemade bomb was thrown at the Ben-Ezra Synagogue, sometimes referred to as the El-Geniza Synagogue, in the heart of Cairo.

The land for this synagogue was purchased in 882 CE for 20,000 dinars by Abraham ibn Ezra of Jerusalem.

This was the synagogue whose geniza or store room was found in the 19th century to contain a treasure of abandoned Hebrew secular and sacred manuscripts. The collection, known as the Cairo Geniza, was brought to Cambridge, England, at the instigation of Solomon Schechter.

According to the police report, a man entered a hotel located on the fourth floor of a building across from the synagogue at around 3 a.m. and, as he was checking in, threw his suitcase out the window.

The case contained four containers of gasoline, each attached to a glass bottle of sulfuric acid meant to shatter on impact and ignite the makeshift bomb, said police, who speculated the man may have panicked.

The bag, which also contained clothes, cotton strips, matches and a lighter, fell onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel and briefly caught fire before being extinguished.

There were no injuries and no damage to the historic synagogue.
For more on the Egyptian synagogue restoration project, go here and follow the links.

Editorial on Israel Heritage Plan controversy (Baltimore Sun)

THE CONTROVERSY over the Israel Heritage Plan is the subject of an editorial in the Baltimore Sun:
Heralding Israel's heritage
The nation must defend its historical ties to the land against those who deny them

By Aron U. Raskas

March 5, 2010

Jerusalem - JERUSALEM--The Israeli government adds two culturally rich, millennium-old historic sites to a list of national treasures, and riots break out, followed by international condemnation. Yet, it is precisely this cynical, albeit predictable, response that demonstrates why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right to add the Tomb of Rachel and the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs to Israel's National Heritage Sites.

There is no nation with firmer roots in a land than the Jewish people in the greater land of Israel. Yet, that great heritage has been under assault by Arab protagonists and their pusillanimous patrons for the longest time, and this has intensified in recent years.

Background here.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Jacob Neusner interviewed in the Jerusalem Post

JACOB NEUSNER is interviewed in the Jerusalem Post:
'A utopian document, a utopian law'

04/03/2010 15:49

Jacob Neusner talks of his five-decade love affair with the ancient rabbis, on the future of Jewish life.

In the world of Jewish studies, Prof. Jacob Neusner needs no introduction. The 75-year-old scholar of Talmud and rabbinic literature has written, edited or translated more than 900 books (though he doesn't want you to read them all), making him among the most active and prolific authors alive. "But I have a limited repertoire," he says with a smile, an expertise which extends across a millennium and through dozens of difficult, tightly-written works that are the record of the rabbinic love affair with the Torah. For Neusner, the study of rabbinic literature has been a kind of love affair in itself, and as with all true loves, he remembers clearly when it began. ...

New Penn librarian is a Semitist

The Penn Libraries announced the appointment of Waleed el-Shobaki to the position of Middle East Studies Librarian. Mr. el-Shobaki comes to Penn from The John Rylands University Library of the University of Manchester (UK) where he had been employed since May 2004 as the academic liaison librarian for Middle Eastern Studies.

Mr. el-Shobaki holds a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Manchester and another in library & information management from the Manchester Metropolitan University. He also holds a BA in Oriental languages from the University of Cairo with specialization in Semitic languages and cultures, primarily Hebrew and Judaism.

Since the early 1990s, Mr. el-Shobaki has supplemented his formal degrees with professional training in online cataloging and post-graduate coursework in politics and economics, Spanish language and culture, Islamic Studies, and religious education. He is a native speaker of Arabic, has near-native command of Hebrew, and has working proficiency in Spanish, Persian, French, German, and Turkish. His range of expertise in languages and cultures of the Near East extends from Syriac and the history of the Eastern Church to Persian and the history of Iran.

For more information about Mr. el-Shobaki and other subject specialists at the Penn Libraries, see
Congratulations to Penn and to Mr. el-Shobaki.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

More on the "Song of the Sea" Cairo Geniza fragments

MORE ON THE "SONG OF THE SEA" CAIRO GENIZA FRAGMENTS - The exhibition notice from the Israel Museum website:
Piecing Together the Past: - Ancient Fragments of the Song of the Sea

