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Ancient seal unearthed in Jerusalem; Leiberman reassures Muslims

August 20, 2008 | 2:39 am

A 2,600-year-old clay seal impression was uncovered in Jerusalem's ancient City of David. Bearing the name Gedaliah ben Pashur, the seal impression was uncovered intact recently during archaeological excavations just below the walls of the Old City near the Dung Gate.

The name appears in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1) together with Yehuchal ben Shelemayahu, whose name was found on an identical clay bulla in the same area in 2005. The two were ministers in the court of King Zedekiah, the last ruler in Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple.

According to Hebrew University's Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig, this marks the first time in Israeli archaeology that two clay bullae with two biblical names that appear in the same biblical verse have been unearthed in the same location.



New discovery: King David's twin gates to Jerusalem

"It is not very often that such a discovery happens in which real figures of the past shake off the dust of history and so vividly revive the stories of the Bible," Mazar said.

Both bullae, each measuring one centimeter in diameter and lettered in ancient Hebrew, were found among the debris of the destruction of the First Temple period.

Lieberman Reassures Muslims He Plans to Consult With Them on Security Issues

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, joined ranking member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) in responding to a letter from four Arab and Muslim advocacy groups raising concerns about a May report by the committee titled, "Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat."

The groups claimed the report lacked sufficient input from U.S. Muslims and "generalizes Muslims in America as susceptible to "radicalization."

The July 30 letter stated that "as the committee moves forward on this critical issue, we will continue to reach out to your organizations and others that represent the diverse American Muslim community. Meeting the threat of homegrown terrorism must be a collaborative effort that engages the millions of Americans of all faiths who are committed to combating the pointless destructiveness of violent extremist ideologies of any kind."

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Muslim Advocates were the four organization that signed the letter to Lieberman. MPAC urged in a statement that the committee "examine a truly representative range of recommendations in order to craft a more credible and less discriminatory analysis of how to secure safety, while preserving the freedoms of all Americans."

Iran Announces Plans for Nuclear Plants

Iran's state-owned nuclear energy production company signed agreements Tuesday with six Iranian companies to find sites for the new plants, according to IRNA, the country's official news agency.

Iran's first nuclear power plant, which is being built with Russian help, is expected to be operational later this year. The announcement that Iran is planning at least six new nuclear power plants comes as the United Nations prepares to levy a new set of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to discontinue uranium enrichment, which could lead to the production of an atomic bomb.

Hamas, Egypt Disagree on Freeing Soldier

Differences are widening between Hamas and Egypt over the release of Gilad Shalit. According to multiple reports in the Israeli media in recent days, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has asked Hamas to stop obstructing the deal.

Suleiman is leading negotiations for the release of the Israeli soldier captured in a 2006 cross-border raid. Gunmen affiliated with Hamas, the terrorist group controlling Gaza, carried out the kidnapping.

Suleiman has said he wants a deal in place by November. Hamas reportedly keeps upping the ante, wanting Israel to include senior terrorists among the 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to be exchanged in the deal. Hamas also is demanding that Egypt reopen its border with Gaza. Egypt shut down the border early this year to stop arms smuggling into Gaza.

Palestinian media report that Israel is balking at Hamas demands that it continue the lull in assassinations of Hamas targets. Hamas believes that keeping Shalit has led Israel to decrease the killings. Hamas reportedly also may ask for Europeans to take over the mediation.

Ethiopians Stage Protest to Demand That More Falash Mura Be Brought to Israel

An estimated 1,000 protesters gathered outside the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on Sunday to call on the government to keep bringing in the Falash Mura -- descendants of Ethiopian Jews who say they were forced over the centuries to convert to Christianity but now want to live in Israel.

This month saw the last organized Israeli airlift of Ethiopian Jews, though officials said there could still be smaller-scale efforts to facilitate the immigration of Falash Mura who meet state criteria.

According to organizers of the rally, there are some 8,700 Falash Mura campaigning to be brought to Israel, many of them stranded relatives of those who already have immigrated.

Several protesters tried to block Jerusalem's Ben-Gurion Highway and were arrested by police.

Swastikas Found in Washington Field

About 40 swastikas were found scrawled on hay bales in a field in Washington State.

A passer-by noticed the swastikas in a field off Interstate 5 in Marysville and reported them to police Sunday, Aug. 17, the Herald newspaper reported.

"Hate is alive and well," said Ellen Bovarnick, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Somebody or somebodies took the time to express what is the most virulent symbol of anti-Semitism that anyone can think of."

By Monday, the bales had been rolled over and the swastikas were no longer visible.

French Jews Sue YouTube

The National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism filed suit against the French Web site Dailymotion and plans a similar action against YouTube, Agence France-Presse reported. The National Bureau objects to a video in which photographs of prominent French officials are set to a pre-World War II song describing the guests at a Jewish wedding as rude and dirty.

