Israel Resource Center
Purim

Purim is celebrated on the Jewish Calendar Date: 14th of Adar (15th of Adar for cities in the land of Israel that were walled during the First Temple period).

In the years 539-332 BCE the First Persian or Achaemenid Persian Empire ruled from the border of India to Egypt and Turkey. When the Babylonians expelled many of the Jews from the land of Israel in 586 BCE, they dispersed throughout the area ruled by the Babylonian Empire.

According to the Biblical Book of Esther, a senior Persian minister named Haman conspired against the Jews in the 5th-4thcentury BCE. He gained the approval of the Persian Achashverosh Commonly identified as Artaxerxes II, who ruled from 405 to 358 BCE.

It should be noted that there are many scholars who question whether the Book of Esther is meant to be read as an accurate historical account.

To wipe out the Jews and loot their wealth for the kingdom’s treasury. Haman cast a lot or pur to decide which month the deed would be carried out. The lot fell on the month of Adar.

A Jewish Persian Judge named Mordechai and a Jewish Persian queen named Esther intrigued against Haman’s plans and eventually succeeded in causing the King to execute Haman and his family. This seminal event resulted in the Jews gaining the right to organize and defend themselves against those who wished to destroy them. The Jews did so and killed many of their enemies. Thus for the Jews, the month of Adar was a month where the threat of destruction was replaced with salvation.

The Myth of Israel as a Colonialist Entity

An Instrument of Political Warfare to Delegitimize the Jewish State

While modern Israel was born in the aftermath of the British Mandate for Palestine, which called for a Jewish national home, its roots preceded the arrival of the British to the Middle East. In that sense Britain was not Israel’s mother-country, like France was for Algeria. Indeed, the Jews were already re-establishing their presence independently in their land well before the British and French dismantled the Ottoman Empire.

As time went on, it became clear that the British Empire was not the handmaiden of Israel’s re-birth, but rather its main obstacle. The accusation that Israel has colonialist roots because of its connection to the British Mandate is ironic, since most of the Arab states owe their origins to the entry and domination of the European powers.

Bringing Light to the Holy Land: Israel’s Electrical System

Like every other nation, Israel is a country that is always growing – demographically, technologically and economically. As a result, Israel has an ever-growing need for a reliable and efficient supply of electrical energy.

Fuels

As a country with few natural resources, Israel imports most of its fuel for electrical energy. Currently, Israel’s main fuel supplies are coal and natural gas. Egypt provides most of Israel’s natural gas through a pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula, while Israel buys most of its coal on the open market from countries such as Australia and the United States.

Due to the high cost of foreign imports, Israel made many efforts to reduce its dependence on imported sources of fuel for electricity. For decades, Israel unsuccessfully attempted to discover oil or other fossil fuels within its borders. However, recent exploration efforts off the northern coast of Israel led to the discovery of a large pool of natural gas in a site called Tamar. Furthermore, Israel recently cooperated with Cyprus assisting with their undersea natural gas exploration.

War & Peace – Talk Delivered by Nobel Laureate, Robert Aumann

The talk was presented at SIGNAL’s China-Israel Symposium Sept. 9, 2011

Thus begins the Advanced Information announcement of the 2005 Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, awarded for Game Theory Analysis of Conflict and Cooperation. So it is appropriate to devote this lecture to one of the most pressing and profound issues that confront humanity: that of War and Peace.

Robert Aumann at SIGNAL's Symposium

Robert Aumann at SIGNAL’s Symposium

I would like to suggest that we should perhaps change direction in our efforts to bring about world peace. Up to now all the effort has been put into resolving specific conflicts: India–Pakistan, North–South Ireland, various African wars, Balkan wars, Russia–Chechnya, Israel–Arab, etc., etc. I’d like to suggest that we should shift emphasis and study war in general.

Let me make a comparison. There are two approaches to cancer. One is clinical. You have, say, breast cancer. What should you do? Surgery? Radiation? Chemotherapy? Which chemotherapy? How much radiation? Do you cut out the lymph nodes? The answers are based on clinical tests, simply on what works best. You treat each case on its own, using your best information. And your aim is to cure the disease, or to ameliorate it, in the specific patient before you.

