Tuesday, July 28, 2020

07/28 Links Pt2: Wiley isn’t ill – he’s racist; Ice Cube agrees to support condemning antisemitism with ZOA president; How J Street is attempting to desecrate Tisha B'Av

From Ian:

Brendan O'Neill: Wiley isn’t ill – he’s racist
Why is anti-Semitism treated as less bad than other forms of racism? Why is it a growing force in some sections of the left? Why is it often greeted with the words ‘well, he has a point’ rather than with the stern, irate condemnations we would expect in response to racism more broadly?

It’s because of identity politics.

Anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred. It has exploded in societies numerous times over the millennia, often with unprecedented murderous consequences. It sometimes changes shape – going from being a religiously motivated hatred to a form of biological racism, from a far-right pursuit to a shamefully left-wing phenomenon – but it is always there, in one form or another. And today, one of the forms it takes is identitarian categorisation.

Identity politics has helped to resuscitate anti-Semitism. One of the worst things identity politics does is categorise people according to whether they are oppressed or privileged. It creates hierarchies of victimhood. Intersectionality is an avowedly sectarian, divisive cause, given to grouping entire peoples according to whether they are historic victims or the beneficiaries of privilege. This very easily morphs into a form of moral categorisation: the victim groups are good, the privileged groups are bad. So black people deserve our sympathy and our support, while white people – the most privileged, apparently – deserve scorn, and constant lecturing (‘Dear white people’), and re-education. Witness how virtually every corporation in the West is now reprimanding and controlling its workforce through the mad ideologies of ‘white fragility’ and ‘white privilege’.

Identitarianism is a toxic, divisive politics. And it has proven particularly bad for Jewish people. Where do they go in the woke racists’ categories? Which inhuman identitarian box must they be placed in? It’s the ‘privileged’ one. Consider how both far-right and far-left racists flit between terms like ‘white privilege’ and ‘Jewish privilege’. Jews are successful, right? They aren’t struggling. Therefore, they are ‘privileged’. And ‘privileged’ is bad. It’s immoral. The ‘privileged’ are the new oppressors, requiring constant condemnation. White people, ‘cis’ people, people of Indian Hindu heritage, Jews… all privileged, all bad, all on the receiving end of the new hatreds whipped up by the destructive politics of identity.

Wiley’s racist rants contained elements of the old anti-Semitism, especially the vile trope about Jews running the world. But they had a big dose of identitarian anti-Semitism, too. His belief that Jews conspire in the repression of blacks, and that Jews (being white) can be racist but black people (being black) cannot be racist, springs directly from the identitarian ideology. It’s time to face facts: the new politics of identity, this racialisation of every facet of life, the myopic obsession over skin colour and ‘privilege’ and heritage, have breathed life back into actual racism, including the oldest racism. Identity politics is a gateway drug to actual racial hatred. Reject it.
The Loneliest Hatred
In the last eight months, we’ve seen two mass murders of Jews—one attempted and one successful—by people who expressed interest in racially exclusive Black Israelism. Grafton Thomas, who burst into a Monsey, New York, rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration and hacked at people with a machete, rambled in his journal about “Ebinoid Israelites” and “Semitic genocide.” David Anderson, who, along with an accomplice, sprayed a Jersey City kosher market with gunfire and killed three people (and a cop earlier), was steeped in Black Israelism, though he was wary of the organized sects. One wonders: When the coronavirus pandemic loosens its grip on public spaces and the proselytizing bands of Black Hebrew Israelites return to street corners to shout racist abuse at passersby, as they have done for decades without causing much controversy, will they draw the attention of anti-racist protesters?

And again, there is the steady anti-Jewish street violence. In New York City in the last two years, social media has recorded a sizable fraction of it in Brooklyn neighborhoods where Blacks and Jews coexist. Some of the perpetrators of those hate crimes revealed Black Israelite beliefs. One man beat and choked an Orthodox passerby while yelling about “fake Jews.” Another shouted “They’re not Jews!” and threw rocks at a group of Jewish women and children. Someone accosted a Forward journalist and screamed that she and her friends were “fake Jews … Whose time was almost up!” A woman berated an Israeli student on the subway: “You ain’t even a Jew, you white.” As Griff noted ominously to Nick Cannon, anticipating Wiley: “Now because you recognize [your Hebrew origin], you know who they are.”

