Archive for June 2008

Post-Zionism in Hollywood

June 30, 2008

Brian Britt, Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Tech, has written an article for the Dallas News which analyzes two new movies about Israelis.  Both films, the American comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan and the Israeli drama Restless, despite being very different types of films, depict Israelis who find fulfillment in the United States.  Britt points out that both films deal with the issue of Post-Zionism, but neither raises the issue of Judaism.  The article is a cross between a movie review and a political piece.  Interesting.


The Cyrus Cylinder

June 30, 2008

Iran’s Payvand News announced that the Cyrus Cylinder will go on display in Iran in the near future. The Cyrus Cylinder is a royal document written on a cylinder, attributing his defeat of Babylon to the Babylonian god Marduk. The document is important for biblical studies, since it provides the background for the “Cyrus Declaration,” which allowed the Jews to return to Judea and built a Second Temple.

UPDATE: England’s Telegraph reports that scholars are debating whether the Cyrus Cylinder can really be viewed as an early “Bill of Rights.”

Iraqi Jewish Books Smuggled into Israel

June 29, 2008

Mordechai Ben-Porat, head of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, announced that he smuggled about 300 Jewish books out of Iraq. At first, these books which were confiscated from the Jewish community by Saddam Hussein, were shipped openly. However, the American government forbade further shipments, so the rest were smuggled out. Presumably there are no more Jewish books left in Iraq, or else the Israelis would not have made the announcement.

The story is reported by Yahoo News and linked to by

Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit

June 29, 2008

The Dead Sea Scrolls are now on exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. The exhibit emphasizes the connection between the Dead Sea Scrolls and North Carolina:

But the Raleigh exhibit tells the story of the scrolls in relation to North Carolina. The exhibit, which visitors enter through a life-size re-created cave, begins with the scrolls’ discovery and initial examination by a group of scholars, including Duke doctoral student William Brownlee, who was studying in Jerusalem.

Three years later, four scrolls traveled to Duke, where they were seen by 30,000 people during a one-week exhibit in the university’s chapel. According to legend, one elderly man promptly fainted when told the Isaiah scroll he was looking at was written during the time of Jesus.

But though the public was enthusiastic, university officials were less so.

In 1950, Duke University passed on the opportunity to buy the Dead Sea Scrolls. You can read the rest of this story at The News and Observer.

UPDATE: A list of lectures accompanying the exhibit can be read at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences  website.

Who Is a Christian Zionist?

June 29, 2008

Jenny Chalmers, an opponent of Christian Zionism, surveys the different organizations of Christian Zionists and their beliefs.  Interestingly, the article appears on a “blog dedicated to telling the stories about positive interactions between the three abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

Tel Dan

June 26, 2008

Ryan Byrne and David Ilan have renewed excavations at Tel Dan. In the latest of issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Byne explains why he is NOT looking for more evidence of the historical David.

Previous excavations at Tel Dan uncovered the Tel Dan Stele, which mentions the “House of David.”

Land Purchase in the Bible

June 26, 2008

Before the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews made a concerted effort to purchase as much land as possible from the Arabs.   Today, land purchase is still a method used to gain control in predominantly Arab areas, such as the Moslem Quarter of the Old City.  Bereshit Rabbah 79:7 points out that land purchase is an old and established custom:

‘And he bought the field where he pitched his tent’ –

Said Rav Yudan bar Simon, this is one of the three places regarding which the nations of the world cannot slander Israel and say ‘You stole them!’

The places are: the Cave of Machpela, the Temple, and the Tomb of Joseph.

For of the Cave of Machpela it is written – ‘And Abraham deferred to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out the silver…;’

of the Temple it is written ‘And David gave to Arnan…;’

and as for the Tomb of Joseph – ‘And he bought the field.’

ויקן את חלקת השדה אשר נטה שם אהלו וגו’ במאה קשיטה, א”ר יודן בר סימון זה אחד משלשה מקומות שאין אומות העולם יכולין להונות את ישראל לומר גזולים הן בידכם ואלו הן, מערת המכפלה, ובית המקדש, וקבורתו של יוסף, מערת המכפלה, דכתיב (בראשית כג) וישמע אברהם אל עפרון וישקול אברהם לעפרון, בית המקדש, דכתיב (ד”ה =דברי הימים= א כא) ויתן דוד לארנן במקום וגו’, וקבורתו של יוסף (בראשית לג) ויקן את חלקת השדה.

Of course, these three places are a source of contention to this very day between the Jews and the Arabs.  Both Arabs and Jews recognize the significance of these sites, in the same way that the biblical heroes did.  The Arabs consider these places to be holy too, and they do indeed “slander Israel and say ‘You stole them!’ by saying that the Jews have no claim on the Temple Mount, Cave of Machpelah and Tomb of Joseph.