Ancient Jerusalem tunnel causes friction between Israelis and Palestinians

Jerusalem, jerusalem
Here’s a big surprise–the Israelis and Palestinians are squabbling over land rights in Jerusalem again.

Archaeologists have cleared an ancient passageway they believe was a drainage tunnel leading away from the Second Temple, the Jewish holy spot destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Canadian Press reports the tunnel runs from the Temple Mount, now the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, 2,000 feet under the Old City and into the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan.

The controversy centers around the dig’s sponsors, the Elad Association. Not only do they fund excavations of Jewish sites, but they also move Jewish families into Silwan. Locals have cried foul and say the dig is politically motivated, that what the archaeologists are really trying to do is make a connection with the Jewish temple and Silwan as a justification for moving the Palestinians out. Archaeology quickly gets political in a land where the past justifies the present. As I discussed in my article Two Tours, Two Jerusalems, residents of this city can look at the same thing and see something completely different. Silwan even has another name in Hebrew–The City of David.

But none of this matters to the child in this lovely photo by user Flavio@Flickr via Gadling’s flickr pool. She’s content to sip her drink in a quiet spot somewhere in Jerusalem’s Old City. Looking at her face you can’t tell if she’s Jewish or Arab. Many Israeli Jews can pass for Arab and vice versa. They both speak Semitic languages that share a large number of words. In Hebrew, the word for peace is shalom. In Arabic it’s salaam.My Spanish wife commented that the kid looks Spanish. Hardly surprising considering that many Spaniards have both Arab and Jewish blood, a legacy of the many periods in that nation’s history when they lived in peace. A thousand years ago, this kid would have been allowed to play with “the other side”. I doubt she gets to now.

I wish it were the same in Israel. When I was working there as an archaeology student back in the Nineties, I made friends with a Palestinian guy and an Orthodox Jewish family. Despite their homes being only a few minutes’ walk apart, they never met. I tried to get them all together, but they weren’t interested. So if you go to Jerusalem, remember you’re actually going to two cities and try to visit both.

Museum Junkie: Museum of the Good Samaritan opens in Israel

One of the world’s largest mosaic museums recently opened in Israel.

The Museum of the Good Samaritan displays artifacts from the many cultures that lived in the region. The main attractions are the intricate mosaics found in synagogues in the West Bank and Gaza.

The museum is located on the highway between Jerusalem and Jericho near the ancient town of Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank, believed to be the site of the inn where the parable of the Good Samaritan took place. According to the story, told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) a man is beaten up by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. Nobody will help him but a Samaritan, a member of a rival Jewish sect that was persecuted in ancient times. His act of mercy has become synonymous with the kindness of strangers and the ability of goodness to reach across social boundaries.

This being Israel, history is politics, and officials were quick to put a spin on the museum’s opening. In an article in the Jerusalem Post, Knesset Speaker Reuvlen Rivlin said the museum underscores Israel’s historic ties to the West Bank and Gaza and its devotion to keeping a presence in them. The Knesset is the Israeli parliament, and Rivlin is one of the most powerful members of the ruling Likud party, so his words carry significant political weight.

Some of the mosaics come from Samaritan synagogues, offering a rare look at a faith that few people know still exists.


Just Maybe The World’s Most Surprising Beerfest

Taybeh beer festival (Photo: Martin Asser)We seem to spend an inordinate time here at Gadling writing about beer, especially when it rolls around to Oktoberfest season. Click here for Justin’s post about the best beer tents in Munich, and here for his video insight into the most exciting funfair rides on offer after a few foaming steins.

My own hazy memories of September in Munich include enduring the “Drei Loopen” roller coaster after a lunch of Lowenbrau and pretzels.

A quieter and altogether suprising alternative to the Oktoberfest is the small scale beerfest that recently took place in the Palestinian town of Taybeh. Brewer Nadim Khoury is a Christian, but out of respect for his Muslim neighbours actually brought forward the start date to avoid clashing with Ramadan.

A range of brews were available for ten shekels (around $1.60) and festivities included the Palestinian rap group DAM and local hip hop crews Boikutt and G-Town. Sounds like a cool place to be.

Click here for an excellent article on the challenges of being a brewer on the West Bank.

Story and pic via the BBC.

Don’t Drink the Water

The famous River Jordan, described as a raging or “violent” river in the Bible, is now just a sad trickle of raw sewage and agricultural runoff. Even on the site where John the Baptist performed the ritual on Jesus, Kasr Al-Yahud (near Jericho), the river is now “an opaque, brown, sluggish” mess.

Apparently, Israeli water diversions, started in the 1960s, have been a large reason for the ninety percent drop in flow over the years. However, Syria and Jordan are also to blame. Now, a planned, joint Syrian-Jordanian “Unity Dam” threatens to do even more damage by stopping the river’s largest tributary, the Yarmuk, and possibly completely drying up the river in parts.

Rather than the “original” spot four miles north of the Dead Sea, most religious pilgrims have had to move their re-enactments of the baptism to Yardenit (near Alumot, near the Sea of Galilee), over 60 miles away to the north, to the only clean-water spot: a lonely 3km stretch on the 200km river.

Teen Gets Passport & Heads to Middle East for MySpace Man

MySpace LogoThis I don’t understand. Apparently a 16-year-old girl out of Michigan tricked her parents into letting her get a passport to go on a trip to Canada with some friends of hers, but in reality the young girl was on her way to Israel, alone. Katherine R. Lester was on her way to meet a 25-year-old man from Jericho as described on his account when U.S. officials in Jordan convinced her to head home before reaching the West Bank. Her parents report their child as being a straight-A student, student council member and one to never give any troubles or problems. However something seems really strange and bizarre about the whole deal. How did she even make it that far out the country? Sure teens travel alone all the time, but to Tel Aviv? Maybe I’m a little out of the know? I just thank goodness someone spotted her before she reached her final destination.

The deputies in her town have since confiscated the family’s home computer and were taking it to the FBI’s Bay City office for a very thorough analysis – I’m sure. Sigh, kids on the internet.

via AOL News