Israel, Jerusalem and the Western Wall Will Remain Ours Forever

Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“Over the weekend, Hamas held festivities and demonstrations in Judea and Samaria to mark 25 years since it was founded. With the approval of Mahmud Abbas, they called for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem and from every point in the State of Israel. We have been here in Jerusalem , not for 25 years; we have been here in Jerusalem for 3,000 years. We have been in the Land of Israel for close to 4,000 years. We have a strong and steadfast national will, continuous historical consciousness and strength of soul of a people that have struggled for its homeland and know how to maintain its state.

“Last night, I lit the eighth Chanukah candle from the closest possible place to the spot where the miracle of the jar of oil occurred, I actually touched the Western Wall. I said it there and I say it here: The Western Wall is not occupied territory. The Western Wall is ours; it symbolizes the foundation of our existence here for thousands of years. We will stand steadfast in the face of all those who want to expel us from here. The State of Israel, Jerusalem and the Western Wall will remain ours forever.”



Bible Archaeology

What Killed Herod the Great?

In the Montreal Gazette:

Jerusalem — If hockey is Canada’s national sport, archeology is Israel’s.  Wherever one walks, one treads on history; wherever one drives, one travels  through history. Whenever one talks — well, consider for example a recent phone  call I made to my daughter arranging to pick her up: “I’ll take the Valley of  the Cross (the reference is obvious), go up Gaza St. (the ancient route from  Jerusalem to the coast) and meet you just outside the Western Wall (the only  remainder of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple).” If I go hiking near our house, which  directly faces the Judean Hills (where John the Baptist hid out in his day),  each of my footsteps crunches on pottery shards strewn about rocky terraces  built more than 2,000 years ago by the Children of Israel (my forefathers).

When I learned a few years ago that the famous archeologist Ehud Netzer was  leading a tour of Herodium, the site where he had located the grave of Herod the  Great, I jumped at the chance. The outing was sponsored by a jewel of an  institution, the Bible Lands Museum (sponsored in large part by Canadian  philanthropy and itself worth a visit, either in person or via its website,

Herod the Great — as opposed to other Herods less grand — was a sort of  Jewish king who ruled Palestine under the umbrella of the Roman Empire from 37  BCE until his gruesome death (more on that later) in 4 CE. Among other things,  he was known for grandiose and extensive building; he made his kingdom a place  of wonder for, and even tourism from, the reaches of the Roman Empire. In  addition to Herodium, Herod erected magnificent buildings in Caesarea and  Masada, among others, and was responsible for renovating and refurbishing the  great temple in Jerusalem.

Herodium, a few kilometres southwest of Jerusalem, was one of the king’s  grandest building projects, serving as summer palace, monument and district  administrative capital. As our guide explained, “Think of Herodium’s  relationship to Jerusalem as Versailles’s to Paris.” As evidence of how  important it was to Herod, this complex was the only one of his many impressive  sites that he named after himself.

Above all, this was Herod’s self-chosen place of burial. Why there? As Prof.  Netzer recounted, at one point Herod, his family and his armed retainers had to  escape Jerusalem during a brief siege of the city by the Parthians, the Roman  enemy of the month. During this tactical retreat, Herod’s mother was almost  killed when her carriage crashed. But she survived, and Herod vowed he would  make the spot his place of burial. And so he did.

For the past 100 years, archeologists have worked at Herodium, but no one had  located Herod’s grave until just a few years ago, when Netzer, a trained  architect, experienced archeologist and professor at the Hebrew University of  Jerusalem, announced that he had discovered the mausoleum halfway up the slope  of the cone-shaped site. Why are most archeologists so certain that this was  indeed the site of the tomb and that Herod was actually buried there? Well, one  can read all about it from the pen of Flavius Josephus, a contemporary  historian.

The grand mausoleum is still being excavated and is not yet open to the  public — unless you happen to be accompanied by the archeologist who discovered  it. (Sadly, in 2010, a few months after our tour, Netzer died as a result of a  fall suffered at his beloved site.) As I took in the place, I couldn’t help but  wonder what illness Herod died from. In the case of most ancient personages, we  haven’t got a clue. But here, once again, Josephus steps into the breach.  Quoting more contemporary sources (Herod had died several decades before  Josephus wrote his own account), he describes the king’s symptoms:

“He had a fever, though not a raging fever, an intolerable itching of the  whole skin, continuous pains in the intestines, tumours of the feet as in  dropsy, inflammation of the abdomen and gangrene of the privy parts.” He also  suffered, according to Josephus, from “limb convulsions, asthma and foul  breath.”

