The Bars Come Down! Restoration of the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre nears completion

After many months of painstaking, professional restoration work, the Edicule of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — the 19th-century monument enclosing remnants of the original bedrock Tomb of Jesus — has finally been freed from its protective cage of iron girders. That bracing, installed by the British in the 1940s, provided much-needed reinforcement to the distressed 1810 structure, which is built largely of marble.

The Edicule represents the centerpiece of the ancient church and serves as a focal point for the devotion of Christians worldwide. Now, following the thorough reconditioning, both structural and aesthetic, the Edicule’s original beauty is revealed once again — and the view of it wonderfully unobstructed.

restored edicule

The restored Edicule, viewed from the northeast. A barrier screen still keeps visitors at a safe distance for the time being, although throughout the work actual pilgrim access inside was interrupted only briefly.

See the story as reported by NPR, from CBS News (with more photos), and from Reuters.

For background, see my previous posts tracking this project HERE and HERE.

Posted in Architecture, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, JERUSALEM | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What to Expect from America’s New Ambassador to Israel: The Worst of Everything

US ambassador to Israel: ‘Great advantage’ to Netanyahu

David Friedman is known for his support for the most extreme elements in Israel’s settler movement

The choice of US ambassador to Israel has never before incurred such scrutiny or provoked such controversy.

Usually, the appointment is approved by the Senate’s foreign relations committee by consensus. But David Friedman’s confirmation vote last Thursday split largely on partisan lines, with Republicans backing him and all but one Democrat opposing him.

Tens of thousands of liberal American Jews signed a petition opposing his nomination, and major Jewish organisations and hundreds of rabbis also objected.

FriedmanBut then, Donald Trump’s envoy to Israel is no ordinary ambassador.

Rather than climbing up through the diplomatic ranks learning the arts of statecraft, 57-year-old Friedman has been propelled overnight into one of the world’s most sensitive diplomatic posts.

No honest broker

An Orthodox Jew and the son of a New York rabbi, Friedman is a bankruptcy lawyer who has worked on Trump’s behalf for the past 15 years. He joined the presidential election campaign last year as Trump’s adviser on Israel.

But it is not Friedman’s lack of experience causing the greatest concern. It is  Continue reading

Posted in Israel-Palestine Scene, JERUSALEM, Palestinians, Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sealed in a Jar for 3,000 Years: Traces of Earth’s Magnetic Field!


The tax-man cometh: Iron Age Israelite jar handle with royal seal.

They didn’t call it the “Iron Age” for nothing!

It turns out that, locked inside the ceramic fabric of bits of ancient pottery, are the fingerprints of our planet’s magnetic history. Newly detectable via scientific technology, the patterns of magnetic field fluctuation now emerging have proved more “choppy” — indeed inexplicable — than we ever imagined. It is truly one of the least understood of all geo-physical processes.

The magnetic minerals present in the potters’ clay were frozen in time at the moment when each piece was crafted and fired, creating a unique record.  The same phenomenon is present in rocks, of course, at the time of their formation, but those datum points are measured in eons. With ancient pottery, however, the relatively rapid evolution of styles, plus the impressed seals of a progression of known rulers, makes possible a rather precise timeline.

Among the authors of the just-published source article (in the journal PNAS) is Erez ben-Yosef, an Israeli archaeologist from Tel Aviv University. For the full story and all the connections, see this piece published today on the NPR web-site:



Posted in Antiquities, Archaeology, Science | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

When Jews Act Like Nazis: Israel’s ‘Alt-Right’ is alive and well

Independent journalist Jonathan Cook highlights what is not a new phenomenon at all but has simply re-emerged in recent years under a new flag and different leadership. With Israel’s mainstream political discourse taking on an ever more fascist tone, such groups only grow in legitimacy — and are winked at — as they become mirrored by the society-at-large. It is worth noting that, while the incitement and attacks are aimed mainly at Israel’s Arab citizens and residents, it extends to the country’s Christian communities as well.

The article, found on-line, is reproduced in its entirety below; the title of this post (above) is mine.

NEW (Feb. 2017):  A related article by Jonathan Cook highlights the surge in Israeli on-line hate speech, a phenomenon often driven and encouraged by the country’s right-wing leadership, including Netanyahu.

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Lehava: Israel’s ‘racist lynch mobs’ attacking Arabs

The far-right group stokes hatred and incites followers to violence against Palestinians, say analysts

Four youths in black T-shirts, bearing a distinctive yellow-flame insignia, approached “A” in July as he got out of a taxi in central Jerusalem to meet friends. They asked him the time. Suspicious of his accent, they confronted him directly: “Are you an Arab?”

“The moment I said, ‘yes,’ one of them punched me in the eye. The others jumped on me and started hitting me all over my body. There were many people in the area, but no one took any notice or tried to help.”

“A” managed to break free and fled to a nearby restaurant, where a friend worked, and hid inside. “If I hadn’t been able to run away, they would have killed me,” he said.

His filmed testimony is one of several taken of Palestinians in Jerusalem who have been violently assaulted recently by far-right Jewish activists. Fearing reprisals, most of the victims agreed to testify only on condition that their real identities were not disclosed.

The attacks were carried out by an extremist group called Lehava, or Flame in Hebrew, an acronym for the Organisation for the Prevention of Miscegenation in the Holy Land. Run by a rabbi, Ben-Zion Gopstein, Lehava rejects any interaction between Jews and Palestinians. Continue reading

Posted in Israel-Palestine Scene, JERUSALEM, Palestinians, Politics, Racism | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

VIDEO: The Rock of Jesus’ Tomb Exposed

As a follow-up to my previous post, the ongoing restoration of the Edicule within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has seemingly reached something of a climax: the removal of the marble cover-plate protecting the bedrock burial bench of Jesus’ Tomb. The present Edicule was built in 1810 following a destructive fire; the previous major restoration was carried out in 1555. Thus, it is a historic unveiling.

