EU tries to twist international law to fight eviction of Sheikh Jarrah squatters in Jerusalem and Report: 70,000 businesses in Israel failed to survive 2021 and Budapest: 77 years of ghetto liberation marked with 77 live survivor testimonies and Mysterious Rods Found in 5,500-year-old Tomb Prove to Be Earliest Drinking Straws and The Portion of Yitro-King Solomon's Throne and the Altar of Stones and Singer Dies After Deliberately Catching COVID-19 So She Could Obtain A Recently-Recovered PassDan O'Reilly
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
When King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, he also built a throne of ivory covered in gold. Six steps led up to the throne upon which the king sat as he judged the people (Kings I, chapter 10).
In order that the king always remember that a judge must have personal integrity and be incorruptible, a herald would announce the following as the king ascended each of the six steps to the throne:
Do not be predisposed when passing judgment
Do not show favoritism to one of the litigants
Do not take a bribe
Do not plant an 'Asherah' (a tree planted for the purpose of idolatry)
Do not erect a monument
Do not offer a sacrifice to the Lord your G-d (Dvarim Rabah, portion 5, section 6)
The Hebrew word for "do not" is "lo"; the first letter of "lo" is a "lamed". At the end of this week's portion, where the Torah instructs us concerning the building of the altar made of stone, six "lameds" are emphasized as seen in the accompanying picture. Perhaps this is an allusion to the six warnings proclaimed to the king.
(My thanks are due to Rav Yehudah Brandis who enlightened me to this matter.)
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Singer Dies After Deliberately Catching COVID-19 So She Could Obtain A Recently-Recovered Pass
A well-known Czech folk singer has died after intentionally exposing herself to Covid-19 in a bid to gain greater access to venues and events.
Her family has shared her story as a cautionary tale that reinforces the importance of taking the virus seriously — even if it means altering our lives to abide by public health guidelines.
Depending on what exactly you classify as the start of the pandemic, year three may have already started. At this point, we all should have the knowledge and understanding to know both the severity of the illness and how best to avoid it or at least know who to ask or where to loom for the most up-to-date information.
But for one woman, not taking heed of these precautions has resulted in a tragic outcome for her and her family.
Czech Hana Horka died after deliberately contracting Covid-19.
Hana Horka, a well-known Czech folk singer, died after a short but difficult battle with the virus. .
Horka's son, Jan Rek, reported that his mother intentionally exposed herself to him and his father, Horka's husband when they were sick with Covid-19 in order to obtain a recovery pass.
Horka had decided not to get vaccinated and was limited by the Czech government in where she could go for both hers and the safety of others.
Rek also discussed his mother's decision not to get vaccinated, saying, "Her philosophy was that she was more OK with the idea of catching Covid than getting vaccinated. Not that we would get microchipped or anything like that."
The vast majority of deaths of the unvaccinated to Covid-19 are preventable.
This isn't a time for "I told you so" or demeaning comments. This should be a learning moment so that we can stop needlessly losing grandparents, parents, spouses and children.
If that isn't reason enough to get vaccinated then consider changing subjects of that statement, your loved ones are 20 times more likely to die of Covid-19 if they catch it and aren't vaccinated.
Hana Horka's death was preventable as are the many that will in the future because people will continue to refuse to get vaccinated. We can rail against misinformation and bad actors all that we want but ultimately it is up to the individual to make the smart decision for themselves and their families.
Do not underestimate Covid-19, do not join the millions that have died worldwide.
Report: 70,000 businesses in Israel failed to survive 2021
Only 35,000 news small businesses opened in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the cessation of government aid contributed to the many ventures that ceased operating, according to LAHAV.BY SONIA GORODEISKY
Shops in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center during a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, Dec. 28, 2020. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Israel Hayom) Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week that 2021 had been the country's best year economically in the 21st century. While 2021 did see some records set for exports, credit expenditures, profits for retail chains and banks, however, when it comes to small and medium-sized businesses, things were much bleaker, a report from LAHAV, the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses, shows.