From February 26

The Bible, the cornerstone of the People of the Book, was copied by scribes, interpreted by sages, and studied by generations of Jews from all walks of life. The nation’s respect for the Book of Books was also demonstrated by its desire to keep the manuscripts physically intact. This was not always possible, however,due to the hardships they experienced. Very few Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible have come down to us from the "Silent Period" – between the 2nd century, when the last of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written, and the 10th century, when the Aleppo Codex was produced. The discovery of a biblical manuscript, particularly one that served in synagogue services during the "Silent Period," is therefore a rare occasion. Two such fragments of the book of Exodus, originating in the same Torah scroll written during the 7th or 8th century – the Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript and the London Manuscript – found their way, many years later, into different collections. Here they are displayed together for the first time, alongside a fragment of the book of Exodus from the late 1st century BCE, discovered in Qumran, and another fragment of Exodus dating to the 10th or 11th century CE. Featuring excerpts of Exodus 15:1–19, these scrolls are among the earliest testimony to the Song of the Sea. The London Manuscript and the medieval fragment are on loan from Stephan Loewentheil, New York; the Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript is on permanent loan from Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
There's a photo as well, but it seems to be of the later manuscript in the exhibition.

Background here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

CSM: Will Israel heritage sites spark next Palestinian intifada?

Will Israel heritage sites spark next Palestinian intifada?

The declaration of two biblical tombs in the West Bank as Israel heritage sites last week sparked clashes. Though Monday was quiet, some fear a new Palestinian intifada in response.

By Josh Mitnick Correspondent / March 1, 2010 (CSM)
Tel Aviv

Amid spreading Palestinian protests against Israel's decision to declare shrines in two West Bank cities as Israel heritage sites, the Palestinian cabinet held a solidarity meeting Monday in the city of Hebron near one of the sites while some here worried about a new Palestinian intifada.

Clashes on the Temple Mount plaza in Jerusalem's Old City Sunday capped a week of violence since the declaration of Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem as official Israel heritage locations.

Background here.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A new inscribed Palmyrene altar

ARAMAIC WATCH: Judith Weingarten discusses a new inscribed Palmyrene altar dedicated to an anonymous god.

Jodi Magness lectures on Qumran archaeology

JODI MAGNESS has been lecturing on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the archaeology of Qumran:
Archaeologist disproves widespread beliefs about the Dead Sea Scrolls

Wyatt Kanyer
Issue date: 2/26/10 Section: News (

Jesus Christ did not live with the ancient people from the settlement near caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, even though some scholars have argued the contrary, an archaeologist said Thursday in a presentation sponsored by the Brite Divinity School.

Jodi Magness, an endowed archaeology professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focused on the Essenes, an apocalyptic group that lived in Qumran, near the 11 caves in which more than 900 scrolls were discovered. She said that one-fourth of the scrolls represent all but one of the books of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, all of which have at least one copy.

The rest of the scrolls are the Greek Septuagint, the Aramaic Targums, the Pesharim and the Apocrypha, which are found in early versions of the Catholic Bibles.

The list of texts is sort of correct, although there were relatively few fragments of the Septuagint, not all of the Apocrypha was found there, and the Aramaic Targums are not the ones known from elsewhere. But quite a lot more was found: sectarian constitutions (the Community Rule and Damascus Document), rewritten scripture and prophecies, already-known pseudepigrapha (e.g., 1 Enoch, Jubilees), poetic and liturgical texts, calendrical texts, etc. Perhaps the reporter wasn't able to take notes fast enough to get all this down.

Otherwise the article looks like a pretty accurate account of what I would have expected Professor Magness to say. She represents the traditional interpretation of the site as an Essene installation, although there are other interpretations as well. For past PaleoJudaica coverage of the archaeology of Qumran, start with this link and keep following the links back.

Phoenicia to tackle Cape of Good Hope

THE GOOD SHIP PHOENICIA is gearing up to round the Cape of Good Hope:
Phoenicia braves the Cape of Good Hope


A primitive sailing vessel, based on designs of Phoenician cargo ships from circa 600 BC, will soon face its biggest challenge yet as the international crew members onboard attempt to navigate a stretch of the worlds most dangerous coast line; Cape Agulhas on the southern tip of Africa, and its more famous brother, the Cape of Good Hope.

Phoenicia, the Phoenician Ship Expedition, is a project conceived by local expeditioner and entrepreneur Philip Beale from his base near Lulworth Cove in Dorset. Beale is Expedition Leader onboard Phoenicia bringing together sailors and adventurers from across the globe as part of his crew.

Phoenicia ( is attempting to illustrate that 2000 years before the European, Bartholomew Dias, rounded the Cape of Good Hope the Phoenicians had already achieved a circumnavigation of Africa. As such the expedition is attempting to put African history in its true context.

This a key goal for the expedition and achieving it will be a major milestone. Good luck to them!

Background here and keep following the links back.