Friday, July 8, 2011

ACTION ALERT: July 8th Airport Disturbance


From:  Richard B. Stone, Chairman
Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman

Dozens of anti-Israeli activists, networks and organizations, most of them Palestinian and some Western, are preparing a mass fly-in at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport on or around July 8. The event is dubbed Ahalan wasahalan fi Filastin in Arabic, "Welcome to Palestine").  The activists also are planning a series of events next week in Israel, including in the West Bank, to show solidarity with the Palestinians and defame Israel.  As Adam Shapiro, a leader of the Free Gaza Movement said recently, [this campaign] is but one tactic of a larger strategy to transform this conflict from one between Israel and the Palestinians to one between the rest of the world and Israel."

Several articles from that appeared in The Daily Alert and elsewhere this week provide additional information.
July 8th Airport Disturbances- Talking Points
    1. Anti-Israel activists are planning to fly to Israel in order to carry out disturbances and provocations at Ben Gurion Airport and in other parts of Israel.

    2. Israel, like any other country, has the right to refuse entry to those intending to carry out illegal disturbances and provocations.

    3. An airport is a sensitive area with thousands of people passing through at any given moment. Law enforcement officers must ensure the safety of these passengers and the orderly functioning of the airport.

    4. Law enforcement officers have been instructed to avoid confrontations as much as possible, AND to ensure that the airport continues to operate normally and to prevent  a disruption of activity.

    5. Israel is a democracy. Whoever wishes to demonstrate in a non-violent and legal manner is permitted to do so.

    6. The disturbances are a continuation of the delegitimization campaign against Israel, which has already seen attempts to undermine Israel's sovereignty by sea, land, and now by air.

    Fundraising Israeli-Style

    “Israelis are very challenged when it comes to giving,”
    says Miri Eisen, former spokesperson for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
    Donations to North America’s Jewish federation system may be on the decline, but a group of influential Israelis living in the city of Ramat HaSharon are betting that a federation-style foundation will encourage more Israelis to give.

    Takdim – The Ramat HaSharon Community Foundation, Israel’s first “Jewish federation,” launched a month ago. Lay leaders include Miri Eisen, former spokesperson for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; Rami Shalmor, partner at advertising firm Young & Rubicam Israel; and Herzl Bodinger, a former commander in chief of the Israel Air Force. David Ivry, president of Boeing Israel and former Israeli ambassador to the United States, will serve as chairman. -- Tamar Snyder, NY Jewish Week

    To read more, click here.

    Op Ed: Capital Crime. Capital Punishment?

    Murdered March 11, 2011:
    Udi (36), Ruth (35), Yoav (11),
    Elad (4), and Hadas (3 months) Fogel
    Since its founding, the only person ever to be executed by the state of Israel has been the notorious Nazi, Adolf Eichmann. But the brutal murders of Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their young children this past March has the IDF weighing the possibility of seeking the death penalty for the Fogels' murderers, brothers Hakim and Amjad Awad.

    One wonders what punishment, aside from the most extreme one, can possibly be in order for the brutal slaughter of a mother, father, and three children. Still, such a sentence cannot be given, or even sought, without offering ample justification. If Israel were to sentence the Awad brothers to death, what would be the purpose: justice, vengeance, or deterrence?  -- Aryeh Tepper, Jewish Ideas Daily

    To read more, click here.

    Camp Lessons

    In between color wars and singalongs, some Jewish summer camps include Holocaust education in their programming. What does that teach campers about Jewish identity? -- Dvora Meyers
    The cattle car at Camp Stone. -- Avi Thomas, Tablet
    To read more, click here.

    Massive 405 Freeway Project Respects the Boundaries of a Jewish Tradition

    Metro and Caltrans are working with Orthodox Jews to maintain the thin 'walls' of a vast Westside eruv during work on the 405 Freeway. --
    Dan Kulka, left, community relations manager for Kiewit Infrastructure Group, and Howard Witkin, an eruv administrator,
    stand near a pole supporting fishing line that marks the boundary of the eruv. (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times)
    To read more, click here.

    Knesset Presidium Rejects Nakba Recognition Bill

    The Knesset presidium has rejected a bill calling for recognition of the Nakba, or "the catastrophe" -- what the Arab community calls the founding of the State of Israel.

    The presidium committee rejected the measure, which would deny funding to state organizations and authorities that deny the Nakba, on Monday by a vote of 5 to 3.