According to initial assessments, 2021 saw 70,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Israel go under, while only 35,000 new ones opened.
The number of businesses that closed up shop in 2021 was much higher than that of the two previous years. In 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 44,000 small and medium-sized businesses ceased operations; in 2020, 38,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Israel closed. The relatively low number of closures in 2020 was due to government assistance that kept some of these businesses afloat through the onset of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns.
It should also be noted that a small percentage of businesses stopped trading, but did not close their tax files, so the owners could claim government assistance. When the money stopped, these owners closed up shop.
In addition, the high number of small businesses closing is deterring entrepreneurs from opening new businesses, which might explain why only 35,000 new businesses launched in 2021.
According to research conducted by LAHAV economic consultant Dr. Roby Nathanson, 86.4 percent of businesses survive their first year; about half make it to five years; and less than one-third are still operating 13 years after being opened.
Accountant Uri Beeri, chairman of the Elliot Group of Certified Public Accountants, said, "The figures that arise from the study should worry decision-makers. Small and medium-sized businesses are the motor that keeps the economy going, and as such they need special attention and major financial support to overcome the special difficulties of this time and allow their long-term survival, as well as the simultaneous growth of the economy."
Calling the situation "glum," Beeri added that the figures illustrated that not enough has been done to help these businesses.
"COVID is a very hard catalyst for closures, so we need to hurry up and look at tools that we can use to help them when it comes to taxation, funding, human resources, recruiting and municipal costs," he said.
EU tries to twist international law to fight eviction of Sheikh Jarrah squatters in Jerusalem
Professor Avi Bell: "The accusation that Israel is committing war crimes with plans to build an Arabic-language special-needs school for Israeli and Palestinian Arab residents of the neighborhood shows that European officials harbor equal contempt for common sense, international law and the Jewish state."BY ISRAEL KASNETT
Palestinians with gas cylinders stand on a rooftop of a house being evacuated by Israeli special forces, in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, on Jan. 17, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel
(January 18, 2022 / JNS) Israeli authorities on Monday morning attempted to evict the Salhiya family, Arab squatters living illegally since the 1950s in a home in the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem. The day-long standoff ended without an eviction, though authorities did destroy a plant nursery on the premises as well as two illegal storage structures.
Video and photos from the scene show the Salhiya family standing on the roof of their home with gas canisters. Mohammed Salhiya had threatened to set himself on fire if the eviction order was carried out. "We will not be evicted from the house," he threatened. "Either we will die or we will live. I am going to burn myself!"
Salhiya's family has been facing eviction since 2017, when the land where his home sits was allocated by the city for the construction of a school. The Jerusalem Municipality and the police said in a joint statement that the Salhiya family has ignored "countless opportunities" to vacate the land as ordered.
A delegation of European officials, led by European Union representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, showed up in an apparent attempt to prevent the eviction. The official Twitter account for the European Union Delegation to the Palestinians said, "Imperative to de-escalate the situation and seek a peaceful resolution. Evictions/demolitions are illegal under international law and significantly undermine the prospects for peace as well as fuel tensions on the ground."
According to Avi Bell, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and at Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Law, "the European Union's accusation that Israel is committing war crimes in Sheikh Jarrah by moving forward with plans to build an Arabic-language special-needs school for Israeli and Palestinian Arab residents of the neighborhood shows that European officials harbor equal contempt for common sense, international law and the Jewish state."
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He further told JNS, "There is no international law that forbids Israel taking control of public lands to build a special-needs school" or that "gives Palestinian trespassers the right to block construction of a special-needs school."
He accused the E.U. delegation of "trying to obscure the bias displayed by its knee-jerk assault on Israel by making laughably inaccurate claims about international law."
