Philistine cemetery found in southern Israel is historic discovery

Archaeologists in southern Israel have uncovered a Philistine cemetery, making an unprecedented discovery.

The discovery following 30 years of work in the Ashkelon National Park by the Leon Levy Expedition was announced Sunday.

The cemetery dates to the 11th to 8th centuries BCE. The findings may support the claim, inferred from the Bible, that the Philistines were migrants to ancient Israel.


Artifacts uncovered at the site, including ceramics, jewelry and weapons, as well as the bones themselves, hold the promise of being able to connect the Philistines to related populations across the Mediterranean.

Excavation there, particularly in areas where the burials were undisturbed, allows archaeologists and scholars to begin constructing a picture of the typical goods buried with the Philistines. Small decorated jugs filled with what is assumed to have been perfumed oil, storage jars and small bowls make up the bulk of the goods. A few individuals were found wearing bracelets and earrings, and some were accompanied by their weapons, but the majority were not buried with personal items.

The Philistines buried their dead primarily in pits that were excavated for each individual: male or female, adult or child. Later, additional individuals were sometimes placed in the same pit, which was dug again along roughly the same lines, but the new individuals were interred with their own grave goods. Cremations, pit interments and multi-chambered tombs were also found in the cemetery.

The Leon Levy Expedition, led by Lawrence Stager of Harvard University, has been conducting large-scale excavations in what was ancient Ashkelon since 1985 with the support of Leon Levy and Shelby White of New York. This summer is its final excavation season.

The expedition is organized and sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation, the Semitic Museum at Harvard University, Boston College, Wheaton College and Troy University.


Calendar: Week of January 29 – February 4

SAT | JAN 30


Based on the diaries and letters of Etty Hillesum, this surrealistic drama celebrates the self-sacrifice of a surprisingly contemporary and liberated woman searching for a deeper truth. Hillesum is a Jewish woman living in German-occupied Amsterdam during World War II before getting deported to Auschwitz. Her diary begins in 1941, nine months after Hitler invaded her home country and completely changed her life. Her words of unwavering introspection are proof of her personal triumph over the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. 8 p.m. $20 general admission; $18 for patrons under 25. Son of Semele Theatre, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 351-3507. ” target=”_blank”>

SUN | JAN 31


The process of exploration often leads to a sense of self and to personal growth. At times, such discoveries can be troublesome. Leah Shechter discusses this in her new book, “Discovery: Spotlight on the Inner Life in Poetry, Drama and Aphorism.” Shechter will read selections from her book and share some reflections. She will also welcome participation as the group explores her work and the world of Yiddish wisdom. Book signing to follow the program. 9:45 a.m. Free. RSVP. Temple Etz Chaim, 1080 E. Janss Rd., Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-6891. ” target=”_blank”>


The birthday of the trees may be just past, but that’s no reason to stop celebrating. Tree planting, a petting zoo, moonbounces, a climbing wall, scavenger hunts, drum circles and many arts and crafts — what more could you want for a family fun day! Entertainers include Dudu Zar, Robbo; Cindy Paley with a special Tu B’Shevat seder and sing along; and spoken word with Rick Lupert. There will also be a magic show and food for purchase at food trucks with glatt kosher options. 11 a.m. $5 in advance; $10 at the door. Kids 3 and younger free. Shalom Institute, 34342 Mulholland Highway, Malibu. (818) 889-5500. ” target=”_blank”>



Scott Coulter and Tony Award-winners Ben Vereen and Debbie Gravitte will celebrate the incredible songbook of composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. They will sing songs from his hit Broadway shows such as “Pippin,” “Godspell” and “Wicked,” and the animated films “Pocahontas” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” 8 p.m. $25-$45. Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts at Pepperdine, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 506-4522. WED | FEB 3