This latest development is featured in a short video released by the Friancscans this past Friday, November 4th (click on the link below). What the restorers and technicians have documented is an earlier, partially broken marble slab (or two?), presumably from the Crusader period, inscribed with a cross. Beneath that, the surviving bedrock of the original tomb chamber is visible.

Below are two screen-capture images from the Terra Santa News video: The first is an overhead photo by National Geographic (reportedly producing a special to be aired next year) showing the removal of the top-most slab in progress. The second image is of a detailed drawing of what was revealed underneath.


Removal of the marble cover-plate. (Photo: National Geographic)



Artist’s rendering of the broken Crusader-era marble slab(s) and the bedrock surface beneath. [CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]

The question remains: how much further can or will the researchers go? It seems that full documentation of what remains of the original, rock-hewn tomb structure lies well beyond the scope of this generally conservative restoration of the 1810 structure. Some pertinent questions–ones that will probably never be answered–are: How was the original bedrock tomb configured; what kind of burial niche(s) did it feature, if any (as a “new”, perhaps unfinished, tomb); and how/how much was all that altered in the creation of Constantine’s 4th century church? Related: How much damage was actually done to the exposed rock by over-eager pilgrims over the course of several hundred years, before the walls and superstructure of the shaped bedrock tomb-shrine were demolished in the year 1009?

For more background on these terms and concepts, see my extended article on the history of the church, HERE.

To view the 5-minute video, click on the following link:

UPDATE / 10 DEC 2016

More good information on the exposure of the rock is found in an article published on-line by National Geographic on 31 OCT.

UPDATE / 25 FEB 2017

The restoration reaches its final stages with the removal of the working scaffolding (but not the 1940s-era iron girder “cage”– still to come, presumably). Here’s a 4-min. VIDEO from the Franciscans of the latest developments.


Northern facade of the Edicule, sans scaffolding, Feb. 2017. Screen capture: Terra Santa News/ Christian Media Center.


Posted in Antiquities, Archaeology, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem Antiquities, VIDEOS | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

VIDEO | The ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ of Israel’s Citizenship Laws: 7 minutes with Jonathan Cook

In this short video segment, Nazareth-based journalist, author and guide Jonathan Cook helps us understand the history and legally entrenched intricacies of “citizenship” within the state of Israel, vis-a-vis Jews worldwide, Arab-Israeli citizens, and the stateless Palestinians of the Occupied Territories.

Drawing partly on his own personal journey — he’s a British national who married an Arab-Israeli citizen and finally, despite many roadblocks, gained Israeli citizenship —  Cook unravels some of the profound, institutionalized inequalities embedded within Israeli “democracy”.

Posted in Israel-Palestine Scene, Modern History, Occupied Territories, Palestinians, Racism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Report from the Trenches of “Globalization” and “Free Trade”

Maybe the terms “Globalization” and “Free Trade” cause your eyes (like mine) — understandably — to glaze over. If so, award-winning independent journalist Sandy Tolan, drawing on his broad experience immersed in other cultures, offers a primer on what these concepts (which sound like they should benefit everyone) really entail, who really wins and loses. Hint: It’s about much, much more than “American jobs”.

Using as a springboard this summer’s ‘Brexit’ vote in Britain (to detach that country from the European Economic Community), Tolan leaves theory behind, cuts through the corporate-driven neoliberal blather, and takes a hard look at the real impacts on real people. His special concern is for the most vulnerable, those left struggling in forgotten corners of our planet, far from the corporate boardrooms. Lamenting the fact that right-wing nativists (on both sides of the Atlantic) have often dominated the pushback against “free trade”, Tolan attempts to reshape and reclaim the whole conversation.

Beyond his wide experience, Tolan really does his homework– so, if you have time, the embedded links will provide much valuable background.

* * *

Brexit’s ‘Meaning’? Globalization Sucks.

After decades reporting from around the world, the author concludes the EU, NAFTA, and similar schemes have brought many people more misery than prosperity.

Sandy Tolan

by SANDY TOLAN / 30 June 2016

For the past 35 years I’ve traveled as a journalist through the broken, impoverished back roads of globalization, from Mexico to Egypt, from Ecuador to Central America to Bulgaria to American Indian country, where the free trade wisdom of the political and investment class has brought precious little wealth, or even “stability,” whatever that means, to ordinary people on the ground.

And so I am more than a little skeptical of the simplistic explanation that pro-Brexit voters were simply racist old people with no regard for their grandchildren.  Like rust-belt refugees in the U.S., these people obviously saw nothing beneficial coming from the disastrous trade and debt agreements, from NAFTA to the Greek and Spanish austerity arrangements, so smugly promoted by the likes of Blair, Cameron, Merkel and the Clintons.

Sure, racist and xenophobic fear-mongering, echoing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, played a significant role in Brexit.  And yes, the vote provides a dangerous opening for xenophobic political movements in Europe and the U.S.

But far less understood is the legitimate fury of voters who are sick of being ignored and patronized by false promises of free trade and global integration.  Commentaries decrying the ignorant commoner who failed to take heed of the “the opinions of economists and business leaders” assume that such advice was somehow worth heeding.

Based on my three-plus decades navigating the flotsam of globalization, I see little evidence for that.

In 1990, a free trade evangelist in the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa assured me that  George Bush the Elder’s “Enterprise for the Americas” would lower trade barriers, bring jobs to Central Americans and facilitate cheap exports like melons and shrimp to the U.S.

Who cashed in? Continue reading

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