Wednesday 20 June 2012



By MATTHEW KALMAN, editor in chief of The Jerusalem Report
When I was invited to become editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Report last January, I didn’t realize the challenges would be quite so intense.
The Jerusalem Report was founded in 1990, only the second major English-language news publication from Israel after the Jerusalem Post. Its proud boast to cover “Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World” made it just about unique. At the time, there was almost nothing published in English from the Middle East, and The Report was almost alone in trying to bridge the gap between Israel and Jews around the world.
It was also launched in the days before cable television, let alone the internet. CNN only took off the following spring, with the 1991 Gulf War. The Web was still several years away. YouTube was a pipe dream.
More than 20 years on, the magazine that began as a lively upstart challenger to the crusty Jerusalem Post had itself become something of an old-timer, outpaced by the web-savvy offerings from Israel and around the Jewish world. Is there really a future for classic long-form print reporting on Israel-centered subjects in this mobile, cloud-based era?
We seem to have entered a golden age of Israel and Jewish-interest journalism. Just after I took over at The Report, a former editor of the magazine, David Horovitz, launched The Times of Israel, an exclusively web-based news site that seems to point the way forward for Israel news.
Horovitz’s site poses direct competition to the website of theJerusalem Post, which he edited until last summer. The Post was Israel’s first English website, and one of the first global internet news sites, and remains one of the most popular in the world, with millions of hits each month. Haaretz went online a decade later, after the launch of the English-language print edition, followed by Ynet News, the English version of the online edition of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s near-monopoly Hebrew daily. A similar move by Maariv, Yedioth’s closest competitor, failed miserably – probably because the publishers branded the site as “NRG” instead of Maariv, rendering it meaningless to readers abroad.
Arutz 7, the mouthpiece of the national religious and pro-settler movement, also provides news and analysis online in English, completing the political sweep from Israeli left to right.
In 2011, the free daily giveaway Israel Hayom came up with a slightly different concept with the launch of a daily English-language newsletter emailed to subscribers. In May, The Times of Israel announced its own daily newsletter – adding to a growing arsenal of social media that includes a Facebook page linked to readers’ comments and a blog-hosting service modelled on the Guardian’s “Comment is Free.”
But my challenge in positioning The Jerusalem Report is not limited to Israeli publications. Readers around the world can now access high quality reporting from and about Israel via the websites of diaspora publications. The Forward and The Jewish Week are just two of the excellent news sites operating from the US. From Britain, the Jewish Chronicle has also developed a strong web presence.
In addition to these traditional newspapers, there are several new Jewish websites like Tablet,Jewish Ideas Daily and Algemeiner that only exist online – following the model of Slate and Salon – offering excellent coverage, quality writing and expert commentary.
Then there is the whole new world of blogs unattached to any broader publication.
On the left, the Israeli site +972 offers penetrating and sometimes censorship-busting commentary that takes readers far beyond the kind of material available from mainstream Israeli and Jewish sites. It often breaks stories that are then picked up by the established press and provide important examples of “citizen journalism” in action that must be rattling the establishment.
Another totally new phenomenon is Peter Beinhart’s “Open Zion” Blog on the Daily Beast – an online forum in a mainstream digital publication devoted entirely to discussion of issues around Israel.
Amid this flood of exciting new, instantly accessible material, it has been interesting to work out where an old-fashioned print publication like The Jerusalem Report fits in. Gone are the days when we could claim to be the only English-language publication from Israel, let alone the Middle East. And why would someone wait to receive the print edition of The Report when the same stories are instantly accessible online from a dozen different sources?
We are launching a raft of social media access points from Twitter to Facebook, as well as a blog and a new website.
But we don’t intend to compete with the breaking news sites. Instead, we will set our own journalistic agenda rather than following the news. While other sites rush to post stories online and beat the competition, we take a step back and deploy experienced and talented writers to research issues and carefully collect exclusive information.
Readers of The Report in the past few months have enjoyed a series of exclusive interviews with major figures – from Amos Oz to Moshe Feiglin to Salam Fayyad to Lord Jacob Rothschild – that simply are not available anywhere else. Our coverage of Israeli business and high tech is unparalleled in both its depth and range. Allowing writers a week or two to work on a single story has allowed us to set the pace in reporting such diverse issues as the revival of the Kibbutz, the plight of the Falash Mura in Ethiopia, the launch of a new Palestinian women’s police unit, and the harassment of women reporters covering the Arab Spring. These are just some of the stories that have been covered in depth in recent months only in our pages.
Our strength is in our style: long-form, well-written, well-informed journalism accompanied by excellent photography and graphics that provides readers with an informative and entertaining experience that allows them to relax – far away from the insistent demands of the computer screen.
For more about The Jerusalem Report, see its blog site or Like the magazine’s Facebook page.