There is not a racial crisis between Blacks and Jews. High-profile African Americans, including Charles Barkley, Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon, Zach Banner, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, quickly and resolutely criticized DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson. And not all people influenced by Black Israelism—a broad group that includes thousands of “African Hebrew Israelites” living in Israel—are anti-Semites. But in our increasingly panicked politics, where fanciful and vicious conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and QAnon have seen viral adoption, the sudden mainstreaming of a racist conspiracy theory with demonstrated links to violence should stir serious concern.

Yet when Black people express anti-Semitism it is continually treated as nothing to worry about. It is not hard to understand why. Anti-racist thought developed in response to the racial caste system in America and is primarily concerned with power. For those who are marginalized, it sees an accretion of victimhood; a disabled Black woman experiences compounding oppression at the intersection of her identities. On the other hand, those at the top of the racial caste system—whites—are invested with an almost mystical power that tends to flatten their other identities. Jews are generally regarded as white and privileged, so in practice, Jewishness seldom registers as a marginalizable identity. Anti-racists are dumb to our global history of persecution and vulnerability in the present.

Because anti-Semitism, like all conspiracy theories, mimics a politics of emancipation, anti-Semites believe themselves to be opponents of injustice. Among progressives today, the movement to redefine racism as “prejudice plus power”—that is, to downgrade nonsystemic forms of racism to mere personal “prejudice”—has ominous consequences for Jews. It fosters the belief that people who are thought to be powerful are deserving of hostility. And when racism poses as resistance by victims of racism, as anti-Semitism often does, it disqualifies Jews from concern.

Those who favor this revisionist definition have made so much headway that Merriam-Webster has agreed to incorporate it. How will we address a form of racism that purports to “punch up” against an evil elite? Most anti-Semitism in the West is nonsystemic, but its very nature is being systematically eclipsed. The loneliest hatred lives on, as it has for thousands of years—outside the ambit of our racial reckoning.

Ice Cube agrees to support condemning antisemitism with ZOA president
Pro-Israel advocate and president of the Zionist Organization of America Morton Klein announced via his Twitter page on Tuesday that he had 2-hour conversation with rapper Ice Cube where he claims that the musical artist supports condemning antisemitism and racism.

"I, Mort Klein, just had a 2-hour conversation with Ice Cube. We both grew up poor in Black hoods. Cube told me he thanked Jews for starting NAACP, many Black schools and fighting for Black civil rights. Cube told me he supports condemning Black and all antisemitism, and I condemned all racism," Klein said on Twitter Tuesday.

Ice Cube has been immersed in a row as of late, after condemning NBA Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for writing an article mentioning the rapper on the topic of antisemitism, as well as tweeting an image of a mural that was removed from a wall in London in 2012 after complaints that the image was antisemitic.

The rapper vehemently denies that he supports antisemitism – or racism for that matter - mentioning that he only took issue with the article because he was mentioned in the article without being contacted first.

"Just for the record: I still love Kareem Abdul Jabbar definitely had a right to write against Antisemitism and racism," Ice Cube wrote on his Twitter page on Monday. "I was just hurt to be added into that article without a conversation to tell him that I am neither. But there is no wedge between me and my brother."

#NoSafeSpaceForJewHate campaign goes global, with Jewish communities around the world walking out of Twitter and other social media platforms, along with celebrities, to protest antisemitic hatred
The #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate campaign has launched today and gone global, with Jewish communities around the world, including in Australia and the United States, joining British Jews in walking out of Twitter and other social media platforms for 48 hours to protest antisemitic hatred on the platforms.

The hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate has also been trending on Twitter, while numerous politicians from across the political spectrum and celebrities have joined the walkout, which began as the idea of actress Tracy Ann Oberman, with whom we are proud to be closely associated, who was joined by activists including Saul Freeman, Fiona Sharpe and others.

Celebrity backers include the historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, actors Jason Isaacs and Eddie Marsan, the broadcaster Ian Dale, the comedy writer Armando Iannucci, musician Billy Bragg, and Sarah Brown, the non-profit executive and wife of a former Prime Minister.

