Egypt Seizes a Collection of Odd Jewish Artifacts

Aug. 22 2017

Working in cooperation with Israeli authorities, Egyptian police interdicted at least one smuggler trying to transport six antique objects via Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Amanda Borschel-Dan describes some of these unusual items, most of which were dated to the 18th century:

Included in the trove was a cane with a handle carved in stone which depicts a bearded man wearing a yarmulke. . . . An additional find in the seized collection was a 29-page Hebrew book described by Egyptian authorities as “the commandments of Judas Iscariot.” . . .

Two images of pages from the book released by the [Egyptian] Ministry of Antiquities include esoteric “Hebrew” text, which appears to be a poor translation from some other language. The pages are black and white and decorated with what could be either scorpions or lobsters. In the center of each page is a poster-like block of text written in disjointed Hebrew.

One page is titled “To the level of” and uses modern Hebrew words, including matkon (recipe), which would date the page to within the past 100 years.

The second page, which is illustrated by a Greek goddess-like woman holding a menorah triton, roughly reads, “Learn how to rise above things, and this can be done if I weren’t strong,” in a Hebrew one might suspect was written through Google Translate.

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More about: Archaeology, Hebrew, History & Ideas, Manuscripts

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem