Finding “Methuselah” a Wife

Scientists await flowering of two 2,000-year-old female date palms. Object: Matrimony

methuselah 2008

This story first arose several years ago, in 2005, with the sprouting of a 2,000-year-old date seed recovered archaeologically from Masada, the ancient fortress site near the Dead Sea. The little date palm was dubbed “Methuselah”, for obvious reasons. When it reached maturity, the tree was found to be a male specimen and, according to the biology of that species, incapable of producing fruit (or more date palms). All this was widely reported on at the time, some of which can be accessed via my previous post (2012, updated 2013).

Well, the saga continues to unfold. Now comes the report that a few years ago other ancient date seeds, which had been recovered from Qumran (where many of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found), were likewise planted: Six of them sprouted into healthy plants, two of these have now proved to be female, and one or both may well flower later this year, experts say. When (and if) one of them does, it will be fertilized with pollen from “Methuselah”, likely resulting in edible fruit, a new batch of viable seeds — and, conceivably, the widespread restoration of this long-extinct, ancient variety of date. Continue reading

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Trump’s and Bibi’s ‘Deal of the Century’: Precision engineered to ensure failure

The sheer duplicity and cynicism of it are truly breathtaking, even for world-class shysters and bullies like Trump and Netanyahu. Since the plan’s unveiling last week — trotted out by the president’s pinhead schoolboy son-in-law, Jared Kushner — much ink has already been spilled and breath expended on its analysis and implications.

I have long since lost the ability (if I ever had it) to comment on such things in a clear-headed, persuasive way, without invective. Thus I leave it, as I so often have, to award-winning independent journalist Jonathan Cook, who lends valuable, big-picture context to this and all previous “peace” proposals, going all the way back to 1947. Cook says the things I would say — if I had the ability — and makes all the right connections. His February 4 article is reproduced in full below (and found online here):

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The Trump plan is just a cover for Israel’s final land grab

Israel needed a fresh pretext to justify seizing the last fragments of historic Palestine after the expiry of its Oslo alibi 

by JONATHAN COOK / 4 February 2020

The Trump “Vision for Peace” will never be implemented – and not because the Palestinians reject it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s enthusiastic public embrace of the plan belies the fact that the Israeli right detest it too.

The headlines are that, with US blessing, Israel’s dream is about to be realised: it will be able to annex its dozens of illegal settlements in the West Bank and the vast agricultural basin of the Jordan Valley. In return, the Palestinians can have a state on 15 per cent of their homeland.

But that is not the real aim of this obviously one-sided “peace” plan.

Continue reading

Posted in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Occupied Territories, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians, Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy, West Bank | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I don’t have to boycott “Jeopardy!” after all

The show’s producers have issued a sort-of apology over the Palestine/Israel flap that erupted following last Friday’s Jeopardy! broadcast, 09 JAN 2020. If you somehow managed to miss the whole thing, SEE HERE

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The explanation offered Monday on the show’s web-site — that it was a flawed clue to begin with and never intended to be aired after its initial taping — side-stepped the real point, of course: that Bethlehem is not and never has been (and hopefully never will be) within the sovereign borders of the State of Israel. Bethlehem, for the record, is located in the West Bank, or, in the official parlance of the U.N., the “occupied Palestinian territories” (oPt).

Continue reading

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Guide ends years-long hiatus to show you the sights…

…of Gaza

And, no — it’s not me.

And, you can’t go there on your own, because the Israeli authorities (aided, alas, by Egypt) completely forbid the entry of tourists, one of the lesser-known facets of their perverse siege of the Gaza Strip that has ground on now for a dozen years (see HERE and HERE).

Nevertheless, a team from NPR recently went in as journalists and engaged long-lapsed tour guide Ayman Hassouna to show them some of the places — historic sites, colorful markets, mosques and churches, even a smattering of upscale hotels and restaurants — where he used to take visitors.

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Vintage 1960s postcard by the Israeli company Palphot (Photo: Daniel Estrin)

 

Now the NPR crew, headed by correspondent Daniel Estrin, take us along for the ride on their one-day immersion into a Gaza most of us will likely never get to see in person. Numerous interesting photographs, and both the text and audio versions of their report, await you HERE:

Here’s What Tourists Might See If They Were Allowed To Visit Gaza

 

Gaza has a second face: the face of culture, the face of tourism … We want to be Gaza open, for the people, for the world. Only that.

— Ayman Hassouna

Posted in Gaza, Israel-Palestine Scene, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Occupied Territories, Palestinians, PHOTOS | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“Jerusalem Is Not Disneyland”– Despite serious objections, cable car crisscrossing Historic Basin forges ahead

Jerusalem cable car project passes over objections from many quarters

Political interests drive tourism plan that would blight historic city’s skyline and bypass Palestinians

by JONATHAN COOK /  13 May 2019

A proposed cable car project through occupied East Jerusalem has received new impetus from the rise of the Israeli far right and Washington’s decision to move its embassy to the city. But if completed, critics say, the long-running proposal would contribute to erasing the visibility of Palestinians in the city they hope to make their capital.

cable car infographic Haaretz

Jerusalem Cable Car Infographic (Haaretz)

Planning for the $55 million tourism project continues despite unifying archaeologists, architects, Palestinians, and a tiny community of Jews against it – in a sign of Israel’s ever-growing confidence in making unilateral moves in occupied parts of Jerusalem.

