Monday, November 19, 2018

From Ian:

When America doubted my Jewish grandmother’s loyalty
As I reflect on these events in my grandmother’s life, I am left wondering if our country has learned anything at all since she sat in that El Paso courtroom. And I confess that these reflections do not leave me feeling terribly cheerful.

Today, Jews are still painfully aware that no matter how “American” we may feel, we can easily be accused of having divided loyalties. Politicians sow fear of immigrants, stoking suspicion among neighbors. A simple mistake, a scurrilous rumor or “foreign-looking” family members can leave many among us vulnerable to others’ suspicions that we cannot be trusted – or, as we have seen in recent days, vulnerable even to violence.

My grandmother’s case offers an early glimpse into this aspect of our national culture, which would continue to corrode in the years that followed. Her hearing in the spring of 1949 was 5 1/2 years before Senator McCarthy would finally be chastened with the famous rebuke “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

We are – thankfully – several decades beyond the paranoia of McCarthyism, but its tenacious cells still sleep in the veins of fear beneath our nation’s skin. Today one can witness firsthand how easily some Americans’ love of our country can metastasize into a strain of xenophobia so pernicious that they can be convinced to turn against their fellow citizens.

Seventy years after my grandmother was summoned before a committee of the federal Justice Department, anti-Semitism is ascendant once again across America. And once more it is garbed in the belief that Jews cannot be fully American, that our values threaten the integrity of the nation which has been our beloved home for centuries.

When we discovered the nondescript black binder among my grandmother’s belongings, we had no idea what secrets it would hold. We could never have predicted the story that those yellowing photographs and official documents would tell. And, I confess, we never expected that the historical territory through which that binder led us would look quite so familiar.
Seth Mandel: Ostracizing Jewish Trump Supporters Will Only Hurt the Jewish Community
On the day of the massacre in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the political commentator Franklin Foer wrote in the Atlantic that “any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome. They have placed their community in danger.” Foer was not alone in this sentiment, which was echoed by at least one influential rabbi. Seth Mandel warns of the dangers of this passion for anathematizing political opponents, made even more dangerous by the tendency to blame Israel for the anti-Semitic violence:

Two versions of this [claim] predominate: one, that Israel’s strength has deceived Jews into weakening their position in America; two, that Israeli policies are to blame for the bloodshed. . . . The former Anti-Defamation League official Harry Reis [stated that] Benjamin Netanyahu, the Knesset member Naftali Bennett, the Israeli ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman “are enablers and defenders of [Donald Trump’s] hate and the white supremacists who support him.”

The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson took the next logical step in this progression and—ironically, endorsing a key neo-Nazi talking point—proclaimed: “The bizarre and terrifying nexus between Israel and white nationalism actually starts to make sense when you understand the ethno-nationalist literature. Extreme-right Zionists and anti-Semitic white nationalists have the same core beliefs.” Liberals have thus unwittingly been reprising the old “Zionism equals racism” calumny with the 2018 version: Zionism is borderline Nazism. . . .

So there you have it: the Jews are the authors of their own destruction, supporters of Israel are disloyal Americans, Zionism is a first cousin to Nazism, right-wing Jews are Nazi collaborators, and Trump-supporting Jews should be expurgated from Jewish communal life.

Why are [Foer and others] fixated on excommunication? [There] is a great irony here: liberal laymen and clergy are deploying one of the most heavy-handed rabbinical retributive powers on the menu. . . . But of course the religion we’re talking about isn’t Judaism, is it? It’s progressivism—the Torah of Liberalism. In leftist politics, isolation is the first, not the last, line of defense against upsetting ideas.

EastEnders tackles antisemitism with storyline about vandalised Jewish grave
The BBC’s EastEnders has become the first soap to tackle the issue of antisemitism, in a new storyline introduced this week.

The programme has used the character of Dr Harold Legg, thought to be the only identifiably Jewish role in British soaps, to address the issue. Dr Legg is played by the 92-year-old Jewish actor Leonard Fenton.

Thursday’s programme showed the elderly doctor visiting his mother’s grave in a Jewish cemetery, together with “Dot Cotton”, the role played by June Brown, who is 91.

Dr Legg is explaining to Dot the custom of leaving a stone on a grave, when the pair, to their horror, see graffiti and a swastika daubed on Esther Legg’s tombstone.

Airbnb to stop operating in West Bank settlements
Airbnb agreed to boycott West Bank settlements when it removed settler rental listings Monday from its popular website, even though US law does not bar such posts.

