Saturday, January 09, 2021

From Ian:

Richard Goldberg and Mark Dubowitz: Why Biden’s Plan to Rejoin the Iran Deal Makes No Sense
Iran has decided to escalate tensions with the West by publicly confirming the production of enriched uranium at an underground nuclear facility and seizing a South Korean oil tanker transiting the Persian Gulf. This escalation may be designed to put additional pressure on President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—a move that would give extensive sanctions relief to a regime under enormous economic stress. But if Biden were to give in to nuclear extortion and abandon sanctions, he would surrender his most important leverage against Tehran and never achieve his stated goal of negotiating a longer-lasting, better agreement.

Five years ago, nearly every Republican in the U.S. Congress—and many leading Democrats including Senators Charles Schumer, Bob Menendez, and Joe Manchin—opposed the Iran deal for good reasons. The agreement set expiration dates on key restrictions, ruled out on-demand inspections, and let Iran maintain its nuclear enrichment capabilities. It didn’t address the regime’s accelerating missile program, gave Tehran the financial resources to sponsor regional aggression and terrorism, and ignored its egregious abuse of human rights.

Hinting at these flaws, Biden recently said he wants to build on the 2015 deal with a new agreement to “tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as we address the missile program.” During the presidential campaign, he also promised to confront Iran’s human-rights record and its “destabilizing activities, which threaten our friends and partners in the region.” But the president-elect maintains that the only way to negotiate a new framework is by first returning to the old one.

There’s one big problem with that logic. Since rejoining the original nuclear deal requires Washington to lift its most punishing sanctions, the economic leverage against Tehran that Biden inherits from his predecessor will evaporate the moment sanctions are relaxed.

Congress had worked for years to enact tough sanctions to force the Iranian regime to abandon its malign activities. Indeed, former President Barack Obama credited these sanctions with bringing Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.

The obvious question, then, is this: If Obama contends U.S. sanctions pressure was necessary to produce an agreement as deeply flawed as the Iran nuclear deal, how could Biden ever negotiate far more restrictions on Iran with far less economic leverage?

Biden’s retreat from sanctions in the face of Iran’s threats to expand its enrichment-related activities, kick out international inspectors, and build additional nuclear reactors—in effect, giving in to a nuclear extortion racket—would also send a clear message to the mullahs: They can wait out a Biden administration in negotiations because he will never reimpose sanctions out of fear Iran might again expand its nuclear activities.
The end of the Gulf crisis is big news — but Middle East sands always shift
It appears that the Gulf crisis is over. The schism between U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, on the one hand, and Qatar, on the other, is ending today in a flurry of Arab robes and face-masked embraces at a desert air strip in northwest Saudi Arabia.

This being the Middle East, the wording must be cautious and it’s wise to include a “probably” or “perhaps” somewhere. But there is no doubting the potential significance of the news. An often absurd tiff between Washington’s allies has been taken off the front burner. The significance is arguably bigger than Israel’s recent “normalization” agreements with the UAE and Bahrain. And, given the attendance in the desert today of White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, it’s hard not to recognize it as an achievement of outgoing President Trump.

That success must be balanced against the president’s role in starting the crisis in May 2017, when he attended the Riyadh Arab summit on his first foreign trip. Emir Tamim of Qatar was also there, but his delegation knew something was going wrong when it found itself seated near the kitchens at the banquet. Within days, the Qatar news agency had been hacked to show fake pro-Iranian messages and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain had broken relations with Qatar. A tweet by President Trump had suggested Qatari support for terrorism. Qatar’s Arab neighbors instituted an “embargo” — in effect, a blockade, cutting the land border and banning air traffic — complaining of Doha’s support for radicals and Islamic extremists.