Friday 15 June 2012


From The Jerusalem Report, issue dated July 2, 2012

Nearly 10 years have passed since the world learned of the discovery of a 1st century burial box bearing the words “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” and a black stone tablet with an inscription that brought to life a passage from the Second Book of Kings describing repairs to Solomon’s Temple by King Jehoash around 800 BCE.

Both items, if authentic, would be the first physical artifacts ever found from the family of Jesus and the First Temple. It’s no wonder they caused a worldwide sensation, and that their subsequent exposure as fakes and the arrest of Oded Golan, a Tel Aviv antiquities collector accused of forging them, sparked international interest, even outrage.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), with the Israel Police, gathered testimony around the world and seized hundreds of suspect artifacts. The treasure trove included ancient stone lamps, engraved jugs, pottery shards inscribed in ink, seals and seal impressions known as bulae. Golan, we were told when he was indicted with four others in December 2004 and accused of masterminding an international forgery ring, was falsifying history for personal gain.

UNDER SUSPICION: Oded Golan at home with his treasures
“I believe we have revealed only the tip of the iceberg. This industry circles the world, involving millions of dollars,” said IAA director Shuka Dorfman. “Beside this, Indiana Jones looks small.”

But it wasn’t true. No one else was arrested. The zealotry of the IAA came unstuck when the case against Golan and his remaining co-defendant, antiquities dealer Robert Deutsch, collapsed in spectacular fashion at the Jerusalem District Court in March. Judge Aharon Farkash cleared them of all forgery charges and had some harsh words for the police, prosecution and the IAA.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came unstuck with the collapse of the case against Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch

Farkash said the police forensics laboratory had contaminated the ossuary by blundering through tests that proved nothing and left the inscription scientifically useless for future research. He said the prosecution had failed to prove a single one of the forgery or conspiracy charges brought with such fanfare against Golan and Deutsch. His jaw dropped in disbelief when prosecutor Dan Bahat refused to return the items to Golan, Deutsch and two more collectors. Now the prosecution and the IAA must present a detailed case for confiscating each item.

But Farkash was careful to say that the not guilty verdict did not mean the items were authentic.

The IAA continues to hold by its theory that they were forged by an Egyptian craftsman, Marco Ghatas, who worked with Golan in Tel Aviv. The IAA blamed their failure on the refusal of Ghatas to testify, but the judge said the prosecution evidence simply did not stand up to scrutiny.

The updated story is told in this issue for the first time. I was the only reporter in the courtroom throughout the 120 sessions of the seven-year trial. I heard most of the 12,000 pages of testimony, listened to most of the 126 witnesses and saw most of the 200 exhibits. But I still can not say for certain whether the items are genuine or not.

Even those who are convinced that the items are fake are distressed at the increasingly bizarre actions of the IAA and its publicity-seeking director Dorfman.

I was the only reporter in the courtroom throughout the seven-year trial. I heard most of the 12,000 pages of testimony and listened to most of the 126 witnesses. But I still can not say whether the items are genuine

The IAA’s most egregious mistake was the arrest in 2005 of Hanan Eshel, a Bar-Ilan University archaeology professor who rescued several parchment scroll fragments from the Bar Kochba era that he bought from a Bedouin trader. The IAA charged him with criminal conduct.