    Submitted by Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi, the bill comes in response to a law passed by the Knesset in March under which the state could fine local communities and other state-funded groups for holding events that mark the Nakba. The fines, deducted from a group's operating budget, would equal up to three times the event's sponsorship cost; repeat violations would double the fines.

    It was the first time in seven years that the presidium has rejected a request to bring an urgent proposal to the Knesset. -- JTA

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Op Ed: The Economic Case for Supporting Israel

    America needs the Jewish state's technology and innovation as much as it needs us.

    America's enemies understand deeply and intuitively that no U.S. goals or resources in the Middle East are remotely as important as Israel. Why don't we?

    Israel cruised through the recent global slump with scarcely a down quarter and no deficit or stimulus package. It is steadily increasing its global supremacy, behind only the U.S., in an array of leading-edge technologies. It is the global master of microchip design, network algorithms and medical instruments.

    During a period of water crises around the globe, Israel is incontestably the world leader in water recycling and desalinization. During an epoch when all the world's cities, from Seoul to New York, face a threat of terrorist rockets, Israel's newly battle-tested "Iron Dome" provides a unique answer based on original inventions in microchips that radically reduce the weight and cost of the interceptors.

    Israel is also making major advances in longer-range missile defense, robotic warfare, and unmanned aerial vehicles that can stay aloft for days. In the face of a global campaign to boycott its goods, and an ever-ascendant shekel, it raised its exports 19.9% in 2010's fourth quarter and 27.3% in the first quarter of 2011. -- George Gilder, Wall Street Journal via Discovery Institute

    To read more, click here.

    Beyond Canned Food Drives: Jewish Food Dardens Donate Bounty

    Rebecca Geunoun, left, and Molly Fischman plant tomatoes
    at the Urban Adamah Farm in Berkeley, Calif., July 1, 2011. (Adam Berman)
    Tali Weinberg walks along the rows of leafy green vegetables poking out of neatly raised beds of soil at Urban Adamah, a newly launched Jewish garden project in this university town.

    “We’re growing chard, kale, lettuce, summer squash, cucumbers, beans, basil, fennel, dill, tatsoi, broccoli, cabbage,” she said, surveying the garden. Later in the summer, they will add peppers, tomatoes and eggplants.

    Almost all of it will be donated to two local agencies that feed the poor: a low-income medical clinic and a neighboring church. -- Sue Fishkoff, JTA

    To read more, click here.

    Cinnamon: The latest hope for Alzheimer’s?

    Can an extract from this fragrant spice ward off the devastating brain disease - and maybe even diabetes?
    A new Israeli study shows that the common spice cinnamon seems to delay the progress of Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative brain condition.

    The research builds on the work of Prof. Michael Ovadia of Tel Aviv University, who discovered about a decade ago that an extract of cinnamon -- one of the aromatic ingredients in the incense used in the ancient Jewish Temple - has powerful anti-viral properties.

    Curious about other applications, Tel Aviv University PhD student Anat Frydman-Marom added Ovadia's cinnamon extract, CEppt, into her line of research on compounds that may fight Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Initial results surpassed her expectations and took her research in a new direction.

    Now her work has the sweet smell of success: CEppt can delay the effects of five aggressive strains of Alzheimer's-inducing genes, according to a multi-lab research paper co-authored by Frydman-Marom, Ovadia, Ehud Gazit, Daniel Segal and Dan Frenkel in the medical journal PLoS ONE. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

    To read more, click here.

    The Great Adventures of 10 Daring Druze

    They fought Nazi soldiers, were taken captive and snuck food to Jewish prisoners. This is the heroic tale of Daoud Bessis, last of 10 Druze men who volunteered with British army during WWII
    Bessis during his military days  Photo: Shaul Golan
    Daoud Bessis' life story sounds as if it was taken out of an action movie envisioned by an extremely imaginative director.


    Daoud Bessis today  Photo: Shaul Golan
    After all, who would think there could be a common thread between a young idealistic Druze from Daliyat al-Karmel and the war against the Nazis, saving Jews, staying in prisoner camps established by the Germans and fighting with the Free French Forces? -- Noah Klieger, Ynetnews

    To read more, click here.

    Divorce Recalcitrant Gets Unlimited Jail Term

    Husband to remain behind bars (illustration)Photo: Reuters

    In an unprecedented ruling, the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court has sentenced a divorce recalcitrant to an unlimited prison term – until he agrees to give his wife a "get".

