Wednesday, January 17, 2018

First Temple stamp found in excavations at Western Wall

Do It Once ion »

When fighting against the evil inclination, use the same strategy he uses. When he tries to prevent you from doing good deeds, tell him, 'It's just for this once,' or, 'I'm only going to start doing a little bit,' and similar statements that will enable you to get started. This way of talking to yourself lessens the difficulty of a task.

Think of a good deed that you would want to do, but don't do because you feel it will be difficult for you to continue doing it. Imagine that you will do it only once. Then take action.
Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Raziel Shevach, 35, was brutally murdered in a road shooting near his home in Havat Gilad. The terrorists sprayed 22 bullets at his car before escaping into the darkness.

The murder not only robs the world of a brilliant scholar and a man of kindness and compassion. It also leaves his six small children without a father, and a whole family without its primary provider.

The oldest is only 10 years old. The youngest is only eight months, and will never know what it means to have a father.

Rabbi Shevach also leaves behind his parents, two brothers, and a sister who is due to be married in a month. Rabbi Shevach was set to officiate the ceremony.

OneFamily has reached out to the Shevach family. We are at their side through the difficult mourning period and will continue to be there through the stages of grieving that follow. We will stay at their side as long as they need us so that they never feel alone.

As the wave of bullets struck him in his neck and chest, Rabbi Shevach managed to call his wife to ask for help. Those were his final words. He was barely conscious when the ambulance came, and his heart stopped beating before he arrived at the hospital.

Rabbi Shevach worked as an educator in a local yeshiva and served as a mohel (who performs circumcisions on infants) for his local community. He was also a volunteer medic and first-responder with Magen David Adom (MDA). He was deeply-loved in his community and beyond.

His funeral took place in his hometown of Havat Gilad. His widow, Yael, said he had left instructions to bury him there if anything ever happened to him, and she honored his request. Hundreds of people attended, many openly sobbing inconsolably.

His wife is a high school teacher. She now has to raise six small children on her own.

A donation now will ease the burden on the Shevach family and others who are suffering from ruthless acts of terror. Please help us ensure that they have everything they need.

Our hearts go out to the family of the bereaved and to all others who suffer at the hands of terrorists.

We thank you for your support at this time.

Hidden gems of Jerusalem

A mission to reveal treasures that are inaccessible to the general public, and others that are just out of sight

  • Former military compound and prison, the Kishle, accessibly only via organized tours. (Noam Chen)
    Former military compound and prison, the Kishle, accessibly only via organized tours. (Noam Chen)
  • Contrast between old and new, the Siebenberg House.
    Contrast between old and new, the Siebenberg House.
  • Brought home from Italy in 1952, the Italian Synagogue.
    Brought home from Italy in 1952, the Italian Synagogue.
  • Artists were flown in from Italy for the restoration of the Chapel, the Italian Synagogue.
    Artists were flown in from Italy for the restoration of the Chapel, the Italian Synagogue.
  • Nestled among the modern buildings of the Rehavia neighborhood, Jason's Tomb.
    Nestled among the modern buildings of the Rehavia neighborhood, Jason's Tomb.
  • Underground medieval halls with a large reservoir of water, Helena's Well, named after St. Helena who built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
    Underground medieval halls with a large reservoir of water, Helena's Well, named after St. Helena who built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
  • The Coptic Monastery through which Helena's Well is reached.
    The Coptic Monastery through which Helena's Well is reached.
  • Almost unknown to the public, the Little Western Wall.
    Almost unknown to the public, the Little Western Wall.
  • A feast to the eye, inside the Church of St. John the Baptist.
    A feast to the eye, inside the Church of St. John the Baptist.
  • The crossroad between the Mamluk Halls and the Western Wall Tunnels.
    The crossroad between the Mamluk Halls and the Western Wall Tunnels.We all know that each city we visit has its "must-see" sites and attractions. First-time visitors to Jerusalem usually go to the Western Wall, the Old City market and the Tower of David, to name a few of the city's most famous landmarks.

But a city that dates back thousands of years, with rich history unlike any other on earth, has much more than meets the eye. So much so that even its own residents are sometimes not aware of what lies nearby, above their heads or beneath their feet.

I have spent many years photographing Jerusalem, and I have seen its many sides. Almost every time I went back to the city, there was something new I hadn't seen before.

I recently teamed up with local tour guide Jacob Bildner, an expert in tours of the city, and together we set out on a special mission to uncover the hidden world of Jerusalem. Jacob was instrumental in helping me discover some of the city's most fascinating secrets, from sites that are not accessible to the public to places that are literally hidden from sight. The rapport he has built with the communities connected to each site was invaluable in securing private access to many of those that we visited.