Winner of nine Tony Awards, “Fiddler on the Roof” remains one of the world’s most beloved shows. Set in a small village, it features Tevye, who is trying to keep his family’s traditions alive in a changing world. Tevye’s daughters want to make their own decisions, especially when it comes to their love lives, and he must choose between their happiness and the traditions that keep the outside world at bay. The book is by Joseph Stein, the music is by Jerry Bock and the lyrics are by Sheldon Harnick, which includes such classics as “If I Were A Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and, of course, “Tradition.” The cast of 35 actors and singers is led by award-winning actor and singer Fred Helsel as Tevye and Sharon Gibson as his wife, Golde. They are joined by a 15-member orchestra and directed by David Ralphe. 8 p.m. $49; $44 for students and seniors. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 508-4200. ” target=”_blank”>

Life lessons from the trenches of cancer survival

On my neck there’s a large, upside-down L-shaped scar. One leg of the L runs from my right shoulder blade upward to just below my right ear; the other leg takes a 90-degree turn, following the jaw line to my chin. The right side of my neck — the inside of the L — looks as if it’s had glands, cartilage and muscle scooped out, leaving a tough, bumpy, uneven cavity. After the surgery, a friend joked that I should put Silly Putty on my neck.

No Silly Putty, no cosmetic surgery. My neck has remained exactly as it was after the operation. It’s a souvenir of squamous cell carcinoma — cancer — which started in the right tonsil and metastasized to the lymph nodes, diagnosed and treated 15 years ago.

The day I was told that I had throat cancer, I was furious. There was no logic to it. I’d never smoked, didn’t drink, hadn’t eaten red meat in more than 25 years. So why me?

There was only one way to deal with my fury. I went out and had a real hot dog with sauerkraut. Much better than those meat-free — and taste-free — soy dogs I’d eaten for so long. With each bite, I looked up at the heavens and shook my fist: There! Take that!

In fact, it’s that semidefiant attitude that helped me get through the punishing treatment: massive amounts of throat radiation followed by a radical neck dissection.

Bernie Siegel — the oncologist whose tapes I’d listen to in the car while going back and forth to the hospital — says that one should be a “good-bad patient”: question everything and demand honesty and clear explanations from health-care professionals.

But, Siegel stresses, once you decide on a treatment, stick with it.

Here’s something that helped me: Although I was optimistic, I didn’t see treatment as an attempt to “beat” cancer. Right from the beginning I thought of cancer as my teacher, an experience I was going to learn from.

What did I learn? For one thing, when you accept help from others — which was hard for me — it not only makes you feel better, it also makes the person helping you feel better. When I started treatment, my older son, Rafi, was just finishing his freshman year at an Ivy League school. He took a year off to help me. He didn’t think of it this way at the time, but when he looks back on it now, he says that he cherishes that year.

After I was diagnosed, I was called and visited by many well-meaning people who suggested alternative treatments: from special diets to fasting to massive doses of vitamins. I listened politely and then plunged full bore into the most up-to-date medical treatment available. Oh, I used some unconventional techniques to complement treatment, but not as a substitute for Western medicine.

While going through radiation treatment, I meditated every day. This involved breath control and visualization until I’d reach a state of self-hypnosis. While in a trance, I’d imagine a kind of Pac-Man figure entering my body and eating my cancer cells.

Did it help? Who knows? It felt good, and that’s what counts. Meditation — or prayer or yoga — certainly can’t hurt, so long as it’s not used in place of standard treatment.

While you’re going through treatment, be easy on yourself. If you want to be alone, then be alone. If you don’t want to talk to anyone, then don’t. Recognize your limits, and don’t let anyone talk you out of them. If, however, you want to interact with family and friends, then by all means do so. And when you’re tired, kick them out. Be strict about this.

The medical facility where I received treatment is one of the most prestigious in the world, but some staff members had a lousy bedside manner. One resident — I thought of him as Dr. Worst-Case-Scenario — would always give me his gloomiest predictions.