Emma Barnett, the BBC presenter, also gave an impassioned monologue on her radio show about why Wiley’s antisemitism – which was the trigger for the walkout – “burns deep”, while Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has written to the chief executives of Twitter and Facebook (which owns Instagram) accusing them of complicity for not doing more to stamp out antisemitism on their platforms.
Facebook contacts major advertisers in panic over Wiley antisemitism backlash while the antisemitic performer continues to post on his Facebook account
Facebook has sent a message to advertisers, the Government and NGOs in a desperate bid to stem rising backlash over its failure to delete antisemitic performer Wiley’s Instagram messages.

The e-mail from Steve Hatch, Facebook’s Vice-President for Northern Europe, which we have reproduced in full below, sought to justify the steps that Facebook has taken, but even as the e-mail was sent, Wiley continued to post prolifically on Facebook.

So far it appears that Facebook has done little more than to remove several of Wiley’s antisemitic posts and enforce a block on his official Instagram account for 7 days (Facebook owns Instagram).

In its statement, Facebook said that “No one at Facebook finds this type of content and behaviour anything other than abhorrent.”

The statement explained that after Wiley’s posts were reported to it, its teams investigated and gathered “contextual advice from our partners who represent the Jewish community. Their partnership and expertise is invaluable in understanding the nuances of antisemitic language.”

It added that “Our dedicated law enforcement engagement team was also made aware that a criminal report had been made to the Metropolitan Police,” after Campaign Against Antisemitism made a complaint to the Metropolitan Police regarding Wiley’s posts.

Facebook continued: “These initial investigations led us to remove a number of posts from Wiley’s Instagram account. Generally, the first time we remove a user’s post we let them know why they broke our guidelines as we think it’s important they have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. But in common with many platforms, on Facebook and Instagram if a user repeatedly breaks our rules we take a series of further enforcement actions. These can range from different types of restrictions on their activity to a total removal of their account. We have enforced this policy numerous times globally and locally regarding hate speech including the suspension and subsequent removal of numerous UK organizations and individuals from our platforms.”
Boris Johnson criticises Wiley’s antisemitic comments as ‘abhorrent’ and condemns Twitter’s response
Boris Johnson regards rapper Wiley’s string of antisemitic tweets as “abhorrent” and believes Twitter’s response was “not good enough”, the prime minister’s official spokesman has said.

But Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the PM was not taking part in a 48-hour boycott of the social media site observed by some MPs and celebrities in protest at its failure to take down the messages.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, wrote to Twitter and Instagram on Sunday demanding a “full explanation” of why the rapper’s offensive comments were allowed to remain on his accounts for 12 hours after they were first posted.

And the PM’s spokesman today told reporters: “The prime minister would echo the comments of the home secretary yesterday that the antisemitic posts by Wiley are abhorrent. The prime minister would also echo the home secretary’s comments that this material should not have been able to remain on Twitter and Instagram for so long.”

The spokesman added: “Social media companies need to go much further and faster in removing hateful comment such as this.”

“The home secretary has written to Twitter and Instagram seeking an explanation and we expect to be given a full response. The message is clear: Twitter needs to do better on this.”
'Imam of Peace' Mohammad Tawhidi Joins Campaign Against Anti-Semitism on Twitter

Tahini maker hit with Arab Israeli boycott over support for gays sees sales rise
An Arab Israeli tahini maker that faced a boycott call from the community after it donated funds to an LGBT support line has seen its sales spike despite the embargo, apparently due to backing from other Israelis.

Al Arz Tahini saw its market share increase by nearly 28 percent in the week after the boycott was started, the Calcalist financial website reported Tuesday.

Al Arz, based in the northern city of Nazareth, is one of Israel’s largest producers of the popular sesame paste, making an estimated one-fifth of the country’s commercially sold tahini.

The company had announced on June 1 plans to fund a crisis hotline for LGBT youth with The Aguda – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel. In response, some in the Arab community called for a boycott of the company’s products, though others expressed support.

Videos appeared on social media showing Arab Israeli shoppers and store owners throwing containers of Al Arz tahini in the garbage in protest of the company’s decision, which some Muslim religious leaders criticized.