Beit Hatfutsot (Diaspora) Museum

From the Museum’s website:

“Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, is more than a museum. This unique global institution tells the ongoing and extraordinary story of the Jewish people… Beit Hatfutsot conveys to the world the fascinating narrative of the Jewish people and the essence of the Jewish culture, faith, purpose and deed while presenting the contribution of world Jewry to humanity”

BH1The museum showcases the development of Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora, focusing on the unique characteristics of each community while demonstrating how their roots tie them all together. Exhibitions are changing all the time and include many interactive elements. One such element has the visitor pretend that they are a Jew in a specific time and place and then make a decision as to how to deal with a dilemma or crisis typical of the period. The visitor is then given the likely result of his decision.

YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe

From around the 10th century CE onwards, the Jewish world was divided into two major groups. The first group, called the Sefardim or Spaniards, lived mostly in Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The second group, known as the Ashkenazim or “Germans”, lived in the more Northern sections of Europe, from France and Germany to Poland and Russia.

europeantown

An Eastern European Jewish town.

Eastern Europe was an important cultural center of the Ashkenazi Jews from the 16th century until the Second World War. This region includes what are now the countries of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Romania and Russia.

Never Again: The Yad Vashem Website

Jude StarThe Holocaust refers to the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War Two. Though the Jewish people had been persecuted in Europe for centuries, a premeditated genocidal campaign of this scope was unprecedented in modern history, thus leaving a lasting impression on the Jewish people and on the Western world as a whole. The atrocities of the Second World War remind posterity of humankind’s barbarity if left unopposed. The establishment of Holocaust museums following the war serve as a clarion call to ensure similar events will never happen again.

Yad Vashem is the official Israeli museum and research center on the Holocaust. It is one of the largest such institutions in the world. In addition to the physical museum, Yad Vashem has a comprehensive, scholarly website with information on every aspect of the Holocaust. Anyone who wishes to learn more of this shameful period in human history would do well to start here:

http://www.yadvashem.org/

The Shekel

The shekel served as the name of the currency of the People of Israel in ancient times dating back even before they were called Jews. When the state of Israel was formed, the founders of the nation termed the currency shekel as homage to the Jewish People’s ancient currency. The shekel was used in a variety of ways in throughout history.

The Half Shekel

In the first temple period (1000-586 BCE) a shekel referred to a specific measure of weight. The word shekel itself comes from the Hebrew linguistic root ‘to weigh’. The Torah (Jewish Bible) commands that all men above the age of twenty must contribute a half a shekel to the building of the Jewish Temple.

A shekel minted in the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-70 AD)

A shekel minted in the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-70 AD)

The Jewish Temple was not the same as the present day synagogue of Jewish communities around the world – i.e., a local place of prayer and nothing more. While it stood, the Temple was the most important religious building of the Jewish people. The Temple was the center for Jews from all corners of the country to come on three festivals – Pessah, Shavu’ot and Sukkot. For 2000 years since it was destroyed, Jews all over the world have prayed for God to rebuild the Temple and restore His presence within it. No other Jewish religious site has any comparable significance.

Hanukkah

Jewish Calendar Date: 25th of Kislev to 2nd of Tevet

In the 2nd century BC, the land of Israel was ruled by the Seleucid Empire; the Seleucid Empire controlled most of the territory conquered by Alexander the Great two centuries earlier. Initially, the Seleucid Empire was tolerant of the Jewish religion. The Seleucid ruler Antiochus III even granted the Jews a written set of legal rights; the legal edict ensured that the Jews could live according to the ways of their forefathers without persecution.

Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin.

Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin

However, in 168-7 BC the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanies’ ((This means ‘God Manifest’ in Greek)), litigated oppressive measures to expunge his empire of Judaism ((This was an unusual decision since the Greeks were generally pluralistic and tolerant of other religions. Scholars continue to debate why Antiochus IV decided to do what he did. See here for a more detailed account of the historical background and here for the different reasons given for the religious persecutions.

Defensible Borders Summary

A few years ago, a prominent Israeli think tank known as the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs published a free online book titled “Israel’s Critical Security Requirements for Defensible Borders: The Foundation for a Viable Peace”. What follows is a summary of the book’s main arguments.

Background

In June 1967 the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq amassed on Israel’s borders and threatened the young country’s existence. Israel launched a pre-emptive defensive strike against the attacking Arab armies. The Israeli Defense Force drove them back from the Israeli border seizing territories either legally belonging to or militarily occupied by the belligerent Arab states.

Both Israel and the international community hoped Israel could return control of the territories in exchange for a permanently binding peace treaty with Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

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