I never let it affect me. The way I look at it, the job of any medical facility is to provide the most skilled, cutting-edge treatment, and that’s it. But that’s more than enough. If you need happy talk and hand-holding, that’s what family and friends are for.

How can you find the right medical center for you? Ask others in your area who have gone through similar treatment. Talk to your family physician. Consult magazines that rate hospitals and treatment centers. One source is the annual issue of U.S. News & World Report that lists each medical specialty and ranks facilities throughout the country. You can access last year’s rankings via its Web site or at your local library.

Some years back, Norman Cousins wrote about the healing power of laughter. It worked for me. Forget subtle humor. You want the fall-on-the-floor-bust-a-gut-roaring kind: early Woody Allen movies or Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. There are times, though, when other types of movies work, too. During the worst moment of treatment, my pain was eased by watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glide across the dance floor.

Make no mistake: Cancer — and its treatment — can be horrendous. I wasn’t able to eat, I had no energy. Every day I was faced with my own mortality. But that helped me put priorities in place: seize the day and all that.

Once I recuperated from treatment, I made my own bucket list. After having lived what I felt had been a self-indulgent life, I was now determined to try something different. So I worked for the Shoah Foundation, which assures that Holocaust survivors’ testimonies become a permanent record.

I joined groups that explore life; reconnected with friends and family; published many articles — and a book — on topics close to my heart; volunteered as a writing coach for inner-city kids. And I’ve been a mentor for others going through cancer treatment, sharing what I learned, trying to make a difficult journey a little easier.

Nowadays when I look at my neck — at the scar, bumps and cavities — I feel nothing but gratitude: It’s a reminder of the treatment that saved my life.

And it’s a reminder that having gotten cancer in the first place also saved my life.

Another Oil Miracle

Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is a time to recall the
miracle that occurred more than 2,000 years ago, and celebrate the discovery of
the small amount of oil that burned for eight days, the amount of time needed
to prepare pure oil from the local olive trees to rekindle the flame. That
miracle is the focus of the Chanukah celebration that begins at sundown Friday,
Nov. 29. Was it also a miracle that this event occurred at this time, since the
months of November and December are the usual time for the olive harvest?

In early November this year, we joined Faith Willinger, our
Florence-based food-journalist friend, on a trip to Naples and the Campania
area of Italy. One of the highlights of our trip was spending several days at
the hotel-restaurant La Caveja, located in the small village of Pietravairano,
just a one-hour drive north of Naples.

At our first meal, La Caveja’s owner, Berardino Lombardo,
placed a bottle of olive oil on the table and directed us to use it on almost
every dish. The olive oil was bright green, fruity and delicious. When we asked
him when the olive oil had been pressed, his answer was “early this morning.”
The next day, he invited us to join him to pick olives and watch the crush at
the local frantoio (olive oil mill). We were delighted and accepted his offer.

This small olive mill custom crushes olives from the nearby
area for small local growers. Families had brought their olives and were
waiting with their children, huddled in the cold, while their olives were
pressed into oil.

Then every shape container possible was filled with this
liquid gold. It was exciting to see all the activity.

When we arrived at the olive oil mill, our olives were in a
large wooden container ready to be processed. The olives were first washed,
then crushed into a paste. The paste was then pressed to produce organic extra
virgin olive oil. As the flow of newly pressed olive oil began to glow, a small
amount was poured into a pitcher, and Berardino brought out fresh bread to dip
into the oil. It was the first time we had ever tasted olive oil that was only
minutes old and it was absolutely delicious!

On my return from Italy, I was inspired, during Chanukah, to
serve our family several of the dishes that were introduced to us by Berardino.
They are perfect for the holiday as all these dishes use either olives or foods
fried in olive oil. Included are Potato Gnocchetti, Olive Fritte, Fried
Zucchini Sticks and Frittelle.

One of our family Chanukah traditions is to exchange gifts,
and this year we are giving each of our guests a bottle of fresh Italian olive
oil to take home.