Alongside calls for a boycott, however, were Arab and Jewish Israelis who pushed back with expressions of support for the LGBT community on social media. Some Arab Israeli politicians also came out against the boycott – albeit without directly naming the LGBT community.

During the week of July 12-18 the company’s sales increased by 27.6% compared to the week before, the Calcalist report said, citing data from StoreNext, a market analysis venture.

At the end of June Al Arz’s market share was 16.9%. During the first week of July it climbed to 18.5% and the following week to 22.6%.
How J Street is attempting to desecrate Tisha B'Av
If you thought Tisha B'Av was about the destruction of the holy temples and two Jewish states in ancient times, think again. According to J Street, the real meaning of the day is that the Israeli government is oppressing the Palestinian Arabs and will thereby cause the destruction of the Jewish state in our own times.

It may be hard to believe that any self-described Jewish organization could so viciously distort the meaning of a sacred Jewish day. But J Street has never met a Jewish religious commemoration that it hasn't turned into a propaganda weapon for slamming Israel.

On Passover, J Street complained about the "plagues" for which it blames Israel, such as "the plague of home destruction." According to J Street's "Haggadah," if the Israeli army undertakes a court-sanctioned dismantling of a home used by terrorists, then it is to blame for "encouraging retaliatory terrorist attacks."

On Rosh Hashanah, when Jews engage in "cheshbon nefesh" or "soul searching," meaning spiritual introspection and self-assessment – J Street announced that everyone should "engage in cheshbon hanefesh" over Israel's "demolition of Palestinian villages."

Israel, of course, does not demolish Palestinian villages. J Street was referring to instances in which handfuls of illegal Arab settlers squat on Israeli land, call themselves a "village" and then accuse Israel of "demolishing" them when the police dare to enforce the law. But as far as J Street is concerned, if facts get in the way of the narrative, well, just push them aside.

Considering the way J Street has mangled the meaning of other sacred days on the Jewish calendar, maybe I shouldn't be surprised at J Street's crude exploitation of Tisha B'Av. But that doesn't make it any more acceptable.
NYT Internationally Embraced Antisemitism Definition Is ‘Disputed,’ ‘Unilaterally Adopted’
In fact, the definition in question was previously adopted by the U.S. Department of State under the Obama administration and has been praised by mainstream Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League. It is virtually identical to the working definition developed by the intergovernmental International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, adopted by 26 countries and the European Union.

Green also falsely reports that the definition broadly includes “opposition to the state of Israel.” To the contrary, the definition explicitly states: “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”

Regarding Israel, the definition includes only opposition which involves age-old antisemitic tropes used against Israel, which applies a discriminatory standard against Israel, or denies it the right to exist. Specifically, the definition details “Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis,” “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” “Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions,” “Applying double standards by requiring of it behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” “Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations,” and “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist.”

Thus, opposition to Israel, for example, on the basis of plans to extend sovereignty over the Green Line, or for its communities in disputed areas, for corruption, for its relationship to the United States or anywhere else, for its human rights record if the standards by which it is judged are applied consistently compared to other countries, or for any number of other reasons, are all within bounds. That is, much criticism of Israel is not included in the definition adopted by the Education Department, and before that, the U.S. Department of State.

But the truth about the definition’s contents, origins and backers undermine the desired narrative, so they must be massaged to conform the predetermined template, or as Weiss succinctly put it: ” the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher.”
BBC’s Gaza Strip backgrounder claims Hamas rule ended six years ago
The Gaza Strip has of course not been controlled by the Palestinian Authority since Hamas executed a violent coup in June 2007 and Hamas control of the territory did not end in 2014, despite a supposed Hamas-Fatah deal in that year.

In April 2019 CAMERA UK prompted the BBC to correct a report which – apparently on the basis of that backgrounder – made the exact same claim. The same month the BBC also corrected its Palestinian territories profile and timeline which had no less erroneously claimed that Hamas handed over control of the Gaza Strip to a unity government in October 2017.

Despite having made those three corrections concerning the very basic issue of which Palestinian faction controls the Gaza Strip, the BBC obviously did not check additional content – including its backgrounder – for similar issues and both audiences and BBC journalists are hence likely to be misled by those factual inaccuracies which have remained online for years.