Exploring these sites was a mind-blowing and unforgettable trip to the past, unveiling even more layers of the holy city.

I have gathered eight of these hidden gems to show you a side of Jerusalem that you might not have seen:

The Kishle

The Kishle was established in 1834 to serve as a military compound. During the British Mandate in the Land of Israel, it was used as a police station and prison where Jewish underground members were incarcerated. Some prisoners left their mark on the walls, including the emblem of the Irgun (The National Military Organization in the Land of Israel), which can be seen close to the entrance.

Archaeologists excavating the site have unearthed findings from almost every period in Jerusalem's history, from the fortifications of King Hezekiah during the First Temple period to the remains of Herod's Palace, which stretched all the way to Mount Zion.

The Kishle was opened to the public in November 2015 and is now a part of the Tower of David Museum. It is accessible only with organized tours.

A road less traveled. The path leading from the Tower of David to the Kishle. (Noam Chen)
the-kishle (1)
Former military compound and prison, the Kishle. (Noam Chen)

Siebenberg House

The Siebenberg House is one of the most intriguing hidden treasures of Jerusalem.

It all began when Theo Siebenberg, a European Jew who managed to flee Europe during World War II and reach the United States. By 1970, he had moved to Jerusalem and purchased a home in the heart of the Jewish Quarter.

Surrounded by history everywhere, he was eager to uncover the ancient Jewish heritage in the holy city. He began to excavate underneath his own home.

His years of excavations revealed a timeline of some 3,000 years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, all hidden under one house. Some of the astonishing finds included burial vaults from the First Temple period, an aqueduct and mikvahs (ritual baths) from the Second Temple period, incredibly preserved artifacts and more.

On one of the ancient walls you can even see black coal that archaeologists have confirmed is a remnant of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.

Following the excavations, Theo decided to turn his house into a museum which opened in 1987. The first floor of the house is renovated and modern, but going downstairs you literally step back in time into a completely different world.

The Siebenberg House is currently closed to the general public.

Siebenberg House (4)
A secret door to 3,000 years of history, currently closed to the public. (Noam Chen)
Siebenberg House (5)
Modern and renovated upstairs, an ancient world downstairs. The Siebenberg House. (Noam Chen)
Siebenberg House (3)
Breathtaking contrast between old and new, the Siebenberg House. (Noam Chen)
Siebenberg House (2)
Findings from the First and Second Temple periods, the lower floor of the Siebenberg House. (Noam Chen)
Siebenberg House (1)
Ancient artifacts found during the excavations, the Siebenberg House. (Noam Chen)

The Italian Synagogue

The story of this beautiful synagogue began in a small town called Conegliano Veneto, in northeast Italy, in the 16th century. The Jewish community of Conegliano used to pray in this very synagogue up until World War I.

Its Holy Ark, with remarkable golden carved wooden decorations, still bears e dedication to Rabbi Nathan Ottolengo, who passed away in Conegliano in 1615. By the end of World War II there were practically no Jews left in Conegliano and the synagogue was left abandoned. Following the war, a group of Italian immigrants decided to have the complete interior of the synagogue relocated to Jerusalem, which they achieved in 1952. The location chosen was an old stone compound in the heart of Jerusalem, where the synagogue once again opened its doors. It remains open to this day.

Another interesting fact about the place is that it's probably the only synagogue in the country that is built above a Catholic chapel. The chapel was built in 1886 in the old compound, which at that time served as a school and hospice for pilgrims to the Holy Land called the German Catholic Institution. The institution was later moved to a different location, leaving the chapel behind. When the Italian Synagogue claimed its place in the compound, the chapel became an integral part of it.

In recent years the chapel underwent restoration by Italian artists who were flown in especially for that task.

The Italian Synagogue is also home to the Museum of Italian Jewish Art, showcasing Jewish life in Italy throughout history.

The synagogue and museum are open Sunday to Thursday; the chapel is open only for special occasions. Services are held on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

italian-synagogue-jerusalem (1)
The Jerusalem home of the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (4)
Venice in Jerusalem, the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (5)
Brought home from Italy in 1952, the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (2)
The Catholic chapel, part of the synagogue today. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (3)
Artists were flown in from Italy for the restoration of the chapel, the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)
italian-synagogue-jerusalem (6)
Museum of Italian Jewish Art, the Italian Synagogue. (Noam Chen)

Jason's Tomb

Jason's Tomb is an ancient rock-carved burial tomb dating back to the Second Temple period. Jason was a high priest during the second century BCE, as described in the Second Book of Maccabees. His name appears in the carved inscriptions on the walls of the structure.

