15 October 2018 - 7 Heshvan 5779 - ז' חשון ה' אלפים תשע"ט
Ancient Hebrew scroll deciphered E-mail

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced recently that advanced technologies have, for the first time, made it possible to read the contents of a burnt scroll that was found 45 years ago in archaeological excavations in the Holy Ark of the synagogue at Ein Gedi, on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Surprisingly, the scroll is a 1,500-year-old copy of the beginning of the Book of Leviticus.

The parchment scroll was unearthed in 1970 in archaeological excavations in the synagogue at Ein Gedi, headed by the late Dr. Dan Barag and Dr.Sefi Porath. However at that time, due to the scroll’s charred condition, it was not possible to either preserve or decipher it.

After recent extremely challenging efforts that lasted over a year, the scientists and researchers were amazed to see verses from the beginning of the Book of Leviticus suddenly coming back to life.

The Lunder Family Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Center of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which uses state-of-theart and advanced technologies to preserve and document the Dead Sea scrolls, enabled the discovery of this important find.

It turns out that part of this scroll is from the beginning of the Book of Leviticus, written in Hebrew, and dated by C14 analysis to the late sixth century CE. To date, this is the most ancient scroll from the five books of the Hebrew Bible to be found since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, most of which are ascribed to the end of the Second Temple period (first century BCE-first century CE).

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From the ends of the earth – journey of Indonesian Jewish descendants back to G-d E-mail
ARISE, SHINE, for thy light is come,
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, DARKNESS SHALL COVER THE EARTH,
And gross darkness the peoples;
But upon thee the LORD will arise,
And His glory shall be seen upon thee.
And nations shall walk at thy light,
And kings at the brightness of thy rising.
Lift Up thine eyes round about, and see:
They all are gathered together, and come to thee;
Thy sons come from far,
And thy daughters are borne on the side.
(Isaiah 60:1-4)

“Darkness Shall Cover The Earth”

It is not clearly known how early Jews came to Asia, or Indonesia in particular. The earliest account on Jewish traders coming to Indonesia was written in the book “Aja’ib al-Hind” (Wonders of India). The writer, Buzurg ibn Shahriyar, mentioned a Jewish trader, Sihaq ibn Yahuda from Sohar in Oman. It is written that the merchant travelled to China from Sohar between 892 and 912 CE, returned to Oman with great wealth, and travelled to China again only to be killed on the way in Sumatra, Indonesia. This book is available in English titled The Book of the Marvels of India published by East-West Publications, London, 1981.

After the Spanish expulsion, Jews fled Europe and arrived in South America. As persecution followed them there, some of the Jews in Peru fled once again by ship. After the currents carried them to Japan, the younger and stronger ones continued on the journey and found the island of Papua, where they finally settled. They assimilated, and today, their descendants can still be found there. When the Dutch East Indies was established in 1602, Jewish merchants from all over Europe came to Indonesia, mostly on Java island. Many too assimilated here, and today we find descendants of those Jewish merchants from mostly Holland, and other parts of Europe, such as Poland, Hungary, Turkey and so on.

Not many know of the hidden Jewish history of Indonesia dating back to 400 years ago. Besides the Synagogue in Surabaya, which was torn down in May 2013, legacies such as individual Jewish burial and cemetery, and even Japanese concentration camps for Jews and Jewish descendants, are plenty.

One of the legacies left by a Jew is the home town where I grew up. I moved there after my family and I returned home from Germany. The town is located on the outskirts of East Jakarta and is called Pondok Gede. The name itself is an Indonesian term which means “big house”. It refers to a mansion that belonged to a Polish Jew named Iehoede – read “Yehude” – Igel (1755-1835). He was a low ranking security guard turned wealthy goldsmith and later changed his name to Leendert Miero. The area, Pondok Gede, was named after Miero’s estate.

Although Jews were officially allowed in the Dutch East Indies in 1782, many still hid or denied their Jewish heritage. Some did not live according to the Jewish faith and assimilated. A revival of Jewish life eventually occurred when the Association for Jewish Interests in the Dutch East Indies was established in 1927.

It was about the same year that the Jewish newspaper Eretz Israel was first published in Padang, Sumatra. The revival did not last long. In WWII, when the Japanese came, Jewish life died once more and stayed buried for 70 years, until many Jews left for the Netherlands, UK, US, Australia and Israel. Today, the association of Indonesian Jews in Haifa, “Tempo Doeloe”, have members who are firsthand witnesses of those times. After the war, there was almost nothing left of Jewish life in Indonesia.

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Anzac Centenary Service at The Great Synagogue E-mail

I had the immense honor and privilege to recently attend a special centenary Anzac Day service with my father, Ellis Goldberg, aged 94, a WWII veteran, at The Great Synagogue in Sydney, Australia on Sunday 3 May 2015.

My father served in Australia and New Guinea during 1941 – 1946. The centenary anniversary of Gallipoli was for the Australian Jewish armed forces that their lost their lives 100 years ago in Gallipoli Turkey.

Anzac Day for Australians commemorates the sacrifice Australians made in the tragic events in Gallipoli from 25 April 1915 until the end of WWI in 1918.

At dawn on 25 April 1915, Australian Allied Forces landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in present-day Turkey, with the hope of securing the Dardanelles and thus allowing the imperial fleet to go all the way to Constantinople.

If all went well, it was Winston Churchill’s impassioned view that the Ottoman Empire would be knocked out of the war. It did not go quite as they planned. In 1915 there were 20,000 Jews in Aus-
tralia. 2,000 Australia
Jews joined in the First
World War. 300 Jewish Australian armed personnel lost their lives in Gallipoli.

The Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott also addressed the audience of 1000 strong. The most moving speech was given by the Governor of New South Wales David Hurley, who spoke of the last Jewish Australian soldier Gregory Sher 2009 who lost his life in 2009 in Afghanistan.

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