"We consider this video, though it names no one, to be a photographic list of an anti-Semitic nature and therefore liable to criminal prosecution," the bureau's head, French Jewish leader Sammy Ghozlan, said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, the bureau took action against a shop in northeast Paris that was selling a T-shirt with the phrase "Jews forbidden from entering the park" in German and Polish.

The proprieters of the shop in the multi-ethnic Belleville neighborhood, a Chinese woman and her daughter, were arrested and are facing possible charges of incitement to racial hatred, authorities said Thursday. 

Construction Halted at Lithuania Mass Grave Site

A site near Marijampole, Lithuania where tens of thousands of Jews were killed during the Holocaust recently had been sold to a company that had begun demolishing buildings at the site, disturbing the remains there. Bones began to appear after concrete pavement at the site was dismantled. Heavy rains sometimes would wash new bones to the surface.

Jewish community leaders asked that the town halt work at the site, and Lithuanian authorities said this week the construction work would cease.

A local newspaper, Lietyvoa Zinios, reported that the remains that had risen to the surface would be buried with the cooperation of Jewish community leaders. The site is located behind a czarist-era military town near Marijampole. Most of the Jews and other victims of the massacre there were killed by Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators on a single day: Sept. 1, 1941.

The site had been marked by a memorial, and the bodies had remained under heavy slabs of concrete and buildings.

Italian Ex-President Confirms Deal With Palestinian Terrorists to Not Stage Attacks

A former Italian president says his country allowed Palestinian terror groups to roam free in exchange for not attacking Italian targets. Francesco Cossiga's admission confirmed claims of such a deal revealed last week in an interview in the Corriere della Sera newspaper with Bassam Abu Sharif, the former chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In a letter on Aug. 15 in Corriere della Sera, Cossiga described a "secret 'nonbelligerence pact' between the Italian state and Palestinian resistance organizations, including terrorist groups," such as the PFLP. The deal, he said, had been devised by Prime Minister Aldo Moro, who in 1978 was kidnapped and assassinated by the Italian terror group, the Red Brigades.

Nonetheless, there were several major Palestinian terror attacks on Italian targets in the 1970s and 1980s. They included attacks on Rome's airport and main synagogue and the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship.

Last month, Cossiga accused the PFLP of being behind a terrorist attack at the Bologna train station in 1980 that killed 85 people. That attack has long been ascribed to Italian neofascist terrorists, and two leaders of a neofascist extremist group were given life sentences for their role in the attack.

Radio Station Promoting Peace Shuts Down

RAM-FM, broadcast from Ramallah in the West Bank, was owned by a South African Jewish businessman who had hoped it would help progress toward peace.

Issy Kirsh modeled RAM on a similar South African station that promoted reconciliation after apartheid, the Associated Press reported this week. The station stopped broadcasting last week because it could not attract sufficient advertising revenues.

It used English-speaking staff from Australia, Britain and South Africa. Its last song, broadcast Aug. 7, was John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."

Jewish Weddings Increase in Israel

The number of Jewish weddings in Israel rose by 8.3 percent in one year, according to a new report. Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics released its figures for the years 2005 and 2006 in honor of Tu B'Av, the Jewish day of love, which fell on Aug. 16.

The report also notes that the number of Muslim weddings increased by 12 percent between 2005 and 2006. The report, which includes statistics for legally recognized religious marriages, indicates that the median age for Jewish men at the time of marriage was 28.2, compared to 26.4 for Muslim men. Jewish women are taking the plunge at age 25.7, compared to 20.8 for Muslim women.

Remaining unmarried has been an increasing trend among Israelis of various age ranges. For those 25 to 29, the rate of bachelorhood jumped from 38 percent to 57 percent between 1986 and 2006. Among women ages 20-24, 70 percent remained unmarried in 2006.

Technion Opts for English-Only MBA

Israel's Technion Institute will teach its prestigious business courses in English only. Hailed internationally as Israel's version of MIT, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa decided to ditch the Hebrew-language classes beginning next year for its business students pursuing a master's degree to keep them competitive in an English-dominated world.

"We reached the conclusion that if we continued to train our students by teaching in Hebrew, we would be placing them in an inferior starting position, given the conditions of the global competition," said professor Boaz Golany, dean of industrial engineering and management.

But the move was denounced by professor Moshe Bar Asher, head of the Hebrew Language Academy, as dealing a fresh blow to the Jewish lingua franca.

The language war has won," he said. Several Israeli universities offer programs partly or exclusively in English.

Israel to Replace Gaza Shekel Notes

Israel sent Brinks Company trucks to collect worn out shekel notes from the Gaza Strip.The notes picked up Tuesday are worth about $842,000. They will be replaced Friday by Bank of Israel currency after the old notes are checked for counterfeit bills.

No additional money will be transferred to Gaza in keeping with Israel's 2-year-old blockade of the Hamas-run enclave. Israeli media report that the exchange is taking place to prevent the Palestinians from establishing an independent currency.

Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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