The current area of Sheikh Jarrah encompasses Shimon HaTzadik and Nahalat Shimon, which were separate neighborhoods in the late Ottoman period and in Mandatory Jerusalem. Nachalat Shimon is a Jewish neighborhood built more than 130 years ago on empty land and still completely owned by Jews.
The British Consulate in Jerusalem also tweeted its concern and took the side of the Arab squatters while stating false interpretations of international law. "Evictions in Occupied Territory are against international humanitarian law in all but the most exceptional circumstances. The UK urges the Government of Israel to cease such practices which only serve to increase tensions on the ground."
The bottom line is: It's Jewish-owned property
Even the Minister of Internal Security, Omer Bar-Lev, no friend of the Israeli right, acknowledged on Monday that the law is on Israel's side.
"The court ruled that this was an illegal invasion [by Arab squatters]. The area is intended for the establishment of classrooms and kindergartens for special education that are for the benefit of the neighborhood's Arab children. It is impossible to hold on to a stick from both ends—both to demand that the municipality act for the welfare of the Arab residents and also to oppose the construction of educational institutions for their welfare."
Starting in 1982, a number of Jewish owners brought their case to the courts to claim back land and homes Jordan had illegally confiscated in 1948. Palestinians have rejected these claims, saying their homes were legally purchased from Jordan.
Jordan, however, never legally owned the area of Sheikh Jarrah, having confiscated it in its war with Israel in 1948 and ethnically cleansed its Jewish residents from the very homes the Arab illegal squatters now claim as their own.
A number of court cases are currently pending as Arab squatters in Sheikh Jarrah battle Jewish owners over rights to the homes they occupy. One of them involves the Salem family, who also face eviction after squatting in a Jewish-owned home.
Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason's Antonin Scalia School of Law, specializing in constitutional and international law, told JNS that the only reason the Salem family is there is because Jordan seized the property and let them live there. In his view, this does not mean they have a title to it.
"The bottom line is: It's a Jewish-owned property," he said.
According to Chaim Rubinstein, an activist involved in assisting Jewish property owners to reclaim their land, the squatters "were aware they were on someone else's property from the beginning. They have been living illegally in someone else's property and not paying rent to the owners."
Mysterious Rods Found in 5,500-year-old Tomb Prove to Be Earliest Drinking Straws
When found in a Bronze Age tomb over a century ago, the metal rods were assumed to be scepters. But royal batons wouldn't be hollow and have tiny filters clogged with beer crud
Artist's impression of a communal quaff in ancient Maikop, using meter-long metal straws, some of which may have been decorated with detachable bullsCredit: Kevin Wilson Ariel David Reusable straws are all the rage today as humanity tries to cut down on plastic waste. But we have invented nothing. The simple practice of fashioning a hollow tube to enjoy a beverage goes back thousands of years, and now a team of Russian scientists believe they have identified the oldest known surviving drinking straws.
The straws consist of eight rods made of gold and silver that were uncovered in an Early Bronze Age burial in the Caucasus. Dating back about 5,500 years, the artifacts were probably used to quaff beer or other beverages at banquets from a communal jar, the archaeologists suggest.
The custom of shared drinking through straws likely originated in Mesopotamia, and the discovery that it had spread as far as the Caucasus is yet another example in a growing body of evidence showing how the world experienced an early form of globalization in the Bronze Age.
For a long time, the objects mystified their finders. They were among the luxurious funerary offerings uncovered in 1897 in a kurgan – a type of burial mound – found near the city of Maikop in southern Russia.
Back then, archaeologists discovered three adult skeletons in the kurgan's burial chamber. The central individual, believed to be a person of high social status, was dressed in an elegant garment, dripping in jewelry and surrounded by grave goods including pottery, metal tools and weapons. The discovery was sensational, and Maikop became the type site for the so-called Maikop culture, an Early Bronze Age farming society that occupied large parts of the Caucasus from around 3700 to 3000 B.C.E.