Critics say the cable car will help hide the local Palestinian population from the roughly 3 million tourists who visit Jerusalem each year, turning the city into a “Disneyland” focused on promoting Israeli interests.

“The advantage for Israel is that visitors can be prevented from having any dealings with Palestinians,” said Aviv Tartasky, a researcher with Ir Amim, an Israeli organisation that campaigns for equal rights in Jerusalem.

“The local population will be largely erased from the experience of visiting Jerusalem. Tourists will pass over Palestinian residents, via the cable car, and then pass under them via tunnels.”

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism dismissed the criticism. In a statement to The National, the ministry said the cable car project was “a significant milestone in the promotion of Jerusalem and the strengthening of its status as a world tourism capital”.

Settler-run tours

The cable car, the largest project of its type undertaken by Israel, could be completed as early as Continue reading

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Friday LIVESTREAM: “Reframing the Discourse on Israel/Palestine”

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CLICK image to watch LIVESTREAMED event, 12 noon – 8 pm (EDT) Friday APR 5th.

Friday April 5th is an opportunity to learn and be challenged via a major symposium — hosted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, chaired by award-winning journalist Sandy Tolan, and assembling a wide-ranging slate of scholars, journalists and activists:

Can We Talk About It? Reframing the Discourse on Israel/Palestine

Friday, April 5th, 2019

9 AM – 5 PM (PDT) / 12 noon – 8 PM (EDT)

Direct Link to LIVESTREAM

 

Posted in Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Journalism, Modern History, Occupied Territories, Palestinians, Politics, Racism, Religion, The Media, The Occupation, U.S. Foreign Policy, VIDEOS | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Awaiting You in Bethlehem: Banksy’s Quirky “Walled-Off Hotel”

I have a certain affinity for the absurd. Not absurdity for its own sake, mind you, but the kind that instructs and illuminates, that comments upon our world and helps us grapple with the harsh realities it confronts us with. Such is Bethlehem’s Walled Off Hotel.

When I first heard of this place almost a year ago, I launched upon a post… which then languished in my “drafts” folder, as sometimes happens. Now, independent journalist Jonathan Cook (if I wait, he often makes my life so much easier!) shares with readers his first-hand impressions of Bethlehem’s edgy art installation-cum-hotel — and the fact that what was originally conceived as a time-limited project has taken on an unexpected life of its own.

walled off hotel

Face-off: The Walled Off Hotel vs. The Wall, 2017.

Background: The elusive street artist Banksy — famously both invisible and (supposedly) anonymous — has been pretty much a household name in his native UK for years, if not a cultural icon. In the States, however, he’s always been much lesser known.  I, in fact, had never heard of him until I began encountering his graffiti-images on my occasional visits to Bethlehem (and during my residence there in 2013, before departing the country for good). It was especially that town’s Israeli-built Separation Wall that offered the artist a ready-made canvas for his work, whimsical yet politically charged images that reflect his long-time advocacy of the Palestinian cause.

Often rendered via an intricate stencilling technique, Banksy’s works of political and social commentary are laced with dark humor — and the absurd. (What, after all, was more absurd than Banksy’s 2018 London auction-house stunt— a framed Banksy painting that self-shredded an instant after the Sotheby’s hammer fell for over a million dollars, creating in essence a new work of art on the spot!)

Anyway, I was intrigued by his opening of this totally off-beat but completely real “art hotel” in early 2017. (Sample: the hotel boasts the “worst view in the world” — of the Separation Wall and its watchtowers looming only meters away.) The place is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, created in hopes of bringing both Israeli and foreign tourists – and dialogue – to the West Bank city.

Beyond this, I will let Jonathan Cook tell the story, as he aptly connects all the dots. Cook’s article is reproduced in full below, and found online HERE.

Following that is a smorgasbord of related items, and finally a sampling of Banksy (or at least Banksy-style) art from Bethlehem, pulled from online sources.

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Inside Banksy’s The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem

We check into Banksy’s bizarre Palestinian hotel, where the hospitality is as peculiar as the message is powerful

Anonymous British street artist Banksy made headlines in October when his $1.4 million artwork Girl with Balloon self-destructed by passing through a shredder concealed in its frame at a London auction moments after it had been bought.

But in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, a much larger Banksy art project – a hotel boasting “the worst view in the world” – appears to be unexpectedly saving itself from similar, planned destruction.

When it opened in March last year [2017], The Walled Off Hotel – hemmed in by the eight-metre-high concrete wall built by Israel to encage Bethlehem – was supposed to be operational for only a year. But nearly two years on, as I joined those staying in one of its nine Banksy-designed rooms, it was clearly going from strength to strength.

Originally, The Walled Off Hotel was intended as a temporary and provocative piece of installation art, Continue reading

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