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DNA Evidence Argues Ancient Biblical Villain Philistines Have European Ancestors

July 7, 2019 Special Feature

Excavation of the Philistine Cemetery at Ashkelon. Photographer Melissa Aja.
Photo Courtesy of Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.

The Roman name for the region including Israel—which evolved into “Palestine”—may have been derived from the name of the Philistine people who once lived on the coast, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yet ironically, it turns out at least some of the Philistine’s ancestors are not only not from Israeli territory—they aren’t even from the Middle East. A new study examining the genetic material in bone samples dating to more than 3,000-years-ago found that a “substantial proportion of their ancestry was derived from a European population,” according to a press release on the Leon Levy Expedition Ashkelon project.

“For the first time, thanks to state-of-the-art DNA testing on ancient bones, we are able to demonstrate that the Philistines were immigrants to the region of Philistia in the 12th century BC,” said Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon director Daniel M. Master in the press release, which was published by Lydia Weitzman Communications. “For thirty years, we excavated at Ashkelon, uncovering Canaanites, early Philistines and later Philistines, and now we can begin to understand the story that these bones tell.”

The research, jointly done with Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and published in “Science Advances”, aligns with ancient texts that labeled the Philistines as immigrants, including the Bible. The press release referenced Amos 9:7 as saying the Philistines emigrated from a land known as Caphtor. In Deuteronomy, a people from Caphtor are described as conquering territory later used by the Philistines along the Israeli coastline, including Gaza. … Continue Reading

US Says Iran ‘Afraid of Success’ of Palestinian Prosperity Peace Plan

June 26, 2019 Special Feature

The US is promoting a new economic plan for the Palestinians. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

The United States on Wednesday wrapped up a two-day workshop in Bahrain aimed at drumming up economic support for the Palestinian people as part of the American “Peace to Prosperity” plan, but not every nation in the Middle East is eager to see that goal achieved. In particular, the US was pointing the finger at Iran, a major sponsor of Palestinian terror organizations that oppose peace with Israel.

“If there is one nation in the Middle East that does not want this effort to succeed, that is afraid of our success, it’s the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said in a video posted to the State Department Twitter page.

“They would much rather see the Palestinian people trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, because they prioritize ideology over the welfare of not only the Palestinian people, but the Iranian people. We are going to continue to support and stand with the Palestinian people while the Iranian regime conducts its campaign of lies and disinformation.” … Continue Reading

US Ambassador Slams Iran for Religious Rights Abuses against Christians, Other Minorities

The US is pushing back against religious injustice in Iran. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not known for being open to religious minorities, and United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback highlighted some of the egregious Iranian offenses in a recent speech. Christians, Baha’is and even Sunni Muslims have faced religious persecution from Iranian authorities. “In Iran, blasphemy, apostasy from Islam, and proselytizing of Muslims are crimes punishable by death,” said Brownback in a speech last week published on the US State Department website.

“Minorities not recognized under the Iranian constitution—such as Baha’is and Christian converts—may not engage in public religious expression and are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and arbitrary arrest.”

Brownback cited multiple examples of the plight facing Christians in Iran—noting that a dangerous label is to be called a Christian supporter of Israel. … Continue Reading

Israel Condemns Passover Synagogue Shooting, Praises Victim as Hero

April 28, 2019 Special Feature

New shooting ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day highlights deadly dangers of antisemitism. Sculpture at Yad Vashem depicting Polish-Jewish doctor and author Janusz Korczak, and children from his orphanage, who all perished in the Holocaust. By Joshua Spurlock.

Another shocking synagogue shooting in the United States occurred on the last day of the festival of Passover at a Sabbath service on Saturday, killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounding three others. The incident was met with a strong response by Israeli leaders and institutions and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a special meeting this week to discuss the global increase in antisemitic attacks, according to a press release from his office published Sunday.

“I condemn the abhorrent attack on a synagogue in California; this is an attack on the heart of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu was quoted by the statement as saying. “We send condolences to the family of Lori Gilbert-Kaye and our best wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded. The international community must step up the struggle against antisemitism.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that an antisemitic online manifesto has been attributed to the 19-year-old shooter who attacked the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in California. The shooter’s gun reportedly jammed during the attack and he was arrested after fleeing via car.

The woman killed in the attack, Gilbert-Kaye, was more than a victim according to Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, who called her a “Jewish Hero.” … Continue Reading

Israeli President, IDF Chief Hold Passover Meal with 400 Lone Soldiers

April 21, 2019 Special Feature

President Rivlin celebrating Pesach Seder with lone soldiers. Photo courtesy of Tzalamim Be’Klik

It’s always challenging to celebrate holidays without any family, and when one is serving in the military as well, that can make it even more so. In response to that, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and leader of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Friday celebrated the traditional Passover meal—known in Hebrew as a Seder—with 400 “lone” soldiers, or IDF troops who do not have family in Israel to support them.

“Despite the difficulties of being a soldier, and even more so of being a lone soldier, you chose to serve the state in order to protect us all,” Rivlin told the event per an Israeli press release. “You are brave and wonderful people. It is a great honor to sit with you here tonight… It is an opportunity for us to give something back to you.”

The Passover meal marks the Israelite’s freedom from slavery in Egypt as described in the Biblical book of Exodus and involves multiple special foods to recall that experience. Rivlin highlighted those themes as important to today’s times as well—especially for the military. … Continue Reading

How He Became the Unbeatable Bibi Netanyahu

April 11, 2019 Special Feature

PM Netanyahu oppose. Photo courtesy of Haim Zach (GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—known also by his nickname “Bibi”—is expected to be named as Israel’s leader for the fifth time, extending his record-setting run as prime minister to well into it’s eighth straight year. It will also give him a chance to catch Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, for the longest total time serving as Israel’s leader at a little over 13 years, thanks to Netanyahu’s earlier 3-year run in the 1990s. But how did he do it? How did Netanyahu not only manage to return to power, but stay there longer than anyone else in Israeli history? … Continue Reading

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