The tomb, located in the heart of the Rehavia neighborhood, was discovered in 1956 when a new residential building was under construction. It was later decided to conserve the ancient tomb and not to go ahead with the building project. The tomb now nestles among the new and modern buildings of the Rehavia neighborhood, making it a truly hidden wonder. The contrast between the neighborhood and this ancient tomb is nothing short of fascinating, and is a true testament that history is everywhere in Jerusalem.

jason's-tomb (3)
Nestled among the modern buildings of the Rehavia neighborhood, Jason's Tomb. (Noam Chen)
jason's-tomb (2)
Rock-carved burial tomb from the Second Temple period, Jason's Tomb. (Noam Chen)
jason's-tomb (1)
A sharp contrast to the new buildings, Jason's Tomb. (Noam Chen)

Helena's Well

Just above the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and near the 9th Station of the Cross, there's a tiny Coptic Monastery that many visitors have probably passed through. Hidden deep inside the monastery is an even tinier entrance followed by 51 stairs leading to Helena's Well, which consists of underground medieval halls and a large reservoir of water. It was named after St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, who arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century and who discovered where Jesus was crucified and buried. It is believed that when St. Helena built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she used water from this well.

To access the well you'll need permission from the resident priest, who usually asks for a small donation to get you in. It's worth it.

helena's-well (1)
A tiny entrance, followed by 51 stairs, leads to Helena's Well. (Noam Chen)
helena's-well (3)
Underground medieval halls with a large reservoir of water, Helena's Well.The Times of Israel

Western Wall Plaza Excavations Yield First Temple Hebrew-Inscribed Message

A stamped piece of clay from the First Temple period (seventh to sixth centuries BCE), which belonged to the "governor of the city" of Jerusalem – the most prominent local position to be held in Jerusalem of 2700 years ago – was unearthed in archaeological works in the Western Wall Plaza, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and in association with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.


This extraordinary find is a lump of clay, stamped and pre-fired. It measures 13 X 15 mm and is 2–3 mm thick. The upper part of the seal depicts two figures facing each other, and the lower part holds an inscription in ancient Hebrew script.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat with the First Temple period seal that says 'Governor of the City.' Photograph: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The seal was presented to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, during his visit to Davidson's Center, near the Western Wall, last week. After the completion of the scientific research, the seal will be on temporary exhibit in the mayor's office.

The seal, its purpose unknown, was retrieved by an IAA employee named Shimon Cohen, who was wet-sieving the soil from a late First Temple-period building.

The Seal up close. / Photo credit: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, the IAA excavator of the site—located in the northwestern part of the western Wall Plaza—believes that "the seal had been attached to an important transport and served as some sort of logo, or as a tiny souvenir, which was sent on behalf of the governor of the city."

She further suggested that "it is likely that one of the buildings in our excavation was the destination of this transport sent by the city governor. The finding of the seal with this high-rank title, in addition to the large assemblage of actual seals found in the building in the past, supports the assumption that this area, located on the western slopes of the western hill of ancient Jerusalem, some 100 m west of the Temple Mount, was inhabited by highly ranked officials during the First Temple period."

"This is the first time that such a seal is found in an authorized excavation. It supports the biblical rendering of the existence of a governor of the city in Jerusalem 2700 years ago," she noted.

The IAA excavations in the Western Wall plaza, where the seal was found. / Photo credit: Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah

Prof. Tallay Ornan of the Hebrew University, and Prof. Benjamin Sass of Tel Aviv University, studied the seal. "Above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner," they described it, adding, "Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment."

"In the register beneath the double line is an inscription in ancient Hebrew: 'LSARIR,' לשרער with no spacing between the words and no definite article. It denotes 'Lesar Ha'Ir,' meaning 'belonging to the governor of the city,'" they concluded.

Prof. Ornan and Prof. Sass added that "the title 'governor of the city' is known from the Bible and from extra-biblical documents, referring to an official appointed by the king. Governors of Jerusalem are mentioned twice in the Bible: in 2 Kings, Joshua is the governor of the city in the days of King Hezekiah, and in 2 Chronicles, Maaseiah is the governor of the city in the days of King Josiah."

The IAA excavations in the Western Wall plaza, where the seal was found. / Photo credit: Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat related, when the find was presented to him, that "it is overwhelming to receive greetings from First Temple-period Jerusalem. This shows that as early as 2,700 years ago, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a strong and central city. Jerusalem is one of the most ancient capitals of the world, continually populated by the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years."