“Hanan discovered pieces of biblical Judean scrolls, acquired them, looked after their restoration in the Israel Museum, published them and presented them to the IAA,” says David Jeselsohn, a prominent collector and leading donor to Bar-Ilan who provided the purchase money. “It was the first and only time that the State of Israel was given such a gift. Instead of thanking Hanan, he was detained by the IAA, was presented to the media as a criminal and Shuka Dorfman even had the audacity to bring charges against Hanan at court.” Jeselsohn tells me he thought it was “a bad joke” when he heard that Bar-Ilan was giving its prestigious Guardian of Zion Award to the IAA and that Dorfman would be accepting the prize.

Jeselsohn believes that the Jehoash tablet is a fake, but he describes the prosecution as “a bizarre and hallucinatory trial” against “an imaginary ring of antiquities forgers.” He says the IAA “acted imprudently, senselessly, foolishly and regrettably, with malice.” He called on the IAA to compensate and apologize to Robert Deutsch, Golan’s co-defendant who was acquitted on all charges.

With the IAA still refusing to hand back the artifacts, the case could drag on for some time. I will continue to follow it in the pages of The Jerusalem Report and in a special blog:

Sunday 10 June 2012

The Turin Shroud is a fake

Eminent historian claims it was one of 40 similar cloths which originated 1,300 years AFTER the crucifixion

By Matthew Kalman

10 June 2012

It has been venerated for centuries as the burial shroud of Jesus and has attracted thousands to the chapel where it lies.
But an eminent Church historian says the Turin Shroud is probably a medieval fake and just one of 40 similar cloths circulating in Europe until the 18th century.
In a new study, Antonio Lombatti, a Church historian at the Universita Popolare in Parma, Italy, says the shroud appears to have originated in Turkey some 1,300 years after the crucifixion of Jesus in the Holy Land.
The shroud is a linen cloth about 14ft by 4ft bearing a front and back view of the negative image of a bearded, naked man who appears to have been stabbed or tortured.

The Turin Shroud was believed to have covered Jesus, but a leading Church historian says it is one of many produced over a thousand years after his deathThe Turin Shroud was believed to have covered Jesus, but a leading Church historian says it is one of many produced over a thousand years after his death

It has attracted thousands of pilgrims to the Royal Chapel of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Turin, Italy since the remarkable detail on the cloth was revealed by negative photography in the late 19th century.
In a research paper to be published later this month in the scholarly journal 'Studi Medievali,' Lombatti says the shroud was most likely given to a French knight as a memento from a crusade to Smyrna, Turkey in the 14th century.
'The Turin Shroud is only one of the many burial cloths which were circulating in the Christian world during the Middle Ages. There were at least 40,' said Lombatti, citing research by the 19th-century French historian Francois de Mely, who had studied surviving medieval documents.
'Most of them were destroyed during the French revolution. Some had images, others had blood-like stains, and others were completely white,' Lombatti told the Daily Mail.
Based on unpublished manuscripts at the National Library of Paris, Lombatti reveals that the shroud was obtained by the French knight, Geoffroy de Charny, during a crusade to liberate the Turkish city of Smyrna from Muslim rule in 1346.
The de Charny family are known to be the first recorded owners of the shroud.

The image has bewitched believers and sceptics alike since the negative image, right, was revealed in the late 19th century
The image has bewitched believers and sceptics alike since the negative image, right, was revealed in the late 19th century

Lombatti discovered that Geoffroy was unable to join a pilgrimage to Jerusalem after liberating Smyrna, so he was given the shroud as a symbol of his participation in the crusade to Turkey.
'The relic has nothing in common with real Second Temple burial shrouds,' he said. Lombatti, author of six books and a leading authority on the history of the shroud, will present his evidence at a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Amsterdam in July.
The shroud has divided scholars for more than a century. The Catholic Church has never officially commented on its authenticity, but it has made tiny samples of the relic available to scientists for testing.
Earlier this year, Cambridge art historian Thomas de Wesselow argued in his book The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection, that the image on the shroud, which he said was authentic, triggered the birth of the Christian religion.
In 2011, researchers at the Italian government National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development said the image could not be the work of mediaeval forgers but was instead caused by a supernatural 'flash of light'.
In 2009, Vatican researcher Barbara Frale said she had found the words 'Jesus Nazarene' on the linen cloth in a computer analysis of photographs of the shroud that revealed faint words written in Greek, Aramaic and Latin, attesting to its authenticity.
But carbon tests carried out in Oxford in 1988 firmly dated the material to 1260–1390 AD.
The only burial shroud ever recovered from Jerusalem, by archaeologist Shimon Gibson, was very different.
It was made with a simple two-way weave - not the twill weave used on the Turin Shroud. Instead of a single sheet, it was in several sections, with a separate piece for the head.
'The Turin shroud is a single sheet made with a twill weave. The twill weave is known from this part of the world only from the mediaeval period, so we’re talking about something that’s from the Middle Ages,' said Gibson.