    The man had already served a 10-year prison sentence, and yet was adamant not to grant his wife a divorce. -- ‪Kobi Nahshoni‬, Ynetnews

    To read more, click here.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Correction by US Dept of Homeland Security: Israel’s inclusion on terrorist watch list was a mistake

    Israel was included erroneously on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security terrorist watch list, a U.S. official said.

    Gillian Christiansen, a spokeswoman for then U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the department, said Israel's recent appearance on a list compiled by the department's office of the inspector general was a mistake.

    "The addition of Israel in the OIG’s list of ICE's 'Third-Agency Checks' (TAC) was based on inaccurate information provided to the OIG during the course of its audit," Christiansen said in a statement sent by e-mail to JTA. "The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism. The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with Israel in order to address security issues within its own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe."

    The list does not fault government policies and instead recognizes the likelihood that a suspect traveler from that country might have terrorist ties.

    If a traveler from one of the countries is detained, the country's inclusion on the list triggers a special check by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    The list, attached to a May 10 document from the DHS Inspector General's office, was reported last week by CNS News, a conservative news service.

    The list of 36 nations includes a number of other close U.S. allies such as Turkey, Bahrain, Morocco and Philippines, as well as nations beset by internal fighting like Sudan and Somalia. -- Ron Kampeas, JTA

    AY Ballet Presents a Beautiful Rendition of Adon Olam

    The AY Ballet, based in Chesapeake, VA, is a school for professional ballet training founded by Andrei Yemelianov, who uses a method and syllabus based on the traditions of Russian Classical Ballet.

    Born in Ukraine, Andrei began his ballet training at the Kiev State Choreographic College at the age of ten. He completed the full curriculum with the major in “Choreographic Art”. Andrei was granted the qualification of “Ballet Dancer” and after graduation he danced with Donetsk Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Jewish Theater “Mazeltov“. Andrei also has appeared as a guest artist with numerous companies and schools throughout the United States.

    In 1998 Andrei began his new career as a teacher and a choreographer working at Academie de Ballet and Masterworks. His students are dancing nationwide with companies like Nashville Ballet and Ballet West as well as local dance companies such as TR Dance and VBT….

    While the AY Ballet is not a Jewish ballet school, it seems to be focusing on Jewish themes, such as Jewish weddings, the Exodus from Egypt, the covenant with Abraham, and Jewish songs. We'll share some excerpts of their performances relating to Purim and Pesach at the appropriate time of the year. Now, we're sharing a beautiful performance by the AY Ballet of the Shabbat hymn Adon Olam, with vocals in Hebrew and English. -- Al Kustanwitz, Jewish Humor Central

    To read more, click here.

    To see the accompanying video, click on image below.

    Terrorists Halt Egyptian Gas Supply to Jordan, Israel; Damage Egyptian Economy

    • Gas exports to Israel pump $300m. into Egyptian economy
    • Israeli companies employ thousands of Egyptians
    • Arab Spring presents new opportunities for economic cooperation
    Egyptian authorities are investigating whether Bedouin separatists in the Sinai Peninsula were behind Monday’s attack on a pipeline carrying gas from Egypt to Jordan and Israel. It was the third such attack in the last six months. --Israel Project

    To read more, click here.

    To see accompanying video, click on image below.

    7,300 Bnei Menashe to Make Aliyah

    Ministerial Committee on Immigrant Absorption makes decision in principle to bring to Jewish state northeastern Indian community claiming descent from one of Lost Tribes of Israel.
    Bnei Menashe members arrive in Israel
    (archives) Photo: Yaron Brener
     The Ministerial Committee on Immigrant Absorption, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, reached a historic decision in principle several days ago: To bring to Israel the 7,300 members of Bnei Menashe – a northeastern Indian community claiming decent from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

    The committee decided to appoint an inter-ministerial team of director-generals to prepare an operative plan of action to bring all Bnei Menashe to Israel. The plan will be brought to the government's approval next month.

    Some 1,700 Bnei Menashe have already made aliyah, but the process was halted in 2007. Foreign Minister Lieberman and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver have now decided to undo the historical injustice suffered by the Bnei Menashe community and bring all of its members to Israel. -- Itamar Eichner, Ynetnews

    To read more, click here.

    Jewish-Druze Celebration Planned

    A unique religious event will be held in northern Israel next week: A joint Jewish-Druze celebration.