But archaeologists couldn't figure out the purpose of what seemed to be the star artifacts of the Maikop kurgan, the ones that were placed closest, within hand's reach, to the elite individual buried in the tomb. These eight tubes with tapered points were made of rolled silver and gold strips, and some were additionally decorated with a small, detachable bull figurine.
The rods, now at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, have been variably interpreted over the last century as scepters or poles used to support a canopy during the funerary procession. But none of these theories explain why the objects were hollow, which made them much harder to manufacture, argues Viktor Trifonov, an archaeologist with the Institute for the History of Material Culture at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Antiquity, Trifonov and colleagues suggest that the enigmatic gold and silver rods were just elevated versions of the humble drinking straw, adding that they were probably used to drink beer.
The main giveaway that the straws were for beer, not wine which was also being manufactured in the Caucasus at the time, is in the tapered tips of the artifacts. The tips have tiny perforations that acted as a strainer, filtering out the slurry that was standard in ancient beer, Trifonov explains.
Furthermore, the primitive filtration system of at least one of the tubes was found to contain microscopic barley starch granules, further supporting the theory that beer, which is made from fermented barley, had been imbibed through the artifact, the researchers report.
The drink of choice here is not surprising. The earliest (possible) evidence of beer brewingcomes from a cave in today's Israel and dates to some 13,000 years ago, suggesting prehistoric humans were getting buzzed on fermented barley even before the invention of agriculture.
By the fourth millennium B.C.E., the time of the Maikop culture, beer had become a staple across the entire Near East, from Egypt to Mesopotamia, and was consumed by all: men, women and children. Measuring more than a meter in length, the straws from the Maikop kurgan would have allowed a group of drinking buddies to sit or even stand while sharing beer from a communal jar during a banquet or other ceremony. Perhaps such a ceremony took place as part of the funeral for the elite individual buried in the kurgan, using the single large jar found in the tomb, Trifonov suggests.
The volume of this vessel, 32 liters, indicates that even with eight drinkers each participant would have had a share of about four liters (seven pints) of beer – making for quite a cheery sendoff for the dearly departed. Or, possibly, the eight straws were symbolically placed next to the deceased so he could share a drink with the gods in the afterlife, Trifonov says. Or maybe it was for both purposes – who knows?
From Sumer with love
Given that the Maikop kurgan dates to around 3,500 B.C.E., these would be the oldest known surviving drinking straws, the new study claims. The next oldest samples are from the Royal Cemetery at Ur (in today's southern Iraq), and date to about 1,000 years later, Trifonov says.
This however does not mean that straws were invented in the Caucasus, he qualifies.
Seal impressions from Mesopotamia and Iran from around 4,000 B.C.E. – predating the Maikop artifacts by centuries – already show scenes of communal drinking using similarly long straws. The custom therefore probably started in the Near East, and we simply haven't found the earliest straws, also because they were probably made from reeds, a highly perishable material, Trifonov says. In some Mesopotamian examples, archaeologists have found standalone metal tip-strainers, suggesting that it was also common to make the filter out of more expensive materials and attach it to plain reed straws, he adds.
So while the concept of the straw didn't originate in the Caucasus, what the study of the Maikop tubes does highlight is the level of ties and exchange between this region and its distant southern neighbors. The Northern Caucasian steppes occupied by the illiterate Maikop culture were more than 1,000 kilometers from the sophisticated urban centers of the Sumerians. Yet the Maikop, or at least their elites, knew enough to develop a taste for the luxury and spectacle of Sumerian drinking ceremonies and funerary rites, Trifonov says.
"The fourth millennium B.C.E. was a unique period in the history of the Northern Caucasus: never before nor after was the region so profoundly integrated into the world of the ancient Near East," he tells Haaretz. "The interesting question is to what extent the population of this remote periphery shared the ways of life, the values and the religious beliefs of the Western Asian cultures of that time."