Monday 4 June 2012

Bloomsday in Dublin


ARIEH O’SULLIVAN visits Dublin for Bloomsday and discovers how literature, history, Guinness and Judaism converge in the mystical Emerald Isle
From The Jerusalem Report, issue dated June 4, 2012
The church has יהוה, the holy name of God in Hebrew, painted on the ceiling. But that isn’t what I find incredulous. The fact that the crypt, the final resting-place of generations of priests and notables, has been turned into a dance floor – well now, that was sacrilege to the extreme. This is the moment when I truly fall in love with Dublin. Again.
We are on a Guinness diet, my son and I, and we have already lost four days. I have dragged him along to the ancestral homeland in search of Leprechauns and Jewish lore and perhaps the most famous Jewish character in English literature.
But arriving to partake in the annual Bloomsday I am reluctant to check my mythical images of the Emerald Isle at the door. And I’m glad I didn’t.
Ireland, once the Celtic tiger, is a shadow of its recent self. There is still swank Grafton Street with shops rivaling Paris and London and the country has greatly shed its pious Catholicism. But Ireland today is $135 billion in debt, bailed out mostly by the Germans.

Ireland is the only country in the world which celebrates the wanderings of a Jew who never existed

“We’re all guilty,” says Peter Graves at the Sinn Fein shop, pushing IRA bumper stickers and t-shirts. “Everyone took advantage of the bubble. Now ‘de whole country’s broke. Berlin’s our new capital.”
But that doesn’t put a dent in the annual celebration of Bloomsday, the annual celebration in memory of Leopold Bloom, the Jewish protagonist of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which describes his wanderings through the city, thinking like mad. Joyce’s audacious version of the Homeric legend takes place over a single day, on June 16, 1904, making summertime Dublin a Mecca for English literature fans. Every year thousands of Joyce diehards flock to the city to reenact Bloom’s journey. Bloom never existed, except in Joyce’s extraordinary imagination, but in a marketing masterpiece, the Irish have turned Bloomsday, a totally fictional event where Jew and Ireland meet, into something approaching a national holiday.

CROSSTALK: Leopold Bloom as imagined by one of Bloomsday's many cross-dressers
Ulysses is considered one of the most significant literary works of the 20th Century – though few have attempted to grapple with its dense and cerebral text, and fewer still have made it through to the end. That hasn’t stopped the Irish. They have highlighted the passages about food and booze and sex and set them up as a template for a perfect mid-summer holiday. It’s a hedonists’ paradise where live music seems to burst out of every doorway and liquor consumption keeps the mammoth Guinness brewery struggling to produce two million pints of its trademark black stout a day.
Ulysses is an outrageously funny and bawdy book. Peppered with Latin and Hebrew, it pioneered stream-of-consciousness narrative. Joyce crammed everything about life – sex, bodily functions, longing and mourning – into that single June day. Joyce’s masterpiece has been consistently voted as one of English literature’s most influential book of all time. Not bad for a piece of fiction that very few have actually read.
On Bloomsday itself, I drag my boy Yarden, just out of high school, onto the streets and join an international crowd armed with tattered, dog-eared copies of Ulysses and maps of Dublin in 1904, as we begin our Odyssey just as Bloom did from his home at 7, Eccles Street.

