Prehistoric man enjoyed roasted tortoise appetizers, Israeli archaeologist says

Prehistoric cave-dwellers enjoyed munching on tortoises roasted in their shells as an appetiser or side dish, Ran Barkai, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, said on Tuesday.

Barkai helped lead a research team who found 400,000-year-old tortoise shells and bones in a cave in Israel that showed hunter-gatherers butchered and cooked tortoises as part of a diet dominated by large animals and vegetation.

Burn marks were found on the shells discovered in the Qessem cave, as well as signs they were cracked open and cut marks indicating the animal was butchered using flint knives.

“Now we know they ate tortoises in a rather sophisticated way,” Barkai said. “It would have been a supplement – an appetizer, dessert or a side dish – to the meat and fat from large animals.”

Qessem cave was uncovered during road work in 2000 and was believed to be inhabited for about 200,000 years. The site has offered scientists a rare insight into human evolution and accounted for many research papers.

Bones scattered throughout the cave have already suggested a calorie-rich prehistoric menu of horses, fallow deer and wild ox. A study last year, based on plaque found on teeth, showed the cave's inhabitants also ate plant-based material.

The latest findings by Barkai's team, which included members from Spain and Germany, were published this week in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

3rd-century mosaic found near Tel Aviv to be unveiled

A 1,700-year-old mosaic unearthed in the summer of 2014 — adjacent to the site where a world-famous mosaic was unearthed in Israel — is going on display for the first time.

While excavating during construction of a permanent home and visitors center for the Lod Mosaic, which was found during highway construction in central Israel in 1996, archaeologists unearthed another mosaic, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced in a news release Monday. The new mosaic will go on display this week at the site where it was unearthed in Lod, near Tel Aviv.

The Lod Mosaic, which is notable for the quality of workmanship and state of preservation, has been exhibited at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hermitage, Louvre and other major museums. It was originally the living room floor inside a Roman villa. The newly found mosaic, which is 36-by-42 feet, served as the courtyard pavement of the same villa.

According to Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the villa dates from the Roman and Byzantine periods, when Lod was called Diospolis.

The complex included a magnificent large courtyard that was paved with a mosaic and surrounded by porticos.

The scenes in the mosaic that were uncovered last year depict hunting and hunted animals, fish, flowers in baskets, vases and birds, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Gas chamber discovery at Sobibor spurs calls to review museum project

After he uncovered the path that two of his uncles followed to the gas chambers at Sobibor, Yoram Haimi thought the complex he had worked years to unearth would be preserved for posterity.

So when Polish authorities announced in 2011 that they would build a museum and monument inside the former death camp, Haimi, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, went on the offensive, warning that his excavations of structures long thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis were in peril.

Polish officials dismissed his objections and advanced the project, which had been approved by the Sobibor Steering Committee, an international forum that includes representatives from leading Israeli and European Holocaust institutions.

Now two of those institutions, including Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum and research institute and an influential member of the Sobibor committee, are calling for the $5 million plan to be re-evaluated following another Haimi find — in September, he uncovered the remains of Sobibor’s gas chambers.

“The recent discovery of the remains of the gas chamber at Sobibor have added a dimension to the project which requires further discussion,” Yad Vashem spokeswoman Marisa Danson told JTA on Monday.

Danson said the Polish government, following an appeal by her organization, agreed last fall on the need for “further discussions and new decisions” regarding the project.” She said the relevant issues will be addressed before work is resumed.

Tomasz Kranz, director of the State Museum at Majdanek and the person responsible for the Sobibor project, downplayed the significance of Yad Vashem’s reservations and said it only pertained to the gas chamber area.

“A new concept for the commemoration of the gas chambers is ready and will be the subject of debate,” Kranz told JTA in an email. “We are aware of the fact that the architectural project of the museum in Sobibor, especially the commemoration of the road leading to the gas chambers, does not appeal to everyone.”

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev declined to comment.

