Suspects Held In Holocaust Memorial Desecration

Holocaust
Two weeks ago we reported that the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem was vandalized. Now Israeli police have detained three men in connection with the crime.

All three are ultra-Orthodox Jews and have confessed, police said.

The front of Yad Vashem was covered in Hebrew graffiti, including slogans such as, “Thanks Hitler for the wonderful Holocaust you organized for us. Only thanks to you we got a state from the UN.”

Some members of the ultra-Orthodox community don’t recognize the state of Israel, saying it shouldn’t exist until the coming of the Messiah. The BBC reports that some radicals even believe that Hitler and top Zionists plotted to create the Holocaust so that the Jews could create Israel, which has got to be the dumbest conspiracy theory we’ve ever come across, and that’s saying something.

The defacement was signed, “world ultra-Orthodox Jewry.”

The men are due to appear in court today.

Photo courtesy USHMM/Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography. Click link to read the names of these children.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Suspected Of Vandalizing Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial

Ultra-Orthodox Jews

Israeli police suspect ultra-Orthodox Jews are behind Monday’s vandalism at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

Anti-Zionist graffiti written in Hebrew was sprayed over several parts of the building, with lines like, “Jews, wake up, the evil Zionist regime doesn’t protect us, it jeopardizes us,” and, “If Hitler hadn’t existed, the Zionists would have invented him.”

As implausible as this sounds, many ultra-Orthodox Jews believe that Israel shouldn’t exist until the coming of the Messiah. I myself know one family that subscribes to this belief, although being decent human beings they would never vandalize a Holocaust Memorial.

This is only the latest in a string of controversial incidents involving Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community. Recently vandals seriously damaged a 1,600-year-old mosaic from a synagogue. The Tiberias mosaic was one of the finest examples of Jewish art. Vandals broke into the museum and smashed parts of the mosaic, while spray painting slogans in Hebrew calling archaeological excavations a sacrilege.

Last year the country was stunned by the news that Ultra-Orthodox Jews had spat on an 8-year-old Jewish girl and called her a whore for not dressing modestly enough. Another group have been picketing a girls school they think is immodest and throwing feces and rocks at the kids. Back in 1990, some fellow archaeologists and I had rocks thrown at our vehicle because we drove through an Orthodox neighborhood on the Sabbath. Travelers beware.

[Photo credit: Getty images]

Jerusalem to host their first International Ice Festival this spring

jerusalem While Jerusalem, Israel, is well known for its religious traditions and sacred sites, there is actually a lot more for tourists to experience. In fact, this spring the celebration of Passover isn’t the only reason to visit the city, as Jerusalem will be hosting their first ever International Ice Festival.

The festival will take place at the Old Train Station Plaza from March 3-April 4, 2012, and will feature an array of activities and highlights, like an ice bar, ice skating, live entertainment, storytelling, and a replica of Jerusalem made entirely of ice. Don’t worry about freezing, as coats will be handed out at the entrance to keep visitors warm in the 14 degree Fahrenheit conditions.

For those who would like to turn their visit to Jerusalem into an creativity-inspired vacation, the Jerusalem Arts Festival also takes place in mid-March. Moreover, the Israel Museum features an array of interesting art and culture exhibits.

Admission to the International Ice Festival is 65 NIS (about $18). Click here to purchase tickets.

Photo of the Day: Pomegranates in Jerusalem


Sometimes, the most hidden corners of a city are its most interesting. Take this sliver of Jerusalem‘s Muslim Quarter, where a small pomegranate stand, a chair, a door, a mirror, some electrical wires, and graffiti compose one of the most visually striking images in the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Plus, this Photo of the Day was taken with an iPhone! Flickr user Better Nothing Than Almost proves that when the subject, lighting, and composition are right, the rest doesn’t really matter. Well, maybe some photo-ready iPhoneography apps help too.

Does your photo belong here? Upload your favorite travel shots, whether pro or Instagram, to the Gadling Group Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Herod may not have completed Jerusalem’s Western Wall, archaeologists discover

Western Wall
It is one of the holiest spots in one of the holiest cities in the world. The Western Wall attracts Jews and Christians alike, and is on the limits of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a Muslim holy site.

It’s always been believed to have been built by King Herod, the king of Judea and a vassal of the Roman Empire who reigned from 37-4 BC. Herod expanded the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the Western Wall is the western boundary of that expansion.

Now archaeologists have found evidence that the Western Wall was finished after Herod’s death. The coins found under the foundations date to 20 years after Herod died.

This isn’t news to scholars. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus wrote that the project was finished by Herod’s great-grandson. Archaeologists also found a mikve (Jewish ritual bath), three clay lamps in a style popular in the first century AD, and other artifacts. Seventeen coins were found, including two minted by the Roman governor Valerius Gratus in 17 or 18 AD.

I visited Jerusalem several times when I was working as an archaeologist in the Middle East back in the early Nineties. On numerous occasions I saw where local tradition came up against the findings of archaeology and history. For example, the route of the Via Dolorosa, the trail Jesus supposedly took on his way to Calvary, was only established in the 19th century. In the centuries before that there were several different routes.

In the current debate between the faithful and the atheists, these facts change nothing. The deflating of a local tradition will not make anyone stop believing in God, and the atheists are equally convinced about their views.

Photo courtesy Chris Yunker.