The atmosphere as we retrace Bloom’s mythical steps is literary Via Dolorosa meets licentious, Guinness-fueled Mardi Gras

Everyone has entered into the holiday spirit. Straw hats and jaunty bowlers for men, and lacy, bosom-revealing frocks for women are de rigueur. I wear a white linen suit with Panama hat. There are also no small number of cross-gender dressers, which helps transform the atmosphere as we retrace Bloom’s mythical steps from literary Via Dolorosa to licentious, Guinness-fueled Mardi Gras.
Most of the landmarks Joyce described in Ulysses are still there and the increasingly inebriated procession flows like a human wave across the city. At stops along the way, enthusiasts who can still read and not yet splayed out across the nearest bar, recite passages from the book.
Outside Davy Byrne’s pub at 21, Duke Street, Gorgonzola cheese sandwiches and a glass of Burgundy just like Mr. Bloom tasted are going fast for 10 euros. Across the River Liffey at the Ormond Hotel, there is little oxygen left in the lounge: everyone has sucked it out singing ballads and reciting poetry. In any other country it would seem pretentious.
A pack of children dressed in Edwardian-era costumes stroll by in celebration. For a novel banned from American shelves as obscene until 1933, the scene raises the interesting question of just how much of the book can be read to the children.

EDWARDIANS: Costumed children join in the fun, though it's unclear whether they have read a book long banned for obscenity
In his depiction of sex, as in much else, Joyce was ahead of his time. In the final chapter, Leopold’s unfaithful wife Molly Bloom brings herself to an unfiltered, unforgettable orgasm (“Yes, I said, Yes I will, Yes”) nearly a century before Meg Ryan’s signature restaurant scene in When Harry met Sally.
“Oh forget the fugghan text. Ulysses is best exposed by listening to it,” says Irishman James Scully in a pinstripe suit. “Dis is me 25th year!”
The diehards continue toward Barney Kiernan’s pub. My prodigal son drops out, but I soldier on, recalling my Irish grandfather who used to say, “I only drink when I’m alone or with somebody.”
The pub itself no longer exists, so the pack darkens the doors of  The Green Street Pub to re-enact the famous “Cyclops” scene where a “broadshouldered, deepchested, stronglimbed, frankeyed, redhaired, freely freckled, shaggy bearded, widemouthed, largenosed, longheaded, deepvoiced, barekneed, brawnyhanded, hairlylegged, ruddyfaced, sinewyarmed” bigot confronts our Jewish hero.
“What is your nation?” he asks Bloom, threatening later to “brain that bloody jewman.”
“I belong to a race too,” says Bloom, “that is hated and persecuted. Also now. This very moment.”
Earlier in the novel a Mr. Deasy says Ireland has the honor of being the only country which never persecuted the Jews – “Because she never let them in.”
“One of the central reasons for giving Bloom a Jewish identity was because it allowed Bloom to be both within and without Irish society,” says Mark Traynor, manager of the James Joyce Center. “Joyce was extremely attracted to the idea of Bloom the Jew and to Jewishness in general, the idea of a wandering race and of course, he as an Irishman in exile, could identify with that.”

The odyssey begins just as Bloom did, from his home at 7 Eccles Street (Arieh O'Sullivan)
According to Traynor, Bloomsday 2012 is expected to be an even bigger event since the copyright of the book is due to expire, allowing for a new wave of artistic interpretations of the 800-page novel.
Senator David Norris, the on-off Irish presidential candidate and Ireland’s most flamboyant politician, is a leading Joyce scholar and a fair-weather friend of Israel.
“This was Joyce striking out for diversity and supporting the underdog,” says Norris. “Both the Irish and the Jews have tragic history. The Jews had the awful unparalleled tragedy of the Holocaust and we also lost half our population during the famine. There’s the Jewish mother and the Irish mammy, the sense of humor and the curiosity about everything that happens in the world and just as the Jewish people have their Diaspora, the Irish people have a diaspora and even President Barack Obama is delighted to trace his Irish roots.”
“And you know,” adds Norris with a wink, “the Irish people were the lost tribe of Israel.”