Olive Fritte (Cicchetti)

36 pitted green olives

1 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (try mixed with Parmesan)

Olive oil for deep frying


1. Place the olives in a bowl, cover with cold water and
allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes to remove some of the salt. Rinse
the olives and dry them well.

2. Roll the olives lightly in flour, then dip in beaten egg,
and roll them in bread crumbs to coat. Transfer to a paper towel- lined plate
and refrigerate one hour.

3. In a skillet or deep fryer, heat 2-to 3-inches of oil
over medium heat. Place the olives in the oil and fry them, rolling them around
to brown evenly.

4. Remove the olives with a slotted spoon and spread on
paper towels to drain. Serve while still warm. They can be held for a few
hours, then reheated in a 250 F oven. Makes 36.

Fried Potato Gnocchetti

1 large potato (about 1 pound)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1 cup fine dried bread crumbs

Olive oil for frying

1. Peel potatoes and cut in cubes. Place on steam rack over
boiling water. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with
a fork. Transfer to a large glass bowl, mash with a potato masher and let cool
slightly. Add butter, cheese, egg, salt and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate
until cold. Add additional grated Parmesan or bread crumbs if potato mixture is
too moist.

2. To shape potato mixture, oil the palm of your hands and
roll a tablespoon of the mixture between your palms into an egg shape. Spread
crumbs on a shallow dish and coat gnocchetti lightly with crumbs. Place on a
paper towel-lined platter and refrigerate until ready to fry.

3. Heat about 1-2 inches of oil in a medium skillet. When
oil is hot, fry a few gnocchetti until they are golden brown on all sides, about
two minutes. Remove with the slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.
Transfer to a large dish and serve hot.

Fried Zucchini Sticks

4 medium zucchini, unpeeled

1 cup flour

1 cup bread crumbs

2 garlic cloves, peeled

6 fresh basil leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried basil


Freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 eggs

Vegetable oil for frying

Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into quarters; cut in half,
crosswise, and set aside.

In a small, brown paper bag, place the flour and set aside.
In the bowl of a processor or blender, blend the bread crumbs, garlic and
basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place this mixture in another
small, brown paper bag and set aside. Place the eggs in a bowl and beat well.

2. Drop four to six zucchini sticks into the bag containing
the flour, shaking the bag to coat. Transfer to a metal strainer and shake off
the excess flour. Dip the flour-coated zucchini into the beaten egg and then
coat with the bread-crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper
towels. (You can hold them at this point for at least one hour.)

3. Preheat the oil in a deep-fryer or wok to 375 F.

4. Drop the coated zucchini sticks into the heated oil and
fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Transfer them to a
napkin-covered basket or platter; sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve

Frittelle (Fried Ribbons)

11¼2 cups flour

11¼2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch salt

Grated zest of 1 orange

11¼2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons milk

1 large egg

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Olive oil for frying

Powdered sugar for garnish

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar,
salt and orange zest. Add the butter and blend until crumbly.

In a small bowl, beat the milk, egg, orange juice and
vanilla together. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture all at once and blend
until the dough comes away from the bowl. Place wax paper on work surface and
sprinkle with flour. Knead the dough into a ball, and divide in half. Using a
rolling pin, roll each half of the dough out very fine on the prepared work
surface until it is 1¼8-1¼4-inch thick. Using a scalloped ravioli cutter or a
knife, cut the dough into ribbons about 4-inches long and 1-inch wide.

Heat oil in a heavy deep-sided frying pan to 350 F, and fry
a few of the ribbons at a time very quickly — 20 seconds — until golden. Drain
on plates lined with paper towels, cool slightly and sprinkle with
confectioners’ sugar.

Variations: Twist the ribbon twice and pinch it closed in
the center. Or cut the dough into rectangles and make two parallel small cuts
in the center.  

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (William Morrow & Co, 1999), “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (William Morrow & Co, 1999) and the “International Deli Cookbook” which is available at the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica. Her Web site is