On a reporting trip to the Gulf a few weeks later, I searched for answers on what had happened and why. Perplexed local diplomats were doing the same. The accepted wisdom was that it was a power play by MbZ and MbS, the up-and-coming personalities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the lead emirate of the UAE, and Mohammed bin Salman, who became the Saudi crown prince in June 2017 after forcing the abdication of his predecessor. Irritated by their once-irrelevant Qatari neighbor, now striding the region and even the world flush with natural gas revenues, they wanted to put it in its place.
MEMRI: A Second Chance For Sudan
With one exception, the Trump administration certainly did not distinguish itself when it comes to Africa.[1] But that exception, Sudan, is an important one. Through a bulldozer intensity focused on helping make peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, through seemingly crude pressure and clumsy creativity, the administration came through with three great deliverables for Khartoum's transitional government: removing Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, restoring Sudan's sovereign immunity for past complicity with terrorist acts, and providing both bilateral and IMF debt relief that will make Sudan able to more easily tap international assistance for very poor countries. Khartoum in return has to move forward with normalizing relations with Israel.[2]

I am one of those who criticized the administration for pressing too hard to get Sudan's fragile transitional government to agree on Israel – even though I support normalization – but in the end, it worked and, like the other agreements between Israel and Arab states over the past few months, this is a solid, respectable diplomatic achievement.

Sudan, after 30 years of brutal dictatorship, has been given a second chance. That chance has been principally won by the Sudanese people themselves, who in 2018 and 2019 rose up against the Omar Al-Bashir regime and, with the help of key parts of the Sudanese military establishment, brought the regime to an end. But certainly, the international community also played a helpful secondary role. And second chances in the Arab world are nothing to look down upon, as we see several countries – Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen – in deep, seemingly intractable existential crises. Sudan is also in crisis, and yet one can only compare it to the situation in Lebanon and see real hope and the possibility of progress on the banks of the Two Niles.

Sudan's most immediate problem is economic. Inflation ran at over 200% in 2020, exacerbating already widespread poverty and hunger. Supplying fuel, food, medicine, and electricity are major challenges. GDP in 2020 decreased even more than it had the past two years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Almost half of all Sudanese between the ages of 15 and 64 suffered from malnutrition as children. And with freedoms won by the Sudanese Revolution comes the right to demonstrate and complain, loudly. Expectations and frustrations are very high. Sudan's biggest challenge over the next two years is finding a way to show tangible forward motion towards a better life for its people. According to the country's Charter for the Transitional Period, democratic elections are to be held by late 2022; these would be the first fully free elections in Sudan since 1986.

The second, no less daunting, challenge that Sudan faces is that of civilian-military relations, specifically how to rein in a sprawling military establishment accustomed to both economic and political privilege. In Sudan, there are two military entities, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the paramilitary forces built up by the previous regime out of the Darfur conflict and used as a type of Praetorian Guard by Bashir in his last years. Both SAF and RSF are mentioned by name in the Transitional Charter as "national military institutions that protect the unity and sovereignty of the nation." SAF's Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF Commander Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo (AKA "Hemeti") are, respectively, chairman and vice-chair of Sudan's Sovereignty Council.


Remembrances of Hyper Cacher Victims Begin, Ahead of Sixth Anniversary of Terror Attack
Six years after the tragic events, commemorations began Thursday to the victims of the 2015 Islamist attacks in Paris against the Charlie Hebdo magazine, on Jan. 7, and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket two days later.

“This morning, 6 years later, we remember. The President of Crif @FrancisKalifat goes to the tribute ceremonies to the victims of #AttentatsJanvier2015,” tweeted CRIF, the communal organization representing French Jews. “The first tribute takes place in front of the former premises of #CharlieHebdo.”

Seventeen people were murdered in the attacks, including 12 staff of the satirical publication in the Paris office on Jan. 7, police officer Clarissa Jean-Philippe on Jan. 8, and four hostages at the kosher market in the city’s suburbs on Jan. 9. All three perpetrators were killed in separate gun battles with French police.

Last month, 14 people were convicted in a French court of various crimes in connection with the attacks, including the financing of terrorism and membership in a criminal gang.

Thursday’s procession also stopped at the Hyper Cacher supermarket, laying flowers beneath a plaque commemorating the four victims killed there: Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, and François-Michel Saada.

“In memory of the victims of the Hyper Cacher attack, cowardly murdered because they were Jewish,” tweeted French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin. “France will never forget.”


President Biden Should Quash Abbas’ Newest Offensive
By linking the Hamas-controlled Gaza terror statelet that now exists with a proposed entity in Judea-Samaria (which the Quartet labels the West Bank), the Quartet necessitates the creation of a way to link Gaza to the PA-run territories. Such territorial contiguity would endanger Israel’s security, which a very widely accepted fact in Israel’s defense policy establishment.