Israeli right-wing lawmakers immediately railed against the decision, urging settler home owner to take legal action and threatening to limit the organization’s operations in Israel.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said he planned to speak with senior US officials to see if the move violated American laws against boycotts that exist in 25 out of 50 states.

“National conflicts exist all over the world. The heads of Airbnb will have to explain why they chose to take a racist political stance against some of Israel's citizens,” Erdan said.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US MK Michael Oren said, “Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria - not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish occupied Cyprus, in Moroccan occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea.

“Airbnb’s policy is the very definition of anti-Semitism. No one should use its services," Oren added.

PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed the move, but said the Airbnb statement did not go far enough.
Still available
Northern Cyprus 2018 (with Photos) Top 20 Places to Stay in Northern Cyprus - Holiday Rentals, Holiday Homes - Airbnb Northern Cyprus

David Mandel of Jewish Voice for Peace is kinda sorta maybe against anti-Semitism
This is not the support or solidarity that Jewish people want or need. Thank Jewish Voice for Peace's David Mandel for this "All Lives Matter" statement with the violence directed at the Jewish people a mere afterthought :

The National Lawyers Guild notes with alarm the re-emergence of virulent and violent antisemitism, a core element of historical and currently resurgent white supremacy in the United States and around the world. Adherents of this phenomenon have aimed their toxic attacks at a wide variety of scapegoats – Muslims, refugees, Latinx, indigenous people, immigrants, Blacks, Arabs, LGBTQ-identified people and women, among others, and the left in general – all in an effort to install and bolster regimes that promote nationalism, racism and sexism to suppress democracy, worker rights and movements to save our planet. Moreover, the current U.S. regime and its growing coterie of look-alikes worldwide are fast establishing a pattern of tolerating and giving succor to the various phenomena that spring from white supremacist ideology.

The Guild further notes that in the wake of the hate-inspired killing of worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, there has been an increase in the volume of Trumpian, Charlottesville-style “both sides-ism,” citing “antisemitism of the right and the left”—the latter involving a false conflation of support for Palestine with anti-Jewish hatred. The Guild vehemently condemns this effort, which has fueled ongoing legislative and other initiatives to redefine antisemitism as including criticism of Israeli policies and unconstitutional attempts to suppress and even criminalize boycotts aimed at demanding Palestinian rights. At the same time, Israel’s government and some of its backers have welcomed support for Netanyahu from ultra-right groups in the United States and abroad, dangerously ignoring their deeply rooted antisemitism while aligning with their virulent Islamophobia.

Antisemitism and all forms of racism must be confronted and defeated whatever their source, and with full understanding of their sordid histories, but it is crucial to recognize that these phenomena today are overwhelmingly a function of dangerous fascist and white supremacist movements.

The Guild claim that antisemitism is a function of "overwhelmingly fascist and white supremacist movements" is wrong. Anti-Semitism is the sordid middle ground where the far left and the far right find common cause. Denying that does not make it go away.

There was some good news from the California Democratic Paty's 2018 Fall Executive Board Meeting held this week in Long Beach. Mandel's attempt to introduce a similar resolution was shot down by the party leadership.
Spanish VIPs Get the Message: BDS Is Bad for Everyone
The ongoing barrage of Hamas rockets on didn’t stop a group of 10 Spanish lawmakers, policy-shapers, and journalists currently in Israel from continuing their fact-finding mission about the threats that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement poses to both Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The trip, sponsored by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Jordan Valley Regional Council, allowed the influential Spaniards to visit businesses, farms, factories, and educational institutions throughout Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley in order to witness workplace co-existence between Jews and Arabs firsthand.

The invitation to the group was extended at a time when certain high-profile elements in Spanish society have become BDS leaders in Europe.

Dan Diker, director of the Project on Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, addressed the group, saying that “the far-left Podemos Spanish political party has been leading the BDS charge for several years.”

He said that thanks to an Iranian financial backer who is supporting BDS efforts, “Podemos — a major political party — represents the intersection of BDS and its true goal: the destruction of the State of Israel.”
The Independent Calls Netanyahu “Warmongering,” Despite Striving to Avoid War
With events in Israel and Gaza moving rapidly, many column inches have been dedicated to analysis of developments. While pieces frequently lean one way or another, few in the mainstream media have been as poorly written as this one, by The Independent’s Middle East correspondent Bel Trew, describing Benjamin Netanyahu as “a once-warmongering prime minister”.