"Today, we have the privilege to encounter another one of the long chain of persons and leaders that built and developed the city. We are grateful to be living in a city with such a magnificent past, and are obligated to ensure its strength for generations to come, as we daily do," the mayor said.

According to Dr. Yuval Baruch, Archaeologist of the Jerusalem District in the IAA, "The outstanding significance of the finds brought upon the decision to conserve the First Temple-period building exposed in the Western Wall plaza excavations and open it to visitors".

Conservation work at the site, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was carried out by Yossi Vaknin and Haim Makuriya.

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When you lose weight, your fat cells don't just let go of fat

Belly flab is like a storage unit for the rest of your body.

Every January, fat's in the crosshairs of health columnists, fitness magazines, and desperate Americans. This year, PopSci looks at the macronutrient beyond its most negative associations. What's fat good for? How do we get it to go where we want it to? Where does it wander when it's lost? This, my friends, is Fat Month.

fat cells

Mmmmmm, fat!

If cells were personified, each fat cell would be an overbearing grandparent who hoards. They're constantly trying to make you eat another serving of potatoes, and have cabinets stacked with vitamins they never take.

Like that grandparent, your fat cells are always trying to store stuff. Fats? Of course. Vitamins? Heck yeah. Hormones? You bet. Random pollutants and toxins? Sure. Adipose tissue will soak all that up like an oily little sponge and keep it safe until you need it again. That's the whole point of body fat—to store energy for you. When you lose weight, your fat cells start shrinking, releasing lipids and other fats into your bloodstream. These get broken down, and eventually the smaller molecules exit via your urine or breath.

But adipose cells release all the other molecules they've hoarded, too. That includes key hormones like estrogen, along with fat-soluble vitamins and any organic pollutants that found their way into your bloodstream as you gained weight.

Adipose tissue's tendency to store things is an unfortunate side-effect, because often we need those things to be circulating, not sitting around. Take hormones, for instance. Female body fat actually produces some of its own estrogen in addition to storing it, and the more adipose tissue a person has, the more estrogen they're exposed to. This is why being overweight puts you at an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Many types of breast cancer are caused by malfunctions in estrogen receptors, which are more likely to go haywire when more estrogen is around to stimulate them.

Vitamins pose the opposite problem. Adipose sucks up available fat-soluble vitamins (those stashed in adipose tissue instead of being excreted in your outgoing urine)— A, D, E, and K—and often doesn't leave enough for the rest of your body. Studies suggest that obese people tend to suffer from vitamin D deficiencies because it's all lurking in their adipose tissue. These vitamins can come back out as you lose weight, and as you decrease your body fat, you also allow more of your new vitamin D to stay in your bloodstream. Water-soluble compounds can just be peed out if you take too much of them, but because the vitamins stored in your adipose tissue can continue to build up you can eventually overdose on them. It's rare, but it does happen.

Fat is also a (temporarily) safe space to store pollutants and other organic chemicals that might otherwise pose a threat. Organochlorine pesticides build up in fat, as do the polychlorinated biphenyls in coolant fluids and other chemicals from the "dirty dozen" of environmental contaminants. These banned chemicals can get into your food supply in small quantities and are stored in your fat, possibly because your body wants to sequester them away from your organs. Bodies don't seem to store enough of these to become toxic, but the constant build-up leaves you vulnerable to exposure. And they do start to re-emerge when you lose weight.

Since you're not eliminating all of your body fat at once, this doesn't seem to pose a problem for most people. You're dumping toxins into your bloodstream, but you're also eliminating them through your pee. There's some evidence that certain pollutants—so-called "persistent organic pollutants"—can stick around in your body fat for years, but so far it seems that natural toxin-elimination methods (also known as peeing) work well enough to get rid of them.

Safe or not, it's best not to give your body a spot to stash all the hormones and vitamins it can hoard. Our bodies aren't designed to hold onto excess body fat and stay healthy—that's why obesity is a risk factor for so many diseases. Getting rid of fat storage is just another reason to try and cut down on your own adiposity this year. Letting someone shame you into thinking you don't look the way you should is not a wise reason to lose weight, but doing it to be healthier usually is.

Just think: every time you lose a pound of fat, you've also literally detoxed yourself without ever having to do one of those terrible juice cleanses ( which, by the way, do not work). You've used the power of your own body's filtration systems to get rid of them—and it will thank you for it

See you Tomorrow
Love Yehuda Lave
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