13 December 2018 - 6 Tevet 5779 - ו' טבת ה' אלפים תשע"ט
Jewish communities in Spain comment on Catalan independence E-mail

With separatist movements in the Catalan region now in full stride, the main umbrella group of Spanish Jews has blamed separatists for the kingdom’s crisis and has declared allegiance to the constitution.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, or FCJE, did this in a statement on 27 October, released just hours after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain, as Madrid vowed in turn to “restore legality” and quash
the region’s secessionist bid.

Expressing “deep concern over the grave national crisis”, the federation stated that the crisis was “caused by the unilateral declaration of independence” of the regional government of Catalonia through its parliament.

“As Spanish Jews we wholly support the Spanish Constitution, the rule of law as applied in accordance with the law, solidarity and equality between all Spanish people and the unity of Spain,” read the statement. Authorities will “restore normalcy in Catalonia”, continued the anti-secessionist statement, along with “fratemity and peaceful coexistence as Spanish citizens”.

The Madrid-based federation's statement notwithstanding, the Jews of Catalonia, who, according to the European Jewish Congress, make up a third of Spain's total Jewish population of 45,000, are deeply divided on the issue of independence, according to Victor Sorenssen, the leader of the Jewish community of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, “This is a political matter that doesn't directly concern Judaism, so the community has no position on it as such,”Sorenssen said about the organisation representing Barcelona's Jews.

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Tower of David Innovation Lab opens at museum in Jerusalem E-mail

The Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem launched  its new ToD Innovation Lab program in October. The ToD Innovation Lab specialises in the integration, piloting and development of tech solutions that support and enhance the visitor experience.

As of 1 January, 2018, the ToD Innovation Lab will offer a workspace, equipment and a real-time beta site for startups and industry leaders, providing content and support, all within the magnificent historic citadel.

The Lab will actively connect developers, entrepreneurs, startups and corporations to the museum/national heritage site world, delivering content to the developers while simultaneously offering visitors to the Tower of David Museum the opportunity to experiment with the different projects sponsored by the lab in real time.

The Lab has an AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) focus, so visitors will soon be able to don headsets such as the Samsung Gear + Galaxy, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Google Daydream View + Pixel and Rideon headsets and, for example, be transported into the world of knights and peasants in the Middle Ages in the Citadel, or to experience generally closed-to-the-public places in the Old City whilst sitting among the ancient stones of the citadel.

The ToD Innovation Lab believes that technology is the key to telling the story, in order to engage, educate and impact visitors worldwide. The Lab will also have an inclusion component to help enhance the visitor experience for populations with special needs through tech solutions.

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Remains of decapitated toads found in 4,000-year-old tomb E-mail

Intriguing evidence of burial customs in the Canaanite period uncovered near the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo has revealed the remains of decapitated toads, as well as evidence of the cultivation of date palms and myrtle bushes, perhaps as part of funerary rituals.

The research was launched by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in co-operation with several academic institutions. The archaeological excavation took place in 2014 with funding from the Housing Ministry (the Arim Urban Development Company) prior to the expansion of the Manaḥat neighbourhood, and the results were presented to the public for the first time at a conference titled “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region”, held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on 18 October.

In the new research, remains that were found in vessels placed in the tomb as funerary offerings were examined using advanced scientific methods. The task was a co-operative effort between various academic institutions, led by Shua Kisilevitz and Zohar Turgeman-Yaffe, IAA, with Dr Dafna Langgut of Tel Aviv’s Institute of Archaeology and Steinhardt Museum of Natural History; Dr Lior Weisbrod of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa; Dr David Ilan, director of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew Union College, and Nathan Ben-Ari of IAA.

The excavation directors explained: “This section of the Nahal Repha’im basin was fertile ground for settlement throughout time, especially during the Canaanite period. In recent years, excavations in the area have uncovered two settlement sites, two temples and a number of cemeteries, which provide new insight into the life of the local population at that time.”

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