From the very beginning, this confused jumble of an analysis piece misunderstands events in Israel, what Israelis think, and what their motivations are. That Trew is actually an experienced, knowledgeable former reporter for The Times of London, makes it all the more bewildering.

The article opens with Trew accusing Israelis of not thinking straight about how to react to a massive onslaught of rockets from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ): “The logic doesn’t seem right: the very people fed up of living under a barrage of rockets from Gaza rejecting a ceasefire between their government in Israel and the fighters that are firing at them.”

Such a statement may be excusable coming from an opinionated college student, but is less in keeping with Trew’s credentials as a seasoned reporter.

Surely Trew knows that ceasefires between Israel and Hamas are frequently nothing more than momentary respites before even bigger salvoes, and typically serve to allow Hamas to escape being forced to its knees, and instead rebuild, restock its weapons supplies, and fight another day.
New York Times Jared-Ivanka-Jews Story Broke Paper’s Own Rabbi Rule
A New York Times news article under the headline “Are Jared and Ivanka Good For the Jews?” is generating a storm of reaction on social media, both to the article itself and to the views contained within it. Here are some additional points about the Times article that you may not be aware of:

1. It violates the Times style guide by referring to rabbis on second reference as “Mr.” rather than as “Rabbi.” The Times article refers to Rabbi Haskel Lookstein on second reference as “Mr. Lookstein” and to Rabbi Ethan Tucker on second reference as “Mr. Tucker.” But the entry in my hardcover Times stylebook says: “Rabbi Merrill J. Beranek; Rabbi Baranek; the rabbi. (Do not use Mr., Ms., Mrs., or Miss.)”

2. It’s being attacked for sexism. Of 11 Jews interviewed and quoted in the Times article — Jonathan Sarna, Eric Reimer, Leah Pisar, Ronn Torossian, Ethan Tucker, Haskel Lookstein, Matthew Brooks, Ari Fleischer, Haim Saban, Andy Bachman, and Morton Klein — exactly one, Leah Pisar, is a woman. The editor of the Forward, Jane Eisner, tweeted, “Somehow @AmyChozick and @hannah_seligson did not quote ONE American woman in a long story about American Jews. Outrageous that this erasure still happens at the @nytimes We have something to say, too.” It’s a sensitive point these days, because the cover article of the Sunday Times book section is a review that covers five books about American Jewish identity, all by male writers. That has already prompted complaints. One of the Times reporters replied to the gender criticism of the Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump article by saying, on Twitter, “Would’ve loved to have more women in the piece. Your criticism is noted. Thanks.”

3. The Times seeks to answer the “good for the Jews” question by interviewing a collection of Jews based in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Washington, and the suburbs of Boston, but not a single Jew who lives in Israel. That’s odd, since more Jews live in Israel than in America or any other country. Maybe the Times headline should have been “Are Jared and Ivanka Good For the non-Israeli Jews?”
New Yorker's Ostensible Accuracy on Gaza Fisherman
After severely tripping up in its Gaza coverage earlier this year, The New Yorker -- a publication ostensibly "known for its high standards" in fact-checking -- once again failed to deliver accurate coverage.

In his Nov. 15 "Daily Comment," Bernard Avishai wrote ("The Ceasefire in Gaza: A Turning Point for Hamas and Netanyahu"):

Yet it is anything but clear that the ceasefire will hold: during the agreement’s first hours, Israeli naval forces reportedly killed a young Gazan fisherman, ostensibly for sailing past the six-mile limit.

Yet, according to both the Israeli military and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, Nawaf Ahmed Mohammed al-Attar was shot dead while on the beach. According to the Israeli military, he was shot dead for approaching the security fence. According to the Gaza fishermen's union, he was shot dead while he was working on the beach. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, on the other hand, he was in the water 100 meters off from the shore -- well within the six nautical mile fishing zone -- a claim contradicted by both the IDF and the Gaza Health Ministry. (There are 1,852 meters in a nautical mile.)

The Associated Press reported the day of the incident ("The Latest: Group says strikes damaged dozens of Gaza homes"):

4:40 p.m.

The Israeli military says a Gaza fisherman was killed by Israeli fire in northern Gaza Strip was illegally advancing toward the security fence dividing Gaza and Israel.

The military said in a statement that the army shot him Wednesday in adherence with military protocol for anyone approaching the fence at that range.