In 2013, the Sobibor Steering Committee announced that it had selected a design by four Polish architects for a museum to be built at Sobibor, where some 250,000 Jews were murdered and which is now an open field with a large monument covering a mound of ash from the crematoria.

The plan envisioned a mile-long wall along the path, discovered by Haimi, by which the Nazis led Jews to the gas chambers. The path was cynically named the Himmelfahrsstrasse, or “road to heaven.”

The wall would arch around to encircle Sobibor’s mass graves and finally run between the mound of ash to an area where contractors are now preparing to build the museum and visitors center.

Haimi says the wall will “run dangerously close to the mass graves” and that the museum’s parking lot will be paved on top of a wooden ramp discovered by his team, which believes it was used to offload new arrivals at the camp.

But Kranz insists the wall will not destroy any archaeological evidence and that the parking lot will not cover the ramp. Kranz and Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich maintain the project is under the supervision of rabbis who are responsible for ensuring it conforms to religious laws that forbid disturbing graves.

Nevertheless, the new findings have prompted several calls for a re-examination of the project.

“The work needs to be stopped temporarily at least, so we can examine the new findings and what they mean,” Frank van der Elst, a historian and board member of the Netherlands-based Sobibor Foundation, told JTA.

The Sobibor Foundation itself, which is also represented on the steering committee, has “certain reservations about the current design and is discussing them with Polish officials with the aim of reaching a consensus solution,” the foundation’s chairman, Maarten Eddes, told JTA.

The Netherlands has provided approximately $2.26 million for the project, Eddes said, split between the government and the Dutch National Fund for Peace, Liberty and Veterans.

Supporters of the project say it will not only draw attention to the scale of Nazi crimes, but also limit access to the mass graves, which are buried under a field where locals now cycle and picnic on sunny days.

Unlike better-known death camps such as Majdanek and Auschwitz, which have proper museums that protect sensitive historical artifacts, Sobibor is easily accessible. Only a single guard watches over the machinery being used to prepare the ground for construction.

“The walls will protect the site from anyone wishing to enter but draw their attention to it as well,” said Andrzej Kadluczka, chairman of the jury that in 2013 selected the project’s design from a field of 63 entrants.

Piotr Zuchowski, a Polish deputy minister and chairman of the Sobibor committee, has told Polish media that archaeologists will supervise the construction work to prevent loss, but Haimi says he fears the work will nonetheless destroy findings waiting to be uncovered. Haimi cites his team’s 2013 discovery of a metal plate bearing the name of 13-year-old Annie Kapper of Amsterdam, one of approximately 40,000 Dutch Jews murdered at Sobibor.

Haimi’s dig around the ramp led to the discovery of 15,000 objects belonging to victims.

“When you start bulldozing and pouring concrete, there is no way to save objects like that, which are littered all over and buried in the soil,” he said. “Construction also means we will never find the entrance to the Himmelfahrsstrasse.”

For those reasons, Haimi says, “building inside death camps is no longer done — not in Auschwitz, not anywhere.”

Jonny Daniels, the Israeli founder of the From the Depths commemoration group, said he recently appealed to the Conference of European Rabbis to ask that construction be halted to protect the dignity of the deceased.

But Schudrich maintains there is no Jewish ritual problem with the project because it is under rabbinic supervision. The issue of bone fragments found on the surface, the rabbi says, will be solved by covering them.

VIDEO: Archaeologists excavate 2100-year-old wall in Jerusalem

A 2,100-year-old section of the wall surrounding Jerusalem, dating from Hasmonean times, has been unearthed on Mount Zion, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday. The excavations have revealed part of the expanded southern city wall, from the Second Temple period, when ancient Jerusalem was at its largest.


No one cares about ravaging of Temple Mount

No one really cares.

