Jewish Journal


October 3, 2002

Community Briefs


Two Lectures Series Provide Escape to the Past

Two lecture series, one on biblical archaeology, the other on the beginnings of writing, will allow participants to escape the unruly present and explore the ancient world of 2,000 to 5,000 years ago.

The University of Judaism series on "Pushing Biblical Archaeology to the Limits: Excavating Heaven, Reconstructing Hell, and Exploring Places in Between" starts Oct. 7 and continues for seven successive Monday evening sessions.

The series, now in its 13th year, "will appeal to persons of intellectual curiosity" and of all religious denominations, according to professor Ziony Zevit of the university.

Featured will be experts from leading universities in the United States, England and Israel's Bar Ilan University. Frederick L. Simmons will serve as co-moderator with Zevit.

Also, the California Museum of Ancient Art is presenting "The Beginnings of Writing in the Ancient Near East: Cuneiform, Hieroglyphs and the Semitic Alphabet."

The second lecture in the series will be held Oct. 8 and they will continue on Tuesday evenings, Oct. 15 and 29, at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

The museum specializes in the ancient art of Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Levant, encompassing modern Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, according to its director, Jerome Berman.

For information and registration for "Pushing Biblical Archaeology," call (310) 440-1246. For information about "The Beginnings of Writing in the Ancient and Near East," call (818) 762-5500.

Tom Friedman Airs Mideast Views

"Osama bin Laden is a world-class terrorist, who combines the twisted mind of a Charles Manson with the managerial skills of a John Welch."

"We've treated the [Arab] Middle East like a big, dumb gas station."

"There are more prostitutes with cell phones in Tehran than any other place."

The author of these lines is Tom Friedman, The New York Times' foreign affairs columnist, who coined bon mots like the U.S. Mint, as he delivered the first Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA last week.

Addressing an audience of 500 jammed into a room meant for 300, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner analyzed most of the world's pressing problems, from globalization to possible war with Iraq, without glancing at a single note or marring the flow of words with a single "uuh" or "aah."

Given his facility of mind and speech, it was doubly discouraging when he responded to a question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a shoulder-shrugging, "I don't know what to say anymore." Prodded further on what the United States can do to alleviate the situation, Friedman replied, "We must tell the truth to both sides. We must tell the Palestinians that their current strategy is insane. We must tell [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon that the settlement projects [in the West Bank and Gaza] are insane."

"What is your biggest fear?" another audience member asked. Friedman responded that it was a weakened America that would forsake its global leadership role.

"We do a lot of stupid things," he said, "but few good things happen in the world without American involvement. God save us from a world in which we have to rely on the moral authority of France."

After the lecture, a long line formed to buy Friedman's latest book, "Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11," and have it autographed by the author.

Tour Underlines Peace Movement Support

Despite widespread reports to the contrary, the peace movement is alive among both Israelis and Palestinians, and enjoys the support of a small but steadfast portion of U.S. Jewry.

One indicator was the tour of eight major cities by peace activist teams during the last half of September. The activists were three Israelis and one Palestinian, consisting of Knesset member Colette Avital of the Labor Party; Knesset member Avshalom "Abu" Vilan of Meretz; Gavri Bargil, head of the Kibbutz Movement, and Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, the senior PLO representative in Jerusalem and president of al-Quds University.

Another sign was the report by Mark Rosenblum, founder and policy director of Americans for Peace Now, who told The Journal that his organization has the support of some 25,000 contributors, of whom 3,000 form an "action network." There are some 2,000 supporters in the Los Angeles area, he said.

"We took a significant hit after the first year of the intifada, but we have recouped during the past year," Rosenblum said.

Over the past weekend, the traveling team of Vilan and Nusseibeh was in Los Angeles, speaking at University Synagogue in Irvine, Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills and at a $250-per-head fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The latter event drew some 130 people, mostly veteran liberals, who heard the speakers outline their peace platform. It included the mutual recognition of Israel and a Palestinian state, with the border running roughly along the pre-1967 line; expropriation of most West Bank and Gaza settlements; Eastern Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, and the return of Palestinian refugees to a Palestinian state, but not Israel.

"The dream of both a big Israel or a big Palestine is dead," Vilan said .

Nusseibeh described the current situation as a quagmire, "in which both sides are killing each other without any particular plan, and without a good reason for doing so."

Nusseibeh was to travel to New York, where his scheduled appearance at a synagogue was denounced by the Zionist Organization of America, which labeled him an inciter of terrorists and supporter of violence against Israel.

Americans for Peace Now fired back, describing the Zionist group as a "far right-wing organization" and defending Nusseibeh as a moderate, "working tirelessly for an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence."

Briefs complied by Tom Tugend.

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