Newsletter : 6fax1219.txt
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>PD Dec. 19, 1996, Vol. 4, No. 230
Israelis Reach For Roots
The number of newly-observant Jews (ba'alei teshuva) in Israel
has grown by 30% in the past year. According to figures released by
the Ministry of Religions in its budget proposal for the coming
year, 6150 adult students are studying Jewish law and custom in
institutions for beginners, up from 4800 six months ago. These
figures include women, whose numbers rose from 1900 to 2450.
East Jerusalem Construction Canceled
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israeli officials indicate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will
order a long-term delay in a controversial plan to build a new
Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The project just last week
had received preliminary approval from a planning board.
Israel's interior minister says he will continue to process the
paperwork for the project, but will consult with Netanyahu before
granting final approval when the papers are ready in a few months.
An Israeli official says Netanyahu will likely tell the minister to
put the project on hold, in order to avoid creating what the
official calls "unnecessary friction" with the Palestinians.
Palestinian officials call the plan for 132 apartments in the Ras
al-Amud neighborhood a provocation. They note that Netanyahu's
decision to open an archeological tunnel in east Jerusalem's Old
City in September sparked Palestinian riots.
The Israeli official, who requested anonymity, says Israel
maintains it has the absolute right to do anything it wants in
Jerusalem, including the city's eastern sector, which Israel
captured in 1967 and annexed. But the official says Israel does
not need to re-emphasize its rights at the possible cost of
creating a confrontation with the Palestinians and damaging the
The official says that is particularly true since the project is
privately funded and was not part of any government plan. Still,
the official says, Israel will hold open the option of allowing the
apartments to be built someday.
That last comment is likely to keep Palestinian concern focused
on this issue, but most of the official's comments seemed aimed
at easing tension with the Palestinians. Last week, tensions were
particularly high over this issue, as well as the killing of an
Israeli woman and her son, and Israel's response -- new financial
incentives for West Bank settlements.
On Wednesday, settlers marked the end of the week of mourning for
the shooting victims by laying the cornerstone for a new
neighborhood on a hill just outside their home settlement, Beit
El. But the potentially provocative move appeared to be largely
symbolic because the government has refused to authorize the
construction of such a neighborhood.
Rare Vertical Graves Found in Jerusalem, Perhaps Essene
A cluster of 49 vertical graves, dug in a special way, has been
found in rescue excavations by the Antiquities Authority at Beit
Safafa, south of Jerusalem. They raise the possibility that this
was a graveyard for the Essene community during the period of the
The cemetery spreads south of Nahal Refaim and the graves are very
close to each other and very similar, representing chalk shafts 2.5
meters deep. Two of them were of two levels. The gravestones had
been stolen. About 30 meters south of the site, two caves with
burial cells were found. Human bones and remains of skulls were
found in the grave, apparently characteristic of the Jewish
population. The researchers think they date from the time of the
Second Temple up to the Bar Kochba rebellion, due to the glass
vessels, a small bottle and a bangle from Roman times found at the
More than 800 caves with burial cells from the Second Temple era
have been studied in the Jerusalem district, but upright graves are
rare, and greatly resemble the graves in the Qumran sector, thought
to be of the Essene community, leading to the conclusion that they
also had a presence in Jerusalem.
Silver Rings of the "Wise Goddess of War"
A treasure trove of about 30 rings, 11 in tetrahedron shape in
silver from the Persian era, has been found in an excavation by the
Antiquities Authority near the marina on the Herzliya Mediterranean
shore. Archaeologists think this was an industrial area in the
fourth and fifth centuries before the Common Era. The rings were
excellently preserved and on one side stamped with the image of the
Greek goddess Athena, patron of Athens and regarded as the goddess
of wisdom and of "wise wars."
Other artifacts found at the side include a lead image similar to
the Egyptian style, four furnaces for baking ceramics and a large
quantity of ceramic vessels and small jugs, brought there from
Greece. The Antiquities Authority and the Herzliya municipality
have decided to place the reconditioned furnaces along the marina
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