But that puts me in an elite group: It includes two of Israel’s most prominent Jerusalem archaeologists (Gaby Barkay and Eilat Mazar) — and me. And a few religious or Zionist kooks. That’s about it.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Waqf goes on tearing up Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, where once the Jewish Temple stood. The week before last, they hit an ancient wall that might be the foundation of a wall from the Second Temple complex built by Herod the Great.

It’s an old/new story. For the past 35 years, the Muslim religious authority known as the Waqf, to which Israel has given custody of the Temple Mount, has been periodically digging it up — illegally. (That’s the Israel Supreme Court’s characterization.) Several years ago, for example, the Waqf used mechanical equipment to dig a huge hole for a wide stairway down to a greatly expanded underground mosque, dumping hundreds of tons of dirt from the mount into the adjacent Kidron Valley.

When Zachi Zweig, a graduate student of Barkay’s, started looking for antiquities in the Waqf dump, the Israel Antiquities Authority had Zweig arrested for digging without a permit. Since then, Barkay has obtained the permit and, with Zweig, they have engaged in a multiyear project sifting this archaeologically rich dump. They have found thousands of ancient artifacts going back 3,000 years, including a seal impression of a probable brother of someone mentioned in the Bible.

Now the Waqf wants to lay new telephone and electric lines on the mount. Under Israeli law, in an area that might contain antiquities, the trench must be excavated by professional archaeologists. (The same holds true for construction: Such areas must first be professionally excavated, most often by the Israel Antiquities Authority.)

The Waqf simply ignores this law, however. A few weeks ago, they began digging a utilities trench almost 5-feet deep, often going down to bedrock. Worse still, the workmen were using mechanical equipment — an anathema to any professional archaeologist in such a site.

It’s certainly all right for the Waqf to lay new telephone and electrical lines. But there would seem to be no reason why the trench could not first be excavated by professional archaeologists who dig by hand and with great care to document the context of all discoveries — no reason except the Waqf’s unwillingness to recognize Israeli law.

On July 18, 2007, I published an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Biblical Destruction,” protesting the Waqf excavation. It has had no effect. Since then, the excavation has been extensively expanded.

Observers have reported seeing numerous antiquities in the excavated dirt and in the trench, including mosaic tesserae, a quantity of pottery vessels (some of which had been freshly broken by the tractor scoop) and carefully carved and decorated building stones typical of the Second Temple period.

Last week, as I said earlier, the excavation hit part of an unusually wide wall that has now been destroyed. It could well have been part of the Temple complex.

Barkay and Mazar continue to protest vehemently and publicly. But they have mostly been met with silence.

The archaeological community as such has not raised its voice. Each archaeologist is concerned with his or her own dig, not someone else’s violation of the antiquities law. And why jeopardize a career by making trouble, when all the well-known political names and faces remain silent?

Yes, a few newspaper articles have appeared, but nothing serious. The Antiquities Authority has been queried on several occasions about this violation of Israel’s antiquities laws on Judaism’s holiest site, but the response has always been the same: “No comment.”

This thundering silence perhaps explains why the Israeli Embassy in Washington has not provided an account or explanation of this depredation on the Temple Mount. Why raise questions and create a problem when nobody really cares?

Hershel Shanks is editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and author of “Jerusalem’s Temple Mount — From Solomon to the Golden Dome” (Continuum, 2007).

Timely Talk of History’s Attic

The timing could not have been better.

When the California Museum of Ancient Art scheduled its lecture series on "The Archaeology of Ancient Israel" to begin Monday, May 14, at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, it could not have known that Rabbi David Wolpe’s Passover sermon touching on doubts about the historical accuracy of the Exodus story would spark a wave of local interest in Biblical archaeology.

The four lectures in the upcoming series will cover topics such as "The Age of Solomon: Myth or History," "New Light on Israelite History From Ancient Inscriptions" and "An Israelite Tribe Beyond the Jordan: Recent Discoveries at Tell Umayri."