CAMERA UK has contacted the BBC to request a correction.
BBC website ignores resignation of UK charity official over antisemitism
Given that Khalifa had worked for the Muslim Brotherhood connected IRW since 1999, his opinions concerning Hamas are of no less interest than his antisemitic comments. Readers may recall that in 2014 the BBC promoted the charity’s denial of “any links with Hamas” in response to a statement made by the Israeli embassy in London mentioning IRW’s designation in Israel due to its association with Hamas affiliated organisations. Later the same year the BBC published a remarkably superficial article concerning a self-commissioned ‘audit’ which supposedly cleared IRW of “accusations it has funded terrorism”.

With IRW having been the recipient of funding from the British government (as well as the UN and the European Commission), the story of Khalifa’s resignation was understandably picked up by additional UK media outlets including the Guardian, Metro, the Daily Mail and the Jewish Chronicle.

Notably, we have to date been unable to find any coverage of the story on the BBC News website, including on its ‘Charity Commission’ page and ‘Charities’ page.
Guard at Ukrainian synagogue fends off ax-wielding attacker
A man armed with an ax burst into a synagogue in southeastern Ukraine on Tuesday morning and was disarmed and chased away by the security guard.

The attempted attack in Mariupol during the morning prayers was captured by the synagogue’s security cameras.

A rabbi and several worshipers were inside the building at the time, according to the Jewish News of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine. The report did not specify if the guard suffered injuries.

In footage of the attack, the security guard can be seen wrestling with the attacker for control of the ax. The two exchange blows before the attacker finally runs off emptyhanded.

He then returns, hurls the contents of a sack, and walks off. According to the report, he threw feces, sand and other materials at the synagogue.

The local police have been alerted and are searching for the man, according to the community’s Rabbi Menachem Mendel Cohen, who witnessed the attack.
Damaged door of German synagogue attacked on Yom Kippur replaced
The bullet hole-ridden door of a German synagogue that held firm in a botched far-right attack on Yom Kippur last year was being replaced on Tuesday, a week after the suspect in the attack went on trial. It is slated to become part of a memorial.

The suspect, Stephan Balliet, is alleged to have posted an anti-Semitic screed before carrying out the October 9 attack in the eastern city of Halle. He broadcast the shooting live on a popular gaming site.

Prosecutors say he repeatedly tried, but failed, to force his way into the synagogue with 52 worshipers inside, before shooting and killing a woman in the street outside and a man at a nearby kebab shop.

The damaged door, pockmarked with bullet holes, became a symbol of concern about rising anti-Semitism in Germany.

On Tuesday, a carpenter removed the door, news agency dpa reported. A new one was being installed in its place.

The head of Halle’s Jewish community, Max Privorozki, said that a memorial will be built and the old door will be a central part of it.
Over 100,000 viewers worldwide tune into online Torah event
Over 100,000 viewers worldwide tuned into a series of online lessons hosted this week by Yeshivat HaKotel, a major religious Zionist hesder yeshiva located across from the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

Dubbed the "Jewish Unity" event, the lessons featured dozens of rabbis, lecturers, and teachers representing the spectrum of the Torah world: men and women, ultra-Orthodox and national-religious, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, from Israel and from diaspora communities around the world.

The speakers addressed a variety of topics that are relevant to the days priorto Tisha B'Av, a national as well as a religious day of mourning the destruction of the two temples, including redemption, rebuilding the Temple, interpersonal mitzvot, and more.

Over 190 Torah personalities each shared their unique perspective and demonstrated the diversity of the Torah world. Notable speakers included Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, Rabbi Eliyahu Rachamim Zeini, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and more.

"The yearning for the rebuilding of Jerusalem is strengthened in complex times," explained Moti Jerbi, CEO of Yeshivat Hakotel. "The entire Jewish world is trying to recover from the corona virus, and at this time we are asking the entire jewish people to come together around Torah, love for fellow Jews and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. We thank the almost 200 speakers who participated in this most important project.