    Such an event has likely not taken place for decades or even centuries. It will be held in the Druze town of Sajur in the Galilee region, in honor of the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha, who was considered a righteous man both among the Druze and the Jews.

    Rabbi Shmuel Sheetrit of Ashdod explained why a joint event of this kind has not been held before: "Due to ignorance, we thought the Druze were hostile to us." -- ‪Akiva Novick‬, Ynetnews

    To read more, click here.

    Israeli Medical Device Prevents Stroke from Heart Surgery

    A simple filter could cut the high risk of stroke during a new minimally invasive operation to repair heart valves. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c
    The device designed by Dr. Dov Shimon prevents calcified pieces of artery from migrating to the brain. 

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    The Jewish Genes: A personal story of being a carrier of a Jewish genetic disease

    Getting blood drawn for genetic testing
    I am needle-phobic. To avoid pricks (at least the kind that get under my skin…that didn’t work…you know, the ones that draw blood), I just don’t go to the doctor. But, when you’re pregnant, you really have no choice (unless you don’t realize you’re carrying a watermelon in your gut AND you’re constipated AND you haven’t taken a trip to the feminine product aisle at CVS in 9 months, like these chicks).

    If you’re Jewish, you’re subjected to blood testing even before you get pregnant in order to screen for genetic diseases. When my doctor suggested the testing, I refused. There is no history of genetic disease in my family or my husband’s family and I sure as heck was not going to let Mr. Phlebotomy take 5 vials of my blood. After some not-so-gentle prodding by my doctor, I reluctantly subjected my little veins to the not-so-gentle prodding at the lab.

    The Needles Weren't The Hard Part
    A week later, my doc called to inform me I was a carrier of Familial Dysautonomia and since one out of four Ashkenazi Jews (those of us from eastern Europe…or, the pale Jews) is a carrier of at least 1 of the 19 genetic diseases, it would make sense for my husband to be tested as well. We did the math and odds were definitely in our favor. But, 1 in 900 meant nothing when Matt’s test came back positive as well.

    Shocked, upset, and scared, we made an appointment with a genetic counselor to learn about our options for having a child without this life-threatening disease. We narrowed our choices down to either: 1) Gamble (make a fetus, get tested at 12 weeks, hope for the best, and make a difficult decision if need-be), or 2) IVF ($30,000 not covered by insurance, not guaranteed to make a baby, and not for the needle-nervous). I’m the kind of girl who’d take her baby to Vegas (yes, I did that when he was 3 months old), so you can probably guess that we decided to press our luck.-- By JulieSue Goldwasser, kveller (A Jewish Twist on Parenting) via JTA

    To read more, click here.

    The Churches Against Israel:

    Christian blood libels revived, with Israel being painted as evil,
    having no right to exist (Archives) Photo: Ofer Amra
    A few days ago UK researchers announced that 17 skeletons belonged to Jews were found at the bottom of a medieval well in Norwich, England. The Jews were murdered in a pogrom or had been forced to commit suicide rather than submit to demands for conversion to Christianity.

    The bodies date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries, at a time when Jewish people faced killings, banishment and persecution throughout all Europe. Those 17 Jews were killed because of "replacement theology," the most ancient Christian calumny arguing that because of their denial of the divinity of Christ, the Jews have forfeited God’s promises to them which have been transferred to the Church.

    Some 10 centuries later, global Christian forums are reviving this theological demonology against the heirs of those 17 Jews: the Jews of the State of Israel. The World Council of Churches, an ecumenical Christian body based in Genève and boasting 590 million worshippers, just ended a four-day conference in the Greek city of Volos. Not a single word of criticism was uttered there against the Islamists who are persecuting Arabs who believe Jesus. -- Giulio Meotti, Ynetnews

    To read more, click here.

    Gay Marriage in New York Puts Conservative Rabbis on the Spot

    Orthodox rabbis fought it. Reform rabbis championed it. And when New York’s historic same-sex marriage bill was finally signed into law June 24, Conservative rabbis scratched their heads.

    Marriage equality is a done deal in New York — the law is set to take effect 30 days from the date it was signed — but in the Conservative movement, the passage of the bill highlights the uncertainty that many Conservative rabbis feel when it comes to officiating marriage between gay men or between lesbians. Now, with their gay congregants’ relationships sanctioned by the State of New York, Conservative leaders are feeling increased pressure to clarify their position on same-sex unions and to finally answer the question: How (Conservative) Jewish is same-sex marriage? -- Naomi Zeveloff, Forward

    To read more, click here.