Hamas already takes advantage of every current opportunity to send terrorists from Gaza into Judea and Samaria, so just imagine what it would do if it is given a highway or railway tunnel system through which it could send whatever it wants.

If Israel tried to interfere with Palestinian Arabs using that corridor, it would become the subject of severe international condemnation. The United Nations would almost surely threaten sanctions, as would the European Union. Under such pressure, Israel would hesitate to act — thus effectively tying its hands in the face of a terrorist buildup.

Another issue with the Quartet’s mission statement is the use of a place named “East Jerusalem,” when no such place has ever existed in Middle East history. The name “East Jerusalem” is an artificial construct that supporters of the Palestinian argument use in their propaganda to make it appear as if that part of the city is an intrinsically Arab area that Jews are illegally entering.

What they are really saying with the term is that Jerusalem’s Old City and its surrounding neighborhoods are not part of Israel, or part of Israeli Jerusalem itself. The original and oldest parts of Jerusalem are what they falsely label as “East Jerusalem.”

Led by Mahmoud Abbas, the PA understands that the Quartet’s envoys and its bureaucracy are biased in their favor, even more so than the United Nations, and that is why Abbas is so focused on bringing the Quartet back into the picture. Abbas must be prevented from reactivating the Quartet as a player in Middle East affairs.

The Middle East’s political climate has changed remarkably in the last several years, in part due to the work of the Trump administration’s Middle East team. One thing that the Biden administration can do to not squander what has been accomplished is to bring a swift end to US sponsorship of the Quartet. It has shown that it is systemically incapable of being a fair arbiter where Israel is concerned — and is out of step with the Arab states normalizing relations with Israel.


Netanyahu taken to safe room during protests prior to Capitol riots
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family were taken to a safe room last Saturday after protesters allegedly broke through one of the barriers placed to defend the Prime Minister’s Residence, Israeli media reported on Friday.

The report, which was slammed by the protesting organizations which occupy the weekly anti-Netanyahu protests in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence as being false, was released shortly after the events in Washington D.C. during which protesters stormed the Capitol and were able to break into the US Senate.

The initial report was presented by N12 political analyst Amit Segal, who has been openly supportive of Netanyahu and has consistently criticized the anti-Netanyahu protests.

A video of protesters on that weekend chanting “we have taken power, remove the curtain” was posted by N12 as part of the cause for the security detail's decision to move Netanyahu and his family to a safe location within the building.

The curtain in reference is a screen that blocks the residency from view of the protesters.

The anti-Netanyahu Black Flags Movement said the protests had always been, and will remain, nonviolent “despite evidence of more than 400 cases of activists being assaulted.”
West Bank assailants hit soldier with car, try to shoot others; chase underway
The Israel Defense Forces said on Saturday a manhunt was underway after assailants attempted to shoot soldiers after ramming into one of them at a military checkpoint in the West Bank.

The IDF said the soldier struck by the car did not require medical care. The attack took place near the town of Yabad in the northern West Bank.

Two people were in the vehicle, which accelerated toward troops after they finished inspecting another car at the checkpoint, according to the military.

One of the suspects tried to fire on troops but he dropped his Carlo-style submachine gun, the IDF said.

Troops confiscated the gun and set up roadblocks as searches were conducted throughout the region.

The incident was the latest attempted attack since Esther Horgen’s murder in a terror attack last month sparked weeks of ongoing tension in the West Bank. The Israeli security services reported 13 incidents of stone-throwing by settlers against Palestinians in the days immediately following Horgen’s murder. A 16-year-old settler, Ahuvia Sandak, was killed in a car crash during a police chase after allegedly hurling rocks.
The lawless streets of Kafr Aqab and Israel
Last Saturday, 50 armed Palestinians marched through Jerusalem. They wore army fatigues, helmets, a mix of red and black boots, and military vests to carry the extra magazines they would potentially need for the AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles slung over their shoulders.

Armed Palestinians marching in Jerusalem – sounds ridiculous, right? It’s not. Where the Palestinians marched was a neighborhood of Jerusalem called Kafr Aqab, located north of Pisgat Ze’ev and separated from the rest of the city by a massive concrete wall. But here’s the thing: it is part of Jerusalem, and thus legally speaking no different than Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo or the German Colony.