The fishermen's union says the 20-year-old man was working on the beach near the land-maritime fence separating Gaza from Israel when he was shot in the stomach.
BBC radio sums up the week and terrorists again disappear
The afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on November 17th included the BBC’s summary of the week’s events in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The same item was repeated in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 14:04 here) and on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘ (from 21:11 here).

Presenter Paul Henley introduced the item (from 07:06 here):
Henley: “Now tensions have flared this week between Israel and Hamas – the militant group in control of Gaza. In a fallout a key minister resigned from the Israeli government, triggering talks over the government’s future. On Monday Israel and Hamas were involved in their most serious exchange of blows in recent years. Hundreds of rockets were fired from Gaza, killing a Palestinian man in southern Israel, while there were widespread Israeli airstrikes on the Strip, leaving seven people dead. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Once again, BBC World Service listeners were not informed that at least four of those “seven people” were claimed as members by two separate terror factions – the PFLP and PIJ.
IsraellyCool: US Series S.W.A.T. Demonizes Jews and Israelis
S.W.A.T. is an American crime drama television series that has gone into its second season. I have never seen it, and probably won’t after what reader Jackie pointed me towards.

You see, Episode 6 of Season 2 – entitled Never Again – demonizes Jews and Israelis in a way I have not seen in a long time for a popular TV series. Probably since Spooks.

Portrayal of a ruthless, slimy and dangerous Israel mafia? Check

Corrupt, greedy Jewish diamond traders? Check

Jews smuggling blood diamonds into Israel for the “settlement enterprise”? Check

Demonizing IDF soldiers? Check

Accusing Israelis of using Holocaust-related imagery (Never Again) to further their cause? Check

Believe it or not, this aired just 5 days after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. No kidding.

Shame on CBS for airing this. Please join me in complaining to them.

Enough is enough.
Guardian appears to get it wrong in claim Jewish NYT journo compared Israel to alt-right
A Guardian article by Ed Vulliammy (How Trump’s presidency has divided Jewish America, Nov. 14) highlights the views of of Jonathan Weisman, a New York Times journalist and author of a book on the American Jewish community.

The piece includes the following paragraph:
“On the right,” writes Weisman, “anti-Semitism and militant Zionism can co-exist quite comfortably.” [Richard] Spencer calls his movement a “sort of white Zionism”. In a New York Times podcast, Weisman even posits that recent racial policies by the Netanyahu government have made Israel a “model” for the alt-right on how to construct an “ethno-state”.

We listened to the NY Times podcast the author is almost certainly referring to, and Weisman never makes anything resembling the claim that Netanyahu’s “racial policies” have made Israel a “model” for the alt-right on how to construct an “ethno-state”.

Upon researching the words attributed to Weisman, it appears as if it’s at least possible the author was conflating the NY Times podcast with an interview Weisman did with Alternet, in which case he still got it wrong.

Here’s the relevant quote from Weisman in his Alternet interview:
“I think the more you study alt-right ideology, the less strange it appears. Unlike the kind of anti-Semitism that you see emerging in the British Labour Party or on the French left, the alt-right is not especially anti-Zionist. They view Israel as a model ethno-state for their own country. There’s no incompatibility with white nationalism because they believe Jews have a place to go and should go there.”
More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part one
Last week we saw how, on November 13th, the BBC News website used the term ‘traded’ to promote false equivalence between an unprecedented barrage of rocket and mortar attacks launched by Hamas and other terror factions against the civilian population in southern Israel and IDF retaliatory strikes on exclusively military targets after advance warnings were given.

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

The same framing was evident in the title of the November 13th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ – “Deadly Fire Traded Between Israel and Gaza” – and in the report itself (from 00:58 here). Presenter Julian Marshall opened that lead item with an inverted view of the order of events, placing Israeli strikes before the terrorist rocket attacks that prompted them.

Marshall: “But we begin in the Middle East where the worst escalation of violence between Israel and…err…Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war is threatening to descend into a full-blown conflict. There’ve been more Israeli airstrikes over Gaza, more rockets fired by Hamas militants into Israel and an Israeli attack helicopter has opened fire on several people who officials suspected were trying to cross the Gaza security fence.”

The incident to which Marshall referred actually involved more than ‘suspicion’:
“Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked several suspicious Palestinians near the security fence who had been monitored by IDF surveillance and who had tried to cross the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory (IDF spokesman, November 13, 2018).”
More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part two
Marshall was citing an image put out by Hamas that morning in which it claimed that “The army uses the city in cruel actions against us and so we will respond to that. It is preferable to keep as far away from the city as possible”.