The museum, which has no religious affiliation, schedules two or three lecture series a year on topics ranging from biblical archaeology to the late Bronze Age. It maintains its large collection of artifacts in a warehouse but has no exhibition space and usually uses the Gallery Theater in Barnsdall Park for its events. However, to retain the renowned scholars scheduled to participate, this series had to be coordinated months ago, and the Gallery Theater was unavailable for the scheduled dates. Luckily, Piness Auditorium in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple was available.

According to Dr. Jerome Berman, executive director of the museum, the lectures are relevant beyond any local controversy, since scholars of history have recently garnered major media attention by questioning the Bible’s historical accuracy. The so-called "minimalists" or "revisionists" argue that biblical stories are primarily myths. The History Channel, the Learning Channel and even "Nightline" are producing segments on this topic. The theories also have political ramifications, as Palestinian activists cite the minimalists’ work to undermine Jewish claims on the Holy Land.

So the California Museum of Ancient Art organized these lectures to "help people understand what really happened, in the context of the Near East," Berman says. "The question is, what do we really know about ancient Israel outside of the Bible? Some of the lectures will show parallels with what we read in the Bible, and we see some discrepancies. Ultimately, we aim to understand the culture in which the Bible came into existence."

First up in the lecture series is Dr. William Dever, who will address the biblical minimalists’ arguments with recent findings that verify the existence of a united monarchy under King Solomon. In the second lecture, Dr. William Schniedewind will discuss some of the many inscriptions discovered in Israel that shed light on ancient Israelite history. Dr. Lawrence Geraty adds to the understanding of biblical-era Middle Eastern culture with his discussion of a settlement east of the Jordan River that bears telltale signs of Israelite settlement. Dr. John Monson delivers the final lecture, comparing Ain Dara temple in Syria with descriptions of King Solomon’s Temple.

The series is not meant to be an exhaustive overview of biblical archaeology but an introduction to some of the more interesting controversies and evidence relating to the Bible. As Berman says, "We’re trying to tell the story of the ancient world, to bring that world to life."

"The Archaeology of Ancient Israel," lecture series: $64 (series); $18 (individual lecture). Dr. William Dever lectures May 14; Dr. Schniedewind, May 21; Dr. Geraty, June 4; and Dr. Monson, June 11. Piness Auditorium, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. To register for the lectures or for more information, call (818) 762-5500.

Is There Truth in Archaeology?

Pack up your Passover dishes for good. The Exodus, according to some modern university scholars and liberal rabbis, never really happened. That’s what the Los Angeles Times told us in great detail last week in a long article published at the end of the holiday. But the piece, while raising some important questions, skirts some of the most fundamental issues.

Archaeology is like no other science. It is far from exact. It is nothing more than a viewfinder to the past, and one of very limited scope.

Just a few years ago, the same archaeologists that doubt the Exodus told us that King David never lived. This theory was deflated when an inscription about King David was discovered in Israel. Israel’s famed archaeologist Yigal Yadin writes that before the discovery of the letters of Bar Kokva, King David was no more than a myth. He became undeniable to modern scholars after that great discovery. Nor will many of these archaeologists come up with a good answer about the massive stone structure near Nablus that some scholars feel is the altar that Joshua built after entering the Land of Israel.

Most modern archaeologists are products of a secular education. They have little appreciation for the spiritual roots of Jewish life. Their lifestyle and education produce a mindset that creates a perspective predisposed against any proof of the Exodus. Only when they have absolutely no alternative will they acquiesce that something in the Torah may be true.

Part of the ancient Ipuwer Papyrus, discovered in Egypt and stored in Leiden, Holland, seems to validate the Torah’s account in describing the plagues that descended on Egypt. The style was poetic, but the events, such as the river being full of blood, the pestilence, and the death of the firstborn, are explained in detail. The Turin Royal Canon Papyrus tells us about the Egyptian pharaoh who ruled some 94 years, from the age of 6 to 100. What the archaeologists do not know is that there is a midrash, the "Sefer Hayashar," and ancient rabbinic texts that tell about a pharaoh who enslaved the Jews and lived 94 years. Most archaeologists are little-schooled in classic Jewish learning and have no broad understanding of Torah.