And the cultural exchange between Mesopotamia and the Caucasus wasn't just a one-way street. For example, researchers believe that around 2000 B.C.E. (centuries after the disappearance of the Maikop culture) the domesticated horse was first introduced to Anatolia and Mesopotamia through the Caucasus.
'Twas a small world after all
On an even broader level, the study of the Maikop straws is only the latest piece of evidence highlighting how, during the Bronze Age (3500-1200 B.C.E.) human civilizations became increasingly sophisticated and interconnected through vast trade networks.
This early taste of globalization, or "Bronzization" as some scholars call it, came to a crashing end around 1200 B.C.E., when most of the major civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East were suddenly crippled or disappeared entirely. The exact causes of the so-called Bronze Age Collapse – probably a mix of climate change, social strife and war – are still being investigated. But it is becoming ever clearer that, for a long time during the Bronze Age, the world was a much smaller place than we thought.
Budapest: 77 years of ghetto liberation marked with 77 live survivor testimonies
The videos are part of a series of interviews with survivors conducted by Hungarian director András Surányi, and commissioned by the Hungarian Holocaust Research and Education Center.
Holocaust survivor Molnár Andorné Klára. Credit:
(January 18, 2022 / JNS) A website dedicated to the recollections of Holocaust survivors and their rescuers was inaugurated this week by the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities (EMIH), marking the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Budapest ghetto.
Those Who Remember, which is in Hungarian with English translation available, contains programming that will air consecutively for the next 77 hours (starting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 17). A new video featuring interviews with survivors and their rescuers will be shown every hour.
The videos include testimonies of those who survived as children, including an interview with Miklós Szinetár, and recollections by Klára Andorné Molnár and Mária Szilágyi.
"After we were tossed out of the train to Auschwitz, we tried to grab our luggage, but we were told not to bring anything, that they would bring everything to us," recalled Molnár. "The procession started, and we saw the line separate in two different directions. It later became clear that those who were on the right were taken to the gas chamber and those who survived were taken to the other side."
"After the liberation, we tried to find out about the fate of other family members," said Szilágyi. "It was then we learned that my grandparents and my father's family had almost all perished in Auschwitz."
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The videos featured on the site are part of a series of interviews with survivors that were conducted by Hungarian director András Surányi, and commissioned by the Hungarian Holocaust Research and Education Center (Magyar Holokauszt Kutatási és Oktatási Központ (MHKOK). MHKOK was formed with the goal of developing the House of Fates, Budapest's new Holocaust museum, which opened at the end of 2021.
"Each year on Jan. 18, we remember the liberation of the Budapest ghetto and pay our respects to the memory of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jewish victims who perished in the Holocaust," said EMIH Chief Rabbi Shlomo Köves. "Sadly, as the number of survivors declines, it is incumbent upon us to preserve both the memories and the lessons for future generations, which makes these joint remembrances with survivors even more important."
Holocaust survivor Kovács Györgyné Mira. Credit: Courtesy.
EMIH organizes the annual commemoration, which had previously featured a joint candle-lighting ceremony at the Budapest Ghetto Memorial Wall on Dohány Street that was unveiled in 2014, the 70th anniversary of the ghetto liberation.
Last year, due to pandemic restrictions, EMIH created 76 hours of online programming to replace in-person events. As the pandemic continues this year, the community planned a memorial program at the "Shoes on the Danube Bank" Holocaust memorial, as well as an online event for those unable to participate in person.
Some 70,000 Hungarian Jews were forced into the Budapest Ghetto, which was sealed off on Dec. 10, 1944. The small area was enclosed by Dohány Street, present-day Kertész Street, Király Street, Csányi Street, Rumbach Sebestyén Street, Madách Imre Road, Madách Imre Square and Károly Boulevard. In just a little more than a month of the ghetto's existence, residents faced inhumane conditions, overcrowding, food shortages and frequent Arrow Cross raids, which claimed countless lives.
After its liberation on Jan. 18, 1945, thousands of unburied bodies were found inside the ghetto.