By repeating that baseless propaganda put out by a terrorist organisation, Marshall further muddied audience understanding of the basic story: the fact that Hamas and other terror organisations launched attacks against Israeli civilians in southern Israel while Israel’s response struck exclusively military targets after advance warnings were given.

Arieli: “Mmm…I don’t think so. First of all Ashkelon is the largest city closest to Gaza on their north side so this is a big city – 150,000 people – and it’s easy to target and it’s relatively close. It’s even closer that Sderot and it’s much larger. So I guess this is why Ashkelon is the target and also we have electric company here, we have water desalination plant, so I guess this is also something that they might be interested in hurting.”

Although he had asked his previous interviewee “What do you think needs to happen for all this to stop?” and “what should other countries in the world be doing?”, Marshall had a rather more specific question for his Israeli contributor.
German Neo-Nazis Use New WhatsApp Stickers Option to Spread Antisemitic Images
German far-right and neo-Nazi groups are exploiting the text application WhatsApp’s new option to create custom stickers in order to disseminate antisemitic symbols.

The German newspaper Deutsche Welle reported that the stickers include photographs, SS “runes,” and images of Hitler.

The Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA) discovered the trend, and tweeted, “Just after WhatsApp makes it possible to create and use stickers, right-wing extremists flood their group chats with hateful Nazi symbols.”

The JFDA has contacted WhatsApp and asked the company to stop users from abusing the new sticker option to disseminate racist messages.

A WhatsApp spokesman said, “These anti-Semitic stickers are unacceptable and we do not want them in WhatsApp. We strongly condemn this hatred.”

“If users get stickers with illegal content, we ask them to report it. We will act accordingly against it, even to the extent of blocking the accounts from which they were sent,” he added. The use of Nazi symbolism is illegal in Germany.
Man arrested in NY for harassing Jewish car owner with ‘Heil Hitler’ salute
A man was arrested in Brooklyn for shouting “Heil Hitler” at a Jewish man who was sitting in his car.

The man who was identifiably Jewish was in his parked vehicle and preparing to go to a meeting in a nearby building on Thursday morning when the young African-American man shouted at him through the window that he should leave the neighborhood.

“This is a black neighborhood and you don’t belong here,” the man said, according to Yeshiva World News.

He then started saying “Heil Hitler” and making the stiff-arm salute, which was filmed by the camera on the car-owner’s cell phone. He returned to the car a second time to shout the same anti-Semitic slur.

The car owner lodged a police report. He was asked about a half hour later to come to a local police station and identify the perpetrator, who was then arrested.
Argentina buys Israeli security tech ahead of G-20 summit
Argentina is stepping up preparations for the upcoming summit of ‎the Group of 20, which will convene in Buenos Aires on Nov. ‎‎30.

The upcoming meet will be the first G-20 summit to be hosted in South America, ‎and Argentina has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in ‎security for the event, including purchasing state-of-the-art Israeli ‎technology. ‎

The Group of 20 is an international forum of governments and ‎central banks chiefs from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the ‎European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, ‎Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, ‎the United Kingdom and the United States. ‎

Founded in 1999, the G-20 aims to shape policy pertaining to the ‎promotion of international financial stability.‎

Argentine President Mauricio Macri assumed the one-year rotating G-20 ‎presidency on Nov. 30 in an official ceremony at the Kirchner ‎Cultural Center in Buenos Aires.‎

According to reports in Argentine media, Buenos Aires has ‎purchased four advanced Shaldag class patrol boats from Israel for ‎‎$80 million and has spent an additional $5.5 million on cyber ‎defense software, as well as some $2.75 million on a radar system ‎that jams drone signals. ‎
Israeli judoka wins gold in the Netherlands
Israeli judoka Peter Paltchik won a gold medal Sunday at The Hague Grand Prix in the Netherlands, adding to his tally of three previous first places in international competitions this year.

Paltchik beat Mikita Sviryd to win the under-100 kilogram contest in a bout that ran into nearly a minute and half of extra time before the Israeli finally achieved an ipon by throwing his opponent to the mat.

It was the second medal for Israel in the contest, after Baruch Shmailov won a silver on Friday in the under 66-kilo contest.

Last month Paltchik won a gold medal at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where fellow athlete Sagi Muki also won the top medal in the under-80 kilogram category. Their successes led to Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, being played for the first time at a Gulf State sporting contest.

In March Paltchik won gold at the Grand Prix Tbilisi, Georgia.
Disturbed to make Israel debut in July
Renowned American hard rock band Disturbed will be making their Israel debut next year, the band announced Monday.