Confronted with this evidence, most archaeologists claim that these accounts do not really mean the Exodus. Exactly what they mean, they don’t know.

The story of the Exodus is the foundation of Judaism. The birth of a nation in a miraculous way is the basis of our identity. And if we were nothing but a few tribes wandering in the desert who were a bit more sophisticated than the next group and developed a set of principles, we have emasculated Judaism of its spiritual core. Beyond archaeology, we have another proof that has stood the test of time.

The Khazars, a nation in Southern Russia, decided to find a monotheistic religion 1,300 years ago. They invited representatives of Jews, Christians and Moslems to present their beliefs. In the end, they converted en masse to Judaism and had an independent Jewish state for some two centuries.

The great Spanish sage Rabbi Yehuda Halevi documents the conversation between himself and the King of the Khazars. When asked about the truth of the Torah and the Exodus, the rabbi answered, "We know it because our parents told us."

This simple statement underlines the principle of historic transmission from one generation to another. Each family enshrines that transmission of its history at the Passover Seder table.

Rabbi Wolpe’s quest is riddled with land mines. His acceptance of the theories of archaeologists without questioning their secular agenda is dangerous. This undermines the most important principle of Jewish nationhood and belief and creates a more important question. If the Exodus is a lie, then the rest of Torah must also be. And if the Jews did not leave Egypt in a miraculous fashion, then why observe the holiday at all?

Here lies the dilemma for liberal Jewish leaders. They fail to understand that many young people find little interest in a brand of Judaism that rejects the core beliefs of Jewish tradition. They ask themselves, "If the Torah was not divinely given, why keep it?" And as Wolpe, however well-intentioned his quest, pushes this agenda, inspired by a vague science taught by so-called "scholars" with little appreciation for Torah, he sends a message to the next generation that Torah was a nice group of man-made ideas. If we were nothing but a group of people who formed a human value system, maybe the time has come to find a better one. For if the Torah has no special spiritual significance, then why be Jewish?

Simply put, if the event was not miraculous, why give up bagels for a week?

Expedition Armageddon

Indiana Jones battled snakes, boulders and heathens during his archaeological quests, which sounds like great adventure to me. But I don’t recall the scene where he wakes before dawn to kneel in the dirt scraping with a dental pick for three hours. My hands are paralyzed in a claw. My knees are numb. My backside points up into the 21st century while my nose inhales the 5,000-year-old dust of Israel’s ancient past as I etch a bone from soil that last saw daylight during the early Bronze Age. That’s before the Bible. Before the great pyramids. Before most written language.

I’m in the temple precinct of Tel Megiddo, one of Israel’s most important and cryptic archaeological sites, digging gently in a 4-foot-deep pit shadowed by a Canaanite altar. By now I’m questioning my sanity for volunteering for three weeks on the Megiddo Expedition, a dig administered by Tel Aviv and Pennsylvania State universities.

I unearth a porous brown bone and accidentally knock a sliver off it. "Be careful," admonishes my pony-tailed pit supervisor, Andy Creekmore, a Penn State graduate. The trick is to match speed with diligence. "In other words, hurry up and go slow," he says. At this pace, I’ll never discover the Ark of the Covenant, even if it had ever been here.

Dates and facts are endlessly disputed in biblical archaeology, but the legends never change at Megiddo, which is listed in the Bible as one of King Solomon’s three fortified cities. Christians know it as Armageddon, where good and evil will clash in the Last Battle. "I personally hope I’m not here to see it," one fellow volunteer, Nicole Brown, a born-again Christian from Colorado, says as we wield our pickaxes side by side.