The Palestinian policemen deployed in Kafr Aqab after a weekend of violence, murder and mayhem, which Israel preferred to ignore. The action started on Friday when two cousins from the al-Rajabi clan got into a fight over a parking spot, a rare commodity in the overpopulated neighborhood known for its high-rise apartment buildings that lack underground parking.

One of the cousins shot the other, critically wounding him. The next day, another cousin opened fire on a group of men from the family. The three were killed. Knowing that the Israeli police would not enter the village – they consistently don’t – residents called the Palestinian Authority. The problem is that the PA has no jurisdiction in Kafr Aqab, which is – again – part of municipal Jerusalem and sovereign Israeli territory.

Hussein al-Sheikh, PA civil affairs minister, contacted the IDF Civil Administration and asked for permission to deploy his policemen to restore order and apprehend the suspected shooters. Israel gave permission, and a day later the PA police tracked down four suspects and brought them to the Qalandiya Checkpoint near Jerusalem, where they were transferred to Israeli police custody.

In other words, Israel dared not apprehend criminal suspects in Jerusalem. It needed the Palestinian police.

ON MONDAY, together with The Post’s Palestinian Affairs reporter Khaled Abu Toameh, I visited Kafr Aqab. We wanted to get a sense of the mood in the neighborhood after the murders, and hear directly from the local residents.

Captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, Kafr Aqab was incorporated into Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries shortly afterward. Prime minister Levi Eshkol’s cabinet had three primary considerations for expanding Jerusalem’s borders at that time: protecting Israel in the event of another war; guaranteeing Israel retained sovereignty over the Old City; and ensuring that if Israel had to withdraw from the newly conquered West Bank, at least it would be able to hold onto an enlarged capital.


Turkey pro-government media claims 'Jews' control America
Turkey’s far-right pro-government media included an article on Friday asserting that US President-elect Joe Biden was brought to office by “Jewish controlled media organization and powerful Jewish lobbies” and that “Jewish capital” controls the US “deep state.” This antisemitic conspiracy has been pushed by far-right Islamists from Hamas to Malaysia to Turkey, where the ruling party frequently taps into conspiracies to stay in power.

The recent article appeared at Yeni Safak in Turkey. Turkish media has largely become controlled by the government and dissidents silenced in the last ten years with the country becoming the largest jailor of journalists in the world. The recent article written by Yusuf Kaplan claims “America is a guinea pig for Jewish power, from which the Jews produced and legitimized their hegemony around the world. Jews have been using America as a guinea pig for nearly a century: there is no such people as the American people, there is no such state as the American state.”

Turkey’s ruling party and its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been close to Trump. It tried to cultivated relations prior to his winning the election and Erdogan frequently phoned Trump, convincing him to leave Syria and encouraging him to abandon US partners in Syria who were fighting ISIS. Turkey also detained a US pastor to blackmail the US, harassed and imprisoned a US consular employee, hosted Hamas terrorists and harassed a US soldier over the last several years. The US state department finally condemned Ankara’s behavior last summer. This has not stopped the latest attempt by Ankara and its media machine, including TRT, to push far-right conspiracy theories. The far-right Proud Boys group was interviewed on TRT. The group has been highlighted uncritically in Ankara’s media which takes a direct cue from Erdogan. TRT, the state media of Turkey which parrots the AK Party and Turkey’s president, put out a Proud Boys statement on January 7, the day after the riot in Washington, in which they threatened “peaceful revolt” if Biden didn’t listen to them.

Turkey’s ruling regime has slammed Biden frequently last year and also bashed his choice of Brett McGurk last week, a former anti-ISIS envoy. Turkey also tried to tap into Trump’s conspiracy theories by arguing that left-wing Kurdish groups were “Antifa.” Turkey has also threatened Nancy Pelosi in September statements. The protesters in Washington targeted her office.
Report Details Space Force Success in Foiling Iranian Missile Attack
The Space Force proved instrumental in thwarting an Iranian missile attack on American bases in Iraq last year, a new report shows.

A review of the events of January 7, 2020, reported by C4ISRNET indicates that the newly created Space Force’s early warning system allowed hundreds of Americans to quickly shelter in bunkers as Iran fired over a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. military installations.

The missile attacks came days after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. A Space Force early warning team at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., picked up unusual readings from advanced satellite missile-detection technology and informed military officials in Iraq within minutes. The early warning potentially saved lives, as U.S. forces reported zero deaths after the night’s action despite personnel suffering 110 injuries.