    New Israeli Ambassador to UN in Eye of Diplomatic Maelstrom

    Ron Prosor faces double challenge of dealing with
    Durban III conference, Palestinian statehood bid in September.

    To take the job of Israeli ambassador at the United Nations at any point, one has to be ready to hit the ground running.

    Now in particular, with September’s double-barrelled promise of Durban III and the imminent bid for Palestinian statehood coming to the UN – plus flotilla agita and Arab Spring – the new guy on the block, Ron Prosor, has his hands full. -- Jordana Horn, Jerusalem Post

    To read more, click here.

    United States Puts Israel on Its Terror Watch List

    Department of Homeland Security says Israel one of 36 countries whose citizens might have terrorist ties; doesn't reflect gov't policy. -- JTA via Jerusalem Post

    To read more, click here.

    Brandeis' Rose Art Museum Lawsuit Settled

    The Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum
    will remain open and will not have to sell part of its collection
    The sad saga of Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum, whose collection university trustees had voted to sell in 2009, ended today when the university announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed by museum supporters and the promise to keep the museum open without putting any of its art up for sale.

    “The Rose remains open, and it has an important role to play in the life of Brandeis,” Fred Lawrence, the university’s president, told The Art Newspaper. “There are no plans to sell art.” Further, he added, the lawsuit, brought by four Rose board members and donors to prohibit any sales in Suffolk Probate and Family Court in Boston, was terminated, and the Massachusetts Attorney General has closed the case.

    Lawrence declined to rule out another option that has been considered, however, that the Rose might raise money by “renting out” part of its collection. “We’re exploring options, but I’m focused on the 50th anniversary of the Rose this year, with planning traveling exhibitions, and with bringing supporters back to the museum,” he said. -- Judith H. Dobrzynski, Art Newspaper

    To read more, click here.

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY--From the Editor

    FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION

    Growing up near the Statue of Liberty, I took her for granted as many did. She was like an old relative you visited or saw every so often because you had to. Every Sunday my family passed her as we went to visit our grandparents; often as a child I visited her and reluctantly climbed all those narrow steps to her crown. But it wasn’t until last Fourth of July, while watching the fireworks from New York Harbor that I had to face reality: because of the effects of time, Miss Liberty was covered by a cocoon of scaffolding almost totally hiding her from view, but I wanted her and I needed her as I always remembered her.

    Miss Liberty is old now—125 years old, but when she was young she was there to greet masses of European immigrants who had packed up their lives and flee to the unknown of the “Golden Land,” America. Among these brave people were my young grandparents. Their first sight of an American face was Miss Liberty in the harbor; she was America for them, and it was to her that they whispered their dreams for their lives in America; soon she came to represent their dreams, too. Now my grandparents are gone, but Miss Liberty remains as do my grandparents’ dreams.

    Looking at Miss Liberty last Fourth of July on television, I remembered what I owed my grandparents for coming to this land. I’m not sure exactly why they came since I never really asked them; like many they probably were fleeing religious and political persecution as well as the poverty of their homelands. But I am sure what I owe them: the freedom and well-being that they sought is now mine as is life itself for if they had not risked coming to America we would have been caught up in Europe’s Holocaust.

    So on today, I remember of the debt I owed my grandparents by looking at the Statue of Liberty on television and on-line. She was their symbol of America and the symbol of many others, too. Thus the Statue of Liberty is our physical link uniting one generation to another; to us born in America, she is today’s symbol of our country just as she was in the past to the millions of Americans-by-choice. Now she looks over a city and nation hurt, and she stands steadfast as a symbol to that continuing promise that was made to our parents and grandparent and to each immigrant to our shores—the promise of safety, freedom, love and dreams.

    Lois Silverman

    Fourth of July Seder

    Four years ago, I wrote a column titled "America Needs a July Fourth Seder." In it, I explained that "national memory dies without national ritual. And without a national memory, a nation dies." Many readers and listeners to my radio show responded by creating their own rituals to make the day far more meaningful than watching fireworks and eating hot dogs.

    I now present a simple 10-minute ceremony that every American can easily use on July Fourth. It is a product of the Internet-based Prager University that I founded nearly two years ago. We call it the Fourth of July Declaration, and here it is. (A paginated and printed version can be downloaded at the website www.prageruniversity.com)….

