16 August 2018 - 5 Elul 5778 - ה' אלול ה' אלפים תשע"ח
Taiwanese volunteers spend summer vacation in Israel E-mail

In a café in Jerusalem’s Cinema City complex in August, over plates of Israeli breakfast, shakshuka and a communal bowl of fries, a group of seven young Taiwanese volunteers shared their experiences during their time in Israel and recounted with humour the similarities and differences between the two cultures, Jerusalem Post reported.

“I still remember Independence Day, there was supposed to be a celebration party in Gilo Park, and originally they told me it started at 8 o’clock and I was there until 9, maybe a little later, and they finally started and I thought, ‘Okay, this kind of reminds me of home’,” recounted Cindy, a volunteer who had spent the previous past five months at the Gilo branch of ILAN, the Israel foundation for handicapped children. She added: “Transportation is really different here; when you cross the street, the cars stop.”

She and six other volunteers were taking time off from their studies or careers to explore Israel and to serve some of its most needy citizens, working with organisations such as ILAN, the Israeli society for autistic children ALUT, and Elwyn, which is dedicated to helping people with disabilities.

Both Israeli and Taiwanese cultures put a strong emphasis on the family, and when asked about how their families took the news that their children would be spending an extended period of time in the Middle East, one volunteer explained: “Our parents tried to stop us from coming, but I take a lot of pictures and send them so they feel better about me being here.” This comment was met with emphatic head nods and hand-over-mouth laughter from the rest of the group.

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The Festival of Sukkot for all the family E-mail

The festival of Sukkot is a joyous occassion which is celebrated for seven days. The festival falls on 15 Tishrei, five days after Yom Kippur.

The festival has many other names such as the ‘Festival of Booths’, and is referenced in Book of Leviticus: “You will dwell in booths for seven days; all natives of Israel shall dwell in booths.” (23:42). Also in the Book of Exodus (23:16) as the ‘Feast of Ingathering’. The holiday was also referred to as the ‘Season of our Rejoicing.’

Like the festivals of Pesach and Shavuot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif (in Hebrew), the Festival of Ingathering. During Temple times, families would go to the Temple to offer thanks for their fall harvests.

Our main obligation during the festival is to build a Sukkah, a temporary hut where we traditionally eat and sleep. The Sukkah symbolises the temporary huts that our ancestors lived in during the forty years they wandered in the desert.

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Excavations reveal 2,000-year-old stone-vessel quarry E-mail

Arare workshop for the production of chalkstone vessels, dated to the Roman period, is currently being excavated at Reina in Lower Galilee, Israel.

Excavations are unearthing a small cave in which archaeologists have found thousands of chalkstone cores and other types of production waste, including fragments of stone mugs and bowls in various stages of production. The discovery provides fascinating evidence of the central place of ritual purity in the daily lives of Galilean Jews during the time of Jesus.

The ancient site was uncovered during the course of construction work at a municipal sports centre conducted by the Reina local council. This is the fourth workshop of its kind ever to have been uncovered in Israel; an additional workshop is currently being excavated near Reina, located one kilometre from the current site. The two remaining known sites were uncovered decades ago far to the south, in the Jerusalem area.

According to Dr Yonatan Adler, Senior Lecturer at Ariel University and director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “In ancient times, most tableware, cooking pots and storage jars were made of pottery. In the first century of the Common Era, however, Jews throughout Judea and Galilee also used tableware and storage vessels made of soft, local chalkstone.”

As Adler explained, the reason for this curious choice of material seems to have been religious. “According to ancient Jewish ritual law, vessels made of pottery are easily made impure and must be broken. Stone, on the other hand, was thought to be a material which can never become ritually impure, and as a result ancient Jews began to produce some of their everyday tableware from stone. Although chalkstone vessels are well-known at many Jewish sites throughout the country, it is extremely unusual to uncover a site where such vessels where actually produced. Today we are excavating a second site near Reina, located one kilometre from here. Until today, only two other similar sites have been excavated, however both of these were in the area of Jerusalem. Our excavations are highlighting the pivotal role of ritual purity observance not only in Jerusalem but in far-off Galilee as well.”

The excavations have revealed an artificially hewn cave from which ancient workers quarried the raw material for the chalkstone vessels. Ancient chisel marks cover the walls, ceiling and floor of the cave. Inside the cave and on the ground nearby are strewn thousands of stone cores, the ancient industrial waste from stone mugs and bowls produced on a lathe. Hundreds of unfinished vessels were also found, apparently damaged during the production process and discarded on-site.

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