Officers spoke to the importance of the Space Force’s role in the operation. "This is what they’re trained to do day in and day out," Space Force Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Brandon Davenport told C4ISRNET. "It felt like any other day other than the fact that we all knew there were Americans and allies on the other end of that missile."

Though the branch is newly minted—the Space Force was commissioned less than a month before the attack—its early warning system has seen extensive action thus far. In 2020 alone, the Space Force tracked over 1,000 missiles worldwide. The branch closely monitors U.S. rivals such as China and Russia, whose space capabilities increasingly pose a threat to American security.

Space Force chief of space operations Gen. John Raymond applauded the efforts of his service members to defend against Iranian aggression.
Twitter removes Khamenei tweet calling US, UK vaccines ‘untrustworthy’
Twitter has removed a tweet by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting coronavirus vaccines made in the United States and Britain are “untrustworthy,” saying the post violated its rules.

“Importing vaccines made in the US or the UK is prohibited. They’re completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” said a tweet posted Friday on Khamenei’s English-language Twitter account.

“Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either,” the Iranian leader added in the tweet with the hashtag #CoronaVaccine.

Twitter later removed the tweet and replaced it with a message that said it was “no longer available because it violated the Twitter Rules.”

A spokesperson for Twitter said on Saturday that the tweet “violates… specifically our COVID-19 misleading information policy.”

“The account owner will be required to delete the violative Tweet before regaining access to their account,” the spokesperson for the US-based social network giant said.
A Jewish Child’s First Encounters With Antisemitism, on New York’s Upper West Side
Seemingly from nowhere, at 80th and Broadway, a man sidled up alongside us. He was about 6 feet tall, in his late 40s, well-built and wearing a gray beanie. His hair was dyed blond and came down past his ears. He wore a plain black face mask and bomber jacket, also black, with white markings. He was walking a mid-sized light brown dog.

“I have a question,” he started innocuously. “Is it true that the Bible says Jews must live in Israel?”
“Not that I know of,” I replied.
“My Jewish friends tell me that according to their rabbi, Jews must live in Israel,” he insisted.
“I don’t think you should talk to him. He’s a stranger,” my son chimed in wisely.
“You’re right,” I responded. “We’ve got to go,” I told the man. He continued to follow us.
“Don’t Jews need to go to Israel?” he pressed further.
“Please leave us alone,” I responded. “There are children here.”
“No, I want to have this conversation,” he said. “Why aren’t you in Israel? Are you not Jewish?”
“We are,” my son responded defensively.
“Go away,” I said more forcefully.
“Go to Israel!” he shouted back. And then, furiously: “Heil Hitler!”

I could see the burning hatred in his eyes. My two young sons could see it too.

I pulled out my cellphone and dialed 911, telling the kids to stay close to the stroller. The man then started south on Broadway, quickening his pace. The operator asked for a description of the antagonist and whether he was armed, and promised that I’d receive a call when police arrived at the scene.
US Legislators Condemn Antisemitic Elements Among Capitol Hill Mob as Congresswoman Apologizes for Hitler Comment
Two US legislators on Friday forthrightly condemned the display of antisemitic slogans and symbols by some elements of the mob that stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday in a bid to forcibly prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president.

“These disgraceful expressions of antisemitism and white supremacy should alarm us all,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) declared on Twitter.

“Hate has no place in our communities, especially not in the halls of Congress,” Rosen said.

Rosen’s House colleague Rep. David Trone (D-MD) also called out the antisemitism on display during Wednesday’s violence in Washington, DC.

“The disturbing antisemitic symbols displayed by the insurrectionists at the US Capitol confirm what we already knew — antisemitism is very much alive in America today,” Trone stated on Twitter. “We must condemn this bigotry in all forms.”

Rosen also drew attention to the comment about Nazi leader Adolf Hitler made by Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) at a rally of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening.
‘Hate at our doorstep’: Confederate flag tied outside NYC Holocaust museum
A Confederate flag was found tied to the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City on Friday morning.

The incident comes less than two days after a Confederate flag was brought into the US Capitol by a member of the mob that stormed it Wednesday.

