6 April 2020 - 13 Nisan 5780 - י"ג ניסן ה' אלפים תש"פ
Ancient golden treasure found at foot of temple mount E-mail

In summer excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar made a stunning discovery: two bundles of treasure containing thirty-six gold coins, gold and silver jewelry, and a gold medallion with the menorah symbol etched into it. Also etched into the 10-cm medallion are a shofar and a torah scroll.

Dr. Mazar directs excavations on the City of David’s summit and at the Temple Mount’s southern wall. Calling the find “a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Dr. Mazar said: “We have been making significant finds from the First Temple Period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem’s history, so discovering a golden seven-branched menorah from the seventh century CE at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise.”

The discovery was unearthed just five days into Mazar’s latest phase of the Ophel excavations, and can be dated to the late Byzantine period (early seventh century CE). The gold treasure was discovered in a ruined Byzantine public structure a mere 50 metres from the Temple Mount’s southern wall.

The position of the items as they were discovered indicates that one bundle was carefully hidden underground while the second bundle was apparently abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor.

Given the date of the items and the manner in which they were found, Mazar estimates they were abandoned in the context of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 CE. After the Persians conquered Jerusalem, many Jews returned to the city and formed the majority of its population, hoping for political and religious freedom. But as Persian power waned, instead of forming an alliance with the Jews, the Persians sought the support of Christians and ultimately allowed them to expel the Jews from Jerusalem.

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Christian missionaries threaten survival of Kaifeng Jews E-mail

After two centuries of slow decline, the Kaifeng Jews, who now number only in the hundreds, are again struggling to revive their community.

Credit this to a moderately more open Chinese society, the Internet, and the intermittent presence of visiting, knowledgeable Western Jews. And, as in past centuries, Christian missionaries are also present, hoping to redirect the Kaifeng Jews along Christian paths.

The chief player in this endeavouris an American Judeo-Christian named Timothy Lerner, who founded the first Jewish school set up in Kaifeng in modern times.

After studying in China in 2000, Lerner travelled to Kaifeng to open the Yiceleye (Israelite) School, instructing the Jewish descendants in Hebrewand gathering those interested for Shabbat dinners and festival celebrations.

More significantly, Lerner was able to arrange for a number of young Kaifeng Jews to receive scholarships to live and study in Israel with the help of the Israel-based Shavei Israel. This organisation is dedicated to returning “lost Jews” to the Jewish homeland—a Zionist mission that coincides, pragmatically, with that of the Judeo-Christians and their Christian supporters, who also seek the return of all Jews to the Land of Israel. Shavei Israel is neither a Christian nor a Judeo-Christian organisation, although it works with them to accomplish its own ends.

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How three words defined me to others and taught me the best of two ancient cultures E-mail

Coordinating production of consumer goods from an office in Brooklyn taught me to do business with suppliers in China. I picked up a few cultural clues in the communication, but nothing prepared me for life in China.

Language was a manageable concern. I got by on translators, hand signals, and a few important words in Chinese. I had not anticipated how much Chinese culture mirrored Jewish culture. Confucius codified Chinese ethics and philosophy, emphasizing family, duty, and honor. The Chinese word for “people” (ren) is used to describe feelings of empathy, altruism, and striving for excellence. In Yiddish – being a mensch.

A succession of takeovers from the Mongols to the communists did not change the basics of Chinese society. The new leaders just became Confucian. China went on honoring its elders, worshiping its ancestors, and celebrating the ancient holidays. To the lands where they travelled, the Hebrews brought Mosaic Law, the bagel with shmear, and lawyers who practice the one while eating the other. Both cultures value personal honor. Saving face is a huge priority in China. The ‘crown of a good name’ is mentioned in Ethics of Our Fathers. Both Chinese and Jews seem to have a saying for everything, whether or not you appear interested. When serving food, every Chinese person is a Jewish mother.

An orthodox Jewish man arriving in the People’s Republic, I was more than a large white foreigner. I was an inscrutable mystery. China hosts many American and European visitors, but a Caucasian with a yarmulke and beard was an unfamiliar sight that most resembled a Muslim from China’s western provinces. It did not help that removing my glasses for my passport photo gave me a wild-eyed zealous resemblance to Osama bin Laden.

Within minutes of reaching China, someone touched my chin and said, “Nice beard.” Chinese passengers waiting to change planes tried to read the boarding pass extending from my shirt pocket. In an attempt to shame them into giving me some privacy, I held it up to be read. The readers nodded their thanks, smiled, and leaned on my hand luggage. New York and Tel Aviv were light years behind China in the pushy and nosy stranger competition. The concept of personal space was undefined in the People’s Republic.

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