The doctors of the day were, not surprisingly, flummoxed by this combination  of symptoms. They used the contemporary therapeutic armamentarium, including  immersing the patient in a bath of hot oil. But Herod received no relief, and  the bath burned his eyes.

The clinically curious of today can turn to the more modern Historical  Clinicopathological Conference put on by the University of Maryland, which  brings experts together periodically to examine the death of a famous personage,  and which recently tackled Herod’s case. The combination of symptoms was a  challenging one, especially the presence of gangrene of the genitalia — something one does not see every day. The scientists used a clever bit of  clinical reasoning and came to a tentative conclusion: chronic kidney failure of  unknown cause complicated by the rare (thank God) Fournier’s gangrene of the  testicles. There are other candidates, of course, such as syphilis or other  sexually transmitted diseases, but the kidney diagnosis seemed to fit the  symptoms best.

Unfortunately for us and for medical history, Prof. Netzer found no human  remains in the mausoleum, probably because it had been ransacked by Jewish  rebels during the revolt against the Romans about 70 years after Herod died. So  we’ll never know the true cause of his death — but the speculation is  fascinating.



Germany to Ban Sex with Animals

Germany is about to ban sex with animals, including the ‘pimping’ of farm animals for sex.

Stand Firm:

Like I’ve said, The Episcopal Church has voted to purport to bless the sexual activities of those who have two currently faddish, minority sexual attractions, and ignored others who also hold minority sexual attractions—scores of different minority sexual attractions—which are not so popular.

Read it all over at the Telegraph:

Agriculture minister Ilse Aigner has agreed to change the law to make it illegal for people to “use (animals) for their own sexual activities or sexual acts of third parties” – which also bans the ‘pimping’ of animals to others.

However the move has aroused the ire of zoophile group ZETA.

Lobbyist Michael Kiok, who lives with his dog Cassie, told the newspaper there were more than 100,000 zoophiles in Germany.

“Mere morals have no place in law,” he said.

Mr Kiok said he was worried that if the law took effect the authorities would try to take away his dog.




Where Have All the Christians Gone?

So asks Charles Coulombe in Taki’s Magazine:

Just in time for Christmas, the latest  British census shows that since 2001, when 72% of the UK’s denizens claimed  to be Christians, the quotient has dropped thirteen percentage points. Muslims  have increased in number from 1.55 million to 2.7 million. The percentage of  those who claim to have no religion leaped from 15% to 25%. This opens up some  very serious issues.

Institutionally, the United Kingdom remains wedded to the varieties of  Christianity her rulers imposed at the Reformation. The Churches of England  and Scotland  remain established; the Queen  remains head  of one and chief  layperson of the other. The monarchy is closely tied to its religious  bodies, what with royal  peculiars, chapels  royal, and such ceremonies as the Royal  Maundy Service, the Epiphany, and above all the Coronation.  Her Majesty’s Christmas  Message is often far more inspiring than many a church sermon. Chosen  by the government, the Archbishop of Canterbury acts as a sort of national  chaplain, while he and some of his brother bishops sit  in the House of Lords. The Speaker of the House of Commons has his own chaplain,  and prayers for  the Queen are read at the beginning of each day’s session in both Houses of  Parliament. Every city and town in the realm has a civic church where an annual  service is held for the benefit of mayor and council, and each regiment of  the army has its own  prayer. During this season of Advent, it seems that every imaginable  institution from Land’s End to John O’Groats has its own carol  service.

“The entire wealth of British and European culture is a  testament to Christianity’s truth, and all the atheists from Nietzsche to  Hitchens could not between them equal its beauty—though the Nazis and communists  have shown what European non-Christians in power can build.”

How then, in the face of all of this institutional piety, could Christianity  have been dealt such a blow in the last decade?

Do read on here.



Westboro Lunatics to Picket at Sandy Hook

In the Huffington Post:

The Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for protesting outside funerals of slain U.S. service members, announced that it will picket a vigil for the victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the second-deadliest school shooting in American history.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the group and, like most members of the organization, a relative of the group’s founder, Fred Phelps, announced on Twitter on Saturday the group’s plan “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment”…

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church say that America is being punished for its acceptance of gays and lesbians. In recent days, Phelps family members have sent tweets about the Connecticut shooting that have said “God sent the shooter.”

Not surprisingly, the group’s announcement was met with resistance online…

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Westboro Baptist Church “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America,” while the Anti-Defamation League calls it “a small virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group.”

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, saying that the right to picket funerals was protected under the First Amendment. President Obama earlier this year, however, signed legislation that said that protests must be held 300 feet from military funerals.