The lower Manhattan museum has notified the NYPD of the flag, Jack Kliger, the museum’s president and CEO, said in a statement Friday. He said the flag showed that “hate has now arrived at our doorstep.”

“This is an atrocious attack on our community and on our institution and must be met with the swift and forceful response by law enforcement,” he said. “The Confederate flag is a potent symbol of white supremacy, as evidenced by the events at the US Capitol this week.”

The NYPD did not confirm whether the flag was being investigated as a bias crime, but told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it was being investigated by the NYPD detective division, and called the act “atrocious.”
The Jewel in Jerusalem's Crown is Her Diversity
We often hear about the divided nature of Jerusalem because of conflict. There's the East side of the city which was under Jordanian control from 1948 - 1967 and there's the West side which was part of Israel until the 1967 War, after which both sides were included in one Jerusalem municipality under Israeli sovereignty. But we often still think in terms of these apparent binary oppositions: East/West, Jews/Arabs, Israeli/Palestinian, Christian/Muslim. There were always bound to be rough edges. After all, Jerusalem has been conquered some 44 times in 5,000 years and her walls contain some of the most sacred shrines in the world.

There are also earthly and heavenly dimensions to the city's character. Mystics have had visions of a future city of gold descending from the clouds and many have had this in mind when they encounter the grit and grime of the old city for the first time. The uneven, dark cobblestone alleyways and ripe smells coming from the butcher's market, Suq al-Lahamim, can be disconcerting for a pilgrim expecting something a little more pristine and polished. In fact, a psychological condition exists to describe the those suffering on the edge of bipolarity, called "Jerusalem Syndrome." Sometimes you see them in the city center clothed in purple flags decorated with gold sequins, or in the visitor's line for the Temple Mount wearing sackcloth covered in ashes. They are usually turned away for inappropriate dress and escorted to the next flight back home.

If you make the necessary adjustments to your expectations, you will find an exquisite assortment of peoples and cultures inside the four quarters of the Old City, as well as beyond her walls. The different neighborhoods and markets have been likened to a mosaic of tiny tesserae placed together to make a painting of profound perspective. On a very real level, Jerusalem belongs to everyone, and we are all the old bits of colorful stone and glass which go into this precious picture. There's a rhyme and reason to the way the four quarters were fitted around the homes and holy sites and the rest of this article will be devoted to helping you navigate the way.

The Christian Quarter: Dozens of denominations are huddled around the holiest site in the world for Christianity. In 325 CE Queen Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the true site of Calvary with the help of local Christians living in the Mount Zion neighborhood. Subsequently, she built the Basilica of the Anastasia, the Church of the Resurrection, around the northwest point of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the grave. The Byzantine era (325 - 638 CE) ushered in a great wave of building projects throughout the holy land connecting pilgrims to important biblical sites.
‘Blessed Maria who lived immaculate life’: Ancient tombstone found at Negev park
A tombstone of a Christian woman who lived in the 6th or 7th century CE was recently discovered at a national park in the Negev desert, after a park worker accidentally stumbled upon it.

The stone, found at Nitzana National Park, features Greek writing and belongs to a woman named Maria. It says she died on 9 February.

The rare find was made by chance by an employee of the Parks and Nature Authority along one of the park’s trails.

Leah Di Segni of Hebrew University deciphered it. The stone declares that “Blessed Maria, who lived an immaculate life,” died on February 9th. It has been dated to some 1,400 years ago.

“Nitzana is renowned as a key site in research into the transition between the Byzantine and the Early Islamic periods,” Tali Erickson-Gini of the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

“During the fifth and sixth centuries CE, Nitzana acted as a center for the villages and settlements in the vicinity. Among other things, it had a military fortress as well as churches, a monastery and a road station that served Christian pilgrims traveling to Santa Katarina, which believers regarded as the site of Mount Sinai.”

She added that Nitzana served as a Nabatean road stop on a key trade route as far back as the 3rd century BCE. By the 10th century CE the site was abandoned.


The Israeli organization saving the lives of Gaza’s children
Join us as Nicky Blackburn, ISRAEL21c Israel Director and Editor in Chief, takes you to the border of Gaza and Israel where little Adam and Rinad are coming for free lifesaving heart surgery by the doctors of Save a Child’s Heart at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

You will see a miraculous transformation, not only in health but also in trust and goodwill, to last a lifetime.





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