"During these complicated times, we do not take their time for granted. All lessons are available on the Yeshivat Hakotel's YouTube channel, and everyone is welcome to continue viewing them."
Orthodox Jewish Runner Aiming for Tokyo Pleads With Olympic Committee Not to Hold Marathon on Shabbat
An Orthodox Jewish woman who hopes to represent Israel at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year is trying to persuade International Olympic Association not to hold a key athletic event on Shabbat.

In an interview on Monday with the UK paper The Telegraph, New Jersey-born Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch — a champion marathon runner, mother of five children and resident of Jerusalem — explained that there were two conditions on her participation at the Games, only one of which was within her control.

As a marathon runner, Deutsch is within touching distance of the qualification standard for Tokyo of 2 hr 29 min 30 sec, having clocked in at 2 hr 32 min in January’s marathon in Jerusalem. But a bigger hurdle is the decision of Games’ organizers to hold the marathon on a Saturday.

“When I set myself the goal of representing Israel in the Olympics, the marathon was on a Sunday,” the 28-year-old Deutsch told the newspaper. “They then moved all the outdoor distance events to Sapporo and condensed them into four days. The women’s marathon is on Shabbat.”

Deutsch’s attempts to overturn the International Olympic Committee’s decision have fallen flat, despite hoping there might be room for negotiation now the Games have been postponed until 2021.

“I wrote to them to see if there was a possibility of switching the marathon with the race walk [on Friday],” she said. “So far, they’ve not been very receptive.”

Deutsch, who immigated to Israel from the US at the age of 19, said that the Olympic authorities needed to show more cultural sensitivity.
Ethiopian-Israeli MK proposes town for immigrants from Ethiopia
The government is examining a proposal to establish a town expressly for immigrants from Ethiopia. If the idea is approved, it could come under criticism as a supposed attempt to separate that immigrant community from the rest of the country's residents.

The proposal is the brainchild of Deputy Public Security Minister Gadi Yevarkan, himself a member of the Ethiopian-Israeli community, who recently met with Construction and Housing Minister Yakov Litzman. The two agreed on a series of actions to be taken to improve the lot of Ethiopian Israelis.

Yevarkan presented an overview of the community's housing needs, and also suggested ideas to promote employment initiatives in the community.

The two sides agreed that Yevarkan would compile housing plans that would be submitted to the Construction and Housing Ministry for evaluation by its professional staff. It appears that such a plan might be given a green light and approved for central Israel.

Yevarkan told Israel Hayom, "I'm excited, this is great news. The significance of establishing a town for the Beta [Israel] community is the fulfillment of the dream of our forefathers, going back generations, to build a home in the ancestral land they dreamed of.
Winning Israeli idea helps urban agriculture take root
Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel and Minister for Community Empowerment and Advancement Orly Levi-Abekasis announced July 18 that their respective ministries will advance plans to promote urban agriculture across Israel. The announcement was hailed by many environmental activists and groups.

Israel is currently experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But for some Israelis, the pandemic also represents an opportunity for change. The Radical group is made up of such people and its Idea Lab promotes groundbreaking, innovative initiatives. A few weeks ago, the group launched a competition for globe-changing ideas. There were 700 ideas submitted to Radical, which promised to present the winning idea to the relevant authorities and work toward real, concrete results. The contest led directly to Gamliel and Levy-Abekasis’ announcement.

"Minister Gamliel sees great importance in developing urban agriculture — a significant and relevant issue especially in the corona period," her office told the press. The winning idea "implements the objectives of the environment protection ministry while adding an angle of innovation."

Tel Aviv University professor Alon Eliran and activist Tami Zori were the ones to propose the winning idea. Their Forest City vision offers holistic, radical answers to the needs of our modern cities, designed for cars instead of people.

The Forest City concept is simple: planting trees and other plants across the urban setting so that vegetation covers much of the asphalt and cement landscape, producing a harmonious and multi-purpose environment. Eliran and Zori proposed a new urban concept in which nature becomes an integral component of the city habitat. Their plan calls for municipalities to encourage residents to cultivate all sorts of vegetation, including edible plants and medicinal herbs, plants that promise to contribute to residents' nutritional needs. Residents who take part in the project are to receive funding. Organic waste will not be discarded but used as fertilizer, to minimize environmental impact. Municipalities will take measures to encourage urban landscaping, such as subsidizing water expenses for buildings with gardens or reducing taxes. (h/t Zvi)
Yeroham residents help give 2,000-year-old archaeological site a makeover
A group of Yeroham residents have banded together to refurbish a 2,000-year-old archaeological site that was recently defaced with graffiti.