Led by Jewish vocalist David Draiman, and featuring bassist John Moyer, guitarist/keyboardist Dan Donegan, and drummer Mike Wengren, the band will be winding up a 6-month tour in support of their latest album Evolution on July 2 at Rishon Lezion's Live Park.

Formed in 1994, the band has released seven studio albums, and is probably best known in mainstream rock circles for their 2015 cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence."

The 44-year-old Draiman, who was on a career path to become a rabbi before secular music changed his direction, has long been a staunch defender of Israel. In a 2011 interview with The Jerusalem Post while vacationing in the country, he claims to have close to 200 relatives in the country, including his Jerusalem-based brother Ben, also a musician.

Draiman wrote a song on the band's 2010 album Asylum called "Never Again," directed at Holocaust deniers and antisemitism.

"I never pull any punches and I will never apologize for who I am or where I come from," Draiman told the Post.
Newly revealed 5th century mosaics a kaleidoscope of Jewish and secular imagery
A dazzling array of mosaics depicting biblical and historical scenes has been unearthed at a Late Roman-era synagogue in the Galilee’s ancient Huqoq village since 2012. With intricate attention to detail, each frame — until now kept under wraps — is worth thousands of words.

In conjunction with the publication in BASOR of a 70-page interim report of the excavations from 2014–2017, lead archaeologist Dr. Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is permitting the rare release of never-before-seen full images of the startling scenes uncovered there.

The scenes vary from well-known religious stories such as Jonah and the Whale, Noah’s Ark, and Pharaoh’s soldiers being swept away by the Red Sea and swallowed up by dozens of fish, to the pagan zodiac at the floor’s center, as well as a portrayal of what may be the first purely historical non-biblical scene in a synagogue — complete with armored elephants.

In a phone conversation with The Times of Israel this week from the American Schools of Oriental Research annual conference in Denver, Magness said she is personally partial to the Jonah panel for its innate humor. In it, the prophet dangles out of the mouth of a Russian doll-like combination of three consequently swallowed fish as mythological harpies look on.

But, she admits, picking one mosaic is a bit like choosing a favorite child and most people focus on the elephant mosaic, which is “so spectacular.”
Israeli NGO sends aid to California in wake of unprecedented wildfires
Israeli NGO, IsraAID, is sending an emergency response team to California to help communities affected by the unprecedented fires that have killed 80 and destroyed over 13,000 homes and buildings. More than 1,300 people are still listed as missing.

The two blazes broke out 10 days ago in both north and south California and quickly spiraled out of control. The Camp Fire wildfire, which wiped out the town of Paradise in Butte county (population 27,000), is already the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, torching an area the size of Chicago.

The Woolsey fire has burned over 98,362 acres in southern California near the border of Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

After a request from local communities, IsraAID is to conduct a needs assessment of the population in affected areas, promote community resilience and recovery, and distribute relief items to families currently staying in temporary accommodation after losing their homes in the fires.

Yotam Polizer, the co-CEO of IsraAID, told ISRAEL21c that a team of four Israelis have already flown out to California, and plan to set up operations in Chico, where many evacuees are now living in tent cities, shelters and even sleeping in their cars.

“We’ve seen a lot of disaster zones over the years, but this is a whole different level of devastation. Everything has been burned to the ground, and there are so many people still missing,” said Polizer, who has just returned from California.
Macy's Thanksgiving balloons heading to Jerusalem
Macy's told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the balloons from its upcoming Thanksgiving Day Parade will not be heading to Jerusalem, as previously reported.

On Sunday, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry told the Post that the balloons would be part of a Hanukkah parade in the capital that included a concert from Matisyahu, floats, classic cars and more. The ministry also shared a press release that claimed that the producer of the famed Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade would also arrive in Jerusalem to oversee the event.

The director of media relations for Macy's said that both claims are "categorically incorrect."

On Monday morning, a PR representative for the parade walked back the release it sent to reporters, saying instead that the event will be "in the spirit of Macy's."

Instead of the claim that the Macy's parade's "executive producer" will travel to Jerusalem, the spokeswoman said "one of their producers will come to Israel to be on hand for the parade. The balloons are from an external supplier."

An organizer said that the producer who would take part in the Jerusalem event on December 3 is J. Jeff Beckman, a music education faculty member at Tennessee State University. Beckman's online biography states that he was the former band director of the McGavock High School, which marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1992.

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