The Irish have turned Bloomsday, a totally fictional event where Jew and Ireland meet, into something approaching a national holiday

That may explain the plethora of Cohan and Levi families in Ireland. But what about Murphy, the most common family name here? The story goes that many of the ship surgeons from the wrecked Armada that washed up on Irish shores after the defeat by Sir Francis Drake were Jews. They likely went by the name Mar’peh (“healer” in Hebrew), that later became Murphy. Could the common Irish name Hennessey be derived from the Hebrew Hanasi (“president”). Was McCabe originally Maccabi? Was Brennan originally Ben-Nun? Perhaps I should change my own name back to the original O’Solomon.
Dublin’s Jewish community today is minuscule, numbering only about 1,000 people. The bulk trace their roots to ancestors arriving at the turn of the 19th century from Eastern Europe, most of them from Lithuania. Some were disembarked by shady ship captains who told them they had already reached New York. Joyce was generally correct that the Irish did not persecute their Jews, notwithstanding bubbles of general folk, Catholic Church type of anti-Semitism that permeated European society. An infamous “pogrom” in Limerick in 1904 was considered a blip in the otherwise cordial relationship with the Jews.
The Jewish population peaked shortly after World War II at about 5,500 and has been on the decline ever since, a process hastened by a combination of emigration, intermarriage and a low birthrate. In contrast, Islam is Dublin’s fastest-growing community. Ireland looks like it might be the first Western European country to lose its Jewish community altogether. This year, for the first time, Judaism wasn’t listed in the religion category on the annual census, says Traynor.
“I’m proud of the fact that I am an Irish Jew,” says Joe Briscoe, whose father and brother both served as lord mayor of Dublin.
“Now that the Jewish population is shrinking, the Irish people suddenly realize that they had a wonderful exotic people among them whom they have totally ignored,” says Briscoe. “I find it ironic that Ireland is the only country in the world which celebrates the wanderings of a Jew who never existed.
The Irish love to drink and sing and seem perpetually happy and want nothing more than for us to be happy too. Ireland loves tourists.
Four times the size of Israel with roughly half the population (4.5 million), Ireland is expecting a strong rebound in tourism in 2012 to help it out of a deep recession that has seen its economy shrink by 25 percent in the past four years. Tourism peaked at 8 million in 2007, then slumped to 6 million in 2011. All this means cheaper holidays with luxury hotel rooms at B&B rates.
By far the best way to see Ireland is to avoid the awful coach trips and get off the beaten path. Adventure tourism companies are cropping up to answer the growing interest.
“Ireland is like a donut, all the sweet bits are around the edge and nothing in the middle,” says Mark Doherty, guide, minstrel and jeep driver for Vagabound Tours Ireland, one of the premier adventure tour groups operating modified Land Rover 4x4 vehicles.
Joining the tour for four days, we headed straight for the west coast and kayaked with the seals in Bantry Bay, befriended the local fishermen in far off villages, kissed the Blarney Stone, visited the O’Sullivan castle (of course), spotted whales, climbed mountains, explored abandoned villages and mines and felt privileged to see the real Ireland.
Isaac’s Hostel 2 Frenchman’s Lane (353-1-855-6215) A good budget option. Free WiFi, lockers, clean co-ed rooms with bunk beds, (one homeless guy sneaked in to the room across the hall and was found warming someone’s bed) excellent rates, friendly world travelers of all ages.
Luxurious Fitzwilliam Hotel St. Stephens Green (353-1-478-7000) Definitely lives up to its “hottest hotel in the world” reputation. Located right off swank Grafton Street and main green, a 5 star contemporary hotel with best location in town. The concierge has an endless supply of umbrellas for guests.
Vagabound Tours Ireland award-winning company running expeditions of a dozen or less international travelers in jeeps, staying in boutique hotels and pups and visiting the real Ireland.
The James Joyce Center 35 Great North Georges Street, Dublin (353-1-878-8547) Where all things Joyce are concentrated and Bloomsday is celebrated every day.
Dublin Writers Museum 18 Parnell Sq. N, (353-1872- 2077) Offers a great overview of Ireland’s literary history.
The Old Jameson Distillery Bow Street (353-1807-2235) Great tour culminating with whiskey tasting
Dublin Tourism (353-1-605-7700)