Days at Megiddo begin the same way. The alarm clock rings at 4:20 a.m. in the 8- by 12-foot dorm room I share with four other women. We tumble from our bunk beds, fumble into our work clothes, fill our water bottles, and stagger out into the dark to join the 100 or so other volunteers. Under the morning stars we hike in silence from the spartan kibbutz dorms through the grasses of the Jezreel Valley’s western edge. We are all ages, from a 70-plus retired businessman to one archaeologist’s 9-year-old daughter. We are teachers, a lawyer, two TV producers, artists and a housewife who divorced her husband and headed for the Holy Land, plus many history, archaeology and divinity students digging for credit.

We walk across land where powerful armies — Egyptian, Hebrew, Persian, Assyrian — battled to gain control of the walled city that guarded this strategic crossroads of the ancient world. Though Megiddo was abandoned more than 2,500 years ago, the memory of the carnage lives in the city’s legendary name.

The sky is graying as Israel Finkelstein, the 50-year-old head of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University and one of the excavation’s co-directors, bounds up stairs cut in the side of the 100-foot mound. For clues to ancient Near East history, no other excavation competes, he says. Megiddo contains more than 22 layers of civilization, more than 5,000 years of construction and destruction. The elusive hot spot is the 10th-century b.c.e. layer, where Finkelstein is looking for clues to King Solomon’s rule.

By the end of our first week at Megiddo, volunteers report like old hands to their assigned squares grouped in grids throughout the excavation’s 15 acres. From my pit in the thin light before sunrise, I can see the sunflower fields and farmland of one of the few panoramas in Israel that looks as it might have in biblical times. Mount Carmel lies to north. Nazareth is to the east.

Our 8:30 a.m. breakfast in a grove below the city’s fortified gates signals the start of the tourist trickle. Preachers and tour guides expound. One Bible-gripping evangelist thunders: "Soon the forces of Gog and Magog will battle on the plains of Armageddon." He points toward us. "These archaeologists. They know."

Down in the pits, we laugh because we know how little archaeologists really know about Megiddo, despite four excavations since 1902. Every building, every stratum, every shard, ever date is disputed, Finkelstein says. Finds can take years to analyze, so on-site interpretations are few. Just after noon we trudge back to the kibbutz in searing heat as cicadas buzz at a high-tension-wire pitch. Lunch. Siesta. Then the 4 p.m. pottery washing to clean and catalog the day’s finds.

By my third week, I am writing postcards home: Dust. Heat. Scorpions. Like summer camp for convicts.

So why do people volunteer for this kind of hard labor year after year? "Archaeology is a sickness," explains Robert Deutsch, 48, a Tel Aviv archaeology Ph.D. student. "We pay to work in the heat and mud. It’s not normal, but I’m crazy about it."

The sickness takes hold when the earth yields up exotic artifacts and long-buried walls. It is contagious. One day I overhear Liam Gray, a Vanderbilt University grad student, on the dorm hall phone bragging with the joy of a Vegas winner. "Hey dad. I hit the jackpot," he crows long-distance. "Yeah. I found a Middle Bronze figurine." Meanwhile, Sam Jones, an ex-roofer who sold his Ford pick-up truck to pay for his trip, is ecstatic after finding a gold scarab.

But back in our square, scraping and whisking with dental tools and paintbrushes at last reveals nothing except a trove of cow, sheep and goat bones, the likely refuse of animal sacrifice. Dig leaders are thrilled: So many bones in the layer about 600 years below the Canaanite altar help prove the theory that once holy, a site remains holy, despite changes in religion and populations over millennia. Not quite the Ark, but we have been digging in search of the holy; our findings may help explain the origins of ancient Hebrew sacrifice.

I ask for transfer to an Iron Age square, where I get to help dig up 10-gallon storage pots smashed in an invasion or earthquake. While bones mystify me, the pots emerging from the ground tell a story: Mud bricks smashed on top of shards indicate the moment that a house collapsed. No book or tour guide’s fantastic tales, and there are plenty, can describe how the past feels when you are the first in millennia to touch it with your hands.