    MATERIALS AND FOOD NEEDED FOR THE CEREMONY
    — Iced Tea
    — Salty pretzels
    — Strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream. (But any goodie colored red, white and blue will do.)
    — A small bell The ringer on your cell phone will do in a pinch
    — An American coin The bigger, the better. A half-dollar is ideal, but a quarter will do.
    — A printed (unsigned) Declaration of Independence.
    — Lyrics to "God Bless America" for all your guests. Download the lyrics. (www.scoutsongs.com/lyrics/godblessamerica.html)

    DIRECTION: Host invites the young people (generally ages 7 and older) present to read and to answer the following:

    YOUNG READERS:

    Q: Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?

    A: Because the Fourth of July is the birthday of the American people — the day we chose to become the United States of America, a free nation.

    Q: Why was America different from all other countries?

    A: Because in 1776, all countries were based on nationality, religion, ethnicity or geography. But America was created on the basis of a set of ideas. This is still true today.

    Q: What are those ideas?

    A: Three ideas summarize what America is all about. They are engraved on every American coin. They are "Liberty," "In God We Trust" and "E Pluribus Unum." -- Dennis Prage, Jewish World Review

    To read more, click here.

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Shore to Shore, at Israel's National Parks

    Israel may be tiny, but there are more than 250 designated Israeli nature reserves and parks in locations ranging from snow-capped peaks to deserts, and the figure is growing every year
    Beit She'an antiquities viewed from the Roman theater.
    Photo: Israel Tourism Ministry
    Looking at Israel on a map, it’s hard to imagine how hundreds of nature reserves could fit into this tiny country along with 7.7 million people. In fact, the roster of about 250 designated Israeli nature reserves and national parks – covering more than a million acres of land -- is growing every year.

    In addition to well-known sites such as Masada, Ein Gedi, the Hula Valley or Caesarea, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) oversees close to 20 sites each in the Golan Heights/Upper Galilee, Negev/Eilat and Sea of Galilee/Mount Carmel regions; a dozen in central Israel; eight in the Judean Desert and Dead Sea area; and a handful in Judea and Samaria. Overnight camping facilities are available in 26 of Israel’s national parks.

    These areas represent an unusually wide variety of landscapes and climates for a single country. In the far north is Mount Hermon with its snow-capped peaks in the winter. In the west is the green Mediterranean-fed landscape and wetlands. In the south are arid expanses of desert. Israel also is home to two unique natural wonders: the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth; and Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater), the world’s largest natural crater. -- Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    To read more, click here.

    A Sow's Ear...

    "You can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse" goes the popular refrain. I beg to differ, though. Sometimes one may.

    Browsing among the vast piles of bric-a-brac in a Chelsea flea market right before Hannukah, a tiny leather change purse caught my eye. Sifting through piles of dust-covered junk, golden lettering on the item's battered side gleamed at me like a nugget in dirt.. The Yiddish version of the old saw sprang into my head, my grandfather's shmaltz-coated voice ringing in my ears: Fun a khazerishe ek, makht men nisht keyn shtraymel" "From the tail-end of a pig, one doesn't make a Hasidic man's fur-banded holiday headpiece." -- Benjamin P. Feldman, New York Wanderer

    To read more, click here.

    One Woman Army

    Elena Bonner
    Andrei Sakharov, the great nuclear physicist and human-rights campaigner, had been dead for two years by the time I came to his Moscow apartment in the early summer of 1991. Elena Bonner, his widow, was there, still defiantly at war with the faceless foe that had slaughtered her family, exiled her and her husband, slandered her Jewish name, and lied about it all. Now that she has died at eighty-eight, a dissident to the end, I find the memory of my brief encounter with her almost unbearably poignant. -- Daniel Johnson, Jewish Ideas Daily

    To read more, click here.

    Israeli Software Aims to Shed Light on the Bible

    An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man writes some of the last words
    in a Torah scroll in Jerusalem, last March.
    Photo by: AP


    A team of scholars and scientists are hoping the algorithm they developed will give intriguing new insights about what researchers believe to be the multiple hands that wrote the Bible. -- Associated Press

    To read more, click here.

    Five Saudi Women Drivers Detained for Defying Laws: Activist


    At least five Saudi women have been taken into custody accused of defying the men-only driving rule in the ultraconservative Arab kingdom, an activist said Wednesday.

    The detentions mark the first major backlash by authorities since a campaign was launched by Saudi women nearly two weeks ago to challenge the driving restrictions. -- Brian Murphy, Huffington Post

    To read more, click here.