Prior to the vandalism, the site, a small fort which served as a way station for travelers on ancient trade roads, had already suffered from neglect and damage. Hikers tossed away litter and lit campfires in the structure's chambers, and broke the arches that had held up the building's roof.

The graffiti was the last straw. Archaeologists teamed up with the IAA's educational center in the Negev to organize volunteers to clean up the site. Instructors from BeYachad Academy in Yeroham, as well as other local residents, removed the graffiti, weeded, and collected trash, and in return were treated to a mini-seminar about the site and the finds that have been dug up there.

One of the BeYachad staff said, "It's very moving to help preserve the site. Taking part in cleaning and refurbishing the post was an opportunity to learn about it up close, and feel a connection with it."

The IAA is hoping that the city will adopt the site and hold activities and volunteer maintenance days there on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, the IAA's Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit is trying to track down the vandals.
Seeds from 1,500-year-old Negev trash pits show a world on the brink of collapse
Pandemic, climate change, and international socioeconomic depression are all leading factors in the crash and burn of Negev viticulture — a millennium and a half ago.

A new archaeological study of Byzantine-era trash dumps in the Negev Highlands offers an eerily relevant analysis of how the strong Byzantine empire of the mid-6th century began to crumble while international markets were tanked by a butterfly-effect list of causes. Contributing factors to the doomsday atmosphere included the Late Antique Little Ice Age (LALIA), a bizarre widespread climate anomaly that began with a series of massive volcanic eruptions in the 530s and 540s CE, and the Justinian Plague of 541-549 CE.

The study was published Monday in the prestigious peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

“It is compelling and crazy that you have these double disasters — on one hand the Little Ice Age and on the other hand the plague — while during the age of Justinian, the Byzantine empire reached its greatest expansion. It was all downhill from there, from the mid-6th century onwards,” said lead author of the study Daniel Fuks, a PhD student in the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University.

Using organic evidence collected at three Negev sites — Elusa, Shivta and Nessana — and 11 midden pits, an interdisciplinary team of Israeli archaeologists charted the rise and fall of commercial viticulture in the Negev Highlands, and how international disasters may have played a role in its demise and the domino effect of global markets.

The study is part of the ongoing Negev Byzantine Bio-Archaeology Research Program’s “Crisis on the Margins of the Byzantine Empire” project, headed by Prof. Guy Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa. Fuks, who spoke to The Times of Israel from Cambridge where he will shortly begin a postdoc, completed the study out of Bar-Ilan University Prof. Ehud Weiss’s archaeobotany lab.

The greening of the Byzantine-era desert was made possible by rainwater runoff farming and fertilizing the vineyards through bird droppings from local dovecotes. Fuks took the evidence of this agriculture — some 10,000 seeds of grape, wheat and barley from the trash pits — to Bar-Ilan Prof. Weiss’s archaeobotany lab.
1,300-year-old church with colorful mosaics discovered in the Galilee
The remains of a 1,300-year-old church featuring fine mosaic floors were uncovered in the village of Kfar Kama in the Lower Galilee, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday.

“The church, measuring 12 × 36 m., includes a large courtyard, a narthex foyer and a central hall,” IAA archaeologist Nurit Feig said in a press release. “This church presented three apses [prayer niches], The nave and the aisles were paved with mosaics which partially survived. Their colorful decoration stands out, incorporating geometric patterns, and blue, black, and red floral patterns. A special discovery was the small reliquary, a stone box used to preserve sacred relics.”

The church was first found during the excavation ahead of the construction of a playground in the village at the initiative of the Kfar Kama Local Council and the Jewish National Fund.

Another church, dating back to the 6th century, was discovered in the town, a Circassian center, in the 1960s.

“This was probably the village church, whilst the church now discovered was probably part of a contemporary monastery on the outskirts of the village,” said Prof. Moti Aviam of the Kinneret Academic College, who collaborated in the excavation.

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