Later, I visit the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Wandering through the exhibits, I realize how the excavation has changed me. Once I loved museums. Now the windowless glass-and-marble structure feels like an orphanage. The restored pots, displayed in glass cases, look like lost children plucked from their crib in the earth. The display labels sound knowledgeable but dead. "Bronze Age. Possibly of Hebrew Origin. From Hazor." In the dirt, broken, the pots were alive.

Up Front


Counting Jews


By 2003, Israel will finally have fulfilled thedreams of its founders when it overtakes the United States to becomehome to the largest number of Jews in the world.

This, according to the Institute of the WorldJewish Congress, which is to publish the new Jewish populationstatistics in its updated “Jewish Communities of the World.”

Since the last survey, published two years ago,the United States’ Jewish population has decreased by 200,000, whileIsrael’s has grown by 300,000. Today, according to the institute,there are around 700,000 more Jews living in the United States thanin Israel.

The WJC institute puts today’s world Jewishpopulation at 13.8 million. Fifty years ago, after the Holocaust,that number was estimated at 11 million.

The following eight countries have Jewishpopulations in excess of 200,000. Together, they total 92 percent ofthe world’s 13.8 million Jews:



United States 5,600,000

Israel 4,900,000

France 600,000

Russia 450,000

Canada 360,000

Ukraine 310,000

England 300,000

Argentina 230,000

50 Years of Aliyah: Countries Yielding the Most,1948-1998

Soviet Union (and successor states) 915,713

Romania 274,572

Morocco 268,093

Iran 76,915

United States 75,075

Turkey 61,505

Tunisia 53,289

Yemen 51,168

Ethiopia 51,136

Information from JTA

Graph by Carvin Knowles

Great Digs

If you missed the first two parts of the SkirballCultural Center’s excellent series “Archaeology of Ancient Lands,”you won’t won’t to miss the last two. On Feb. 19, Dr. Bruce Zuckermanwill discuss how high-tech methods have unlocked hidden meanings inthe Dead Sea Scrolls (see 7 Days in the Arts for more). On Feb. 26,Dr. Giora Solar, Getty Center conservationist, will discuss effortsto preserve the great remnants of the past. Call (310) 440-4500 formore information.

Making the Grade

Bad news comes with a bang, good news with awhimper. So it was last December, when KCBS news reported withfanfare and portent that Canter’s Deli received low marks from countyhealth inspectors.

So where was KCBS when that venerable Los Angelesinstitution, whose south exterior wall displays an expansive mural ofthe history of Jewish Los Angeles, recently received the highestgrade possible from the health police? On Feb. 3, Canter’s got an”A.” The restaurant also hired an independent health auditor andprovides ongoing classes in Spanish and English, taught by afood-safety expert, to all food handlers. For more information, callCanter’s at (213) 651-2030.

Does Israel Matter?

Amid the hoopla and whoopee surrounding Israel’s50th birthday, you might be relieved to know that somebody, somewhereis using the milestone as an opportunity for serious reflection.”Israel at 50: A Nation Like All Other Nations” is the title of anupcoming lecture series at UCLA Hillel, featuring leading analystsand rabbis. First up, on Feb. 18, is Dr. David Hartman, who discusses”Israel: State of the Jews or a Jewish State.” Hartman, who will beprofiled in The Jewish Journal this month, is one of Israel’s mostinfluential and outspoken thinkers. On Feb. 25, Stuart Schoffman,associate editor of the Jerusalem Report and occasional JewishJournal contributor, will speak on “Which Promised Land? The NewRelationship Between Israel and the Diaspora.” On March 4, RabbisShlomo Riskin, Elliot Dorff and Richard Levy will discuss “Pluralismin Judaism: What Unites Us, What Divides Us.” All lectures take placeat 7:30 p.m. at UCLA Hillel, 900 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. Call (310)208-3081 for tickets and information.