Sunday, December 23, 2018

The long search

The Bible recounts that moments before Jacob’s death he invoked his redeeming angel (Vayechi 48:16) and blessed Joseph’s sons, his grandsons Efraim and Menashe. He adopted them and in doing so bestowed the double blessing on Joseph, first born to his first love, wife Rachel.

The Zohar asks - why did they deserve to be blessed? And answers because Joseph preserved the sign of the holy covenant by not allowing himself to be seduced (by evil). The mystery of faith is a covenant with My chosen (righteous) one [1:231a] alluding to King David. He finds pleasure together with the souls of the righteous (Israel) and will not enter Jerusalem below until Israel enters the city. The world was not created until He took a certain stone -Foundation Stone, central point of the whole world. That stone, I set up as a pillar (matzevah) to be a house of God (Genesis 28:22). I am sending an angel before you. 

Jacob took 12 stones of that place and they become one

(Vayechi 49:1) Jacob called for his sons and said, "Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days". [1:234b] "Gather" - that I may tell you - "Ve-agidah", the mystery of wisdom! Why the mystery of wisdom? Because the word contains (g)imel followed by (d)alet, though sometimes (y)ud intervenes. He sought to reveal Israel's future, but his end of days vision dwindled.  

Jacob was about to reveal that his stone-pillar would locate the permanent temple he had committed to build, but he couldn't explain what he saw. How do we know this? Because the non-incidental prophet Gad, also spelled (g)imel (d)alet connected him to this same mystery of wisdom. Some 670 years after Jacob, Gad authorized King David and all Israel's tribal leaders to locate an altar, on Mount Moriah at a different place than the place Jacob erected his stone-pillar. This confronting fact disturbed Jacob's vision.

The deeper mystery connected Efraim and brother Menashe to the northern tribes, collectively named Israel. They vehemently resisted re-locating the temporary temple from Shilo in Efraim's territory, where it had been abandoned to Jerusalem on the southern border of Benjamin's territory with Judah. When a plague killed 70,000 northern Israelite's a short-lived reprieve led them to unify and accept Gad's prophetic house of God relocation from the neck to the head of Mount Moriah.

Rivalry between Judah and Joseph (Efraim) over Benjamin would eventually lead to the destruction of two temples at Gad's location. Jacob saw beyond these destruction's, but the perpetual denial by Joseph and his brothers, including their silencing Benjamin about their kidnapping and selling Joseph disturbed Jacob's foretelling.

In 2008 the Hebrew year 5768, Jacob's stone-pillar was rediscovered at its location on Mount Moriah. It had been purposely buried, preserved for more than 3700 years. This time there will be no destruction.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Place Jacob Stumbled and Became Israel

Of 79,847 words in the Hebrew Bible "va-yi[ph][g]ah" is used once to describe the manner in which Jacob came to a certain "place". It is also used once in the Book of Samuel and three times in the first book of Kings. In the latter books it verbalizes the murder of priests and retribution against a traitor. So, how does the murder of priests by Do'eg, who became King David's conniving, ruthless teacher and retribution metered by Ben'ayahu ben Yehoiada, for the King relate to Jacob's experience at the place?

The verb "[ph]-[g]ah" means to encounter, meet or reach, perhaps encounter (as in strike down) can relate to killing or murder. However, because a softer verb was not chosen commentators interpret this long memory, encoded into the Bible's Hebrew words as if Jacob came upon, fell upon, collided with, or stumbled onto the place.

Regular readers of this blog will know my view that the standing stone or matzevah in ancient Jerusalem's temple zero complex (see image below) is the one Jacob erected the morning after his "va-yi[ph][g]ah" experience which was followed, that night by his famous 'stairway-to-heaven' dream.

Four room temple complex on Upper Ridge above the Gihon Spring
Of the four rooms discovered in the temple complex, on the eastern face of Mount Moriah the bedrock at the western end of room 2 drops to a low point around 1 meter above the ground. This apparently natural feature outlined in red and immediately further west in green (in the images below) illustrates the fall of bedrock toward the ground level bedrock. The standing stone (also in the images below) is not depicted in room 2 (above) to illustrate that it was erected on top of the ground level bedrock well after this temple complex had already been constructed.

Looking west into Room 2 

Only the raised bedrock platform at the rear (west) end of room 3 was purposely left in place when the original constructors shaped the bedrock into these four rooms. The image (below) of room 3 bedrock floor contrasts the liquids channel (left of image) carved into the bedrock floor from retained (top rear) raised altar platform. This serves to emphasize the purpose of the construction as a temple complex from the outset.

Room 3 altar platform left in place when rooms bedrock was removed to shape rooms

The man-made-wall in the background, west of the green outlined bedrock (below) was dated to the time of King Hezekiah by various archaeologists. Around 1000 years earlier, toward the end of the middle Bronze Age the man-made-wall did not exist, but the bedrock features of rooms 1,2,3 and 4 did. We know that because pottery artifacts discovered in passages immediately east and north of these rooms are dated to the middle bronze age and chisel markings are indicative of that time. 

Matzevah or standing stone at the rear, west end of room 2
Further west of the man-made-wall bedrock continues under the wall, as seen in the image below. In the middle Bronze Age, before the man-made-wall was built bedrock access to and from the west of the temple complex would have been a more gentle access route. The grade of the east facing slope seen in the following image supports the idea of gradual access.

The man-made-wall  (City Wall in image below) approximately demonstrates the relative position of the four room temple complex on the Upper ridge in context to the City Wall at the site of the excavations. It also illustrates the proximity of the Upper Ridge temple complex to the water of the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley below.

For those who are familiar with the Bible story of Jacob: On the run from his brother, Jacob made his way to Mount Moriah (Genesis 28:11), the holy place of his ancestors where his father was once offered as a sacrifice by his grandfather whose homeland Jacob was about to leave behind. When the sun set he stumbled upon the bedrock and fell into room 2 of the temple complex. That night he packed stones around his head, which he took from room 3 and exhausted he fell asleep. In the morning when he awoke, he erected the stone and anointed it (Genesis 28:18) and after twenty years in exile he returned back to it (Genesis 35:14). I maintain that this is the place Jacob was seeking and this is the place Israel is still seeking, perhaps one day we will find it!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Myopic Archaeological Reporting

A major disagreement between archaeological giants over a 2008 discovery at the City of David, Jerusalem remains unresolved. The modern equivalents of Macalister and Duncan, Reich and Shukron, who excavated sections of the lower and upper ridges near the Gihon Spring remain ~1000 years apart in their time estimates for a critically important upper ridge discovery. By professional standards its a serious issue that could eventually backfire on Israel's Antiquities Authority.

Its not unusual for archaeologists to challenge each other with evidence based theories including at  the Gihon Spring. Recently Dr. Joe Uziel discovered evidence that presented a similar time conflict. Under the north-eastern corner stone of the Bronze age citadel construction adjacent to the Gihon Spring, seeds were carbon dated by Weizmann Institute to the Iron age. The seeds were presumed to be in their original location, but if they had been washed under the corner stone, in a prior rain-storm the arguments over Iron or Bronze age dating would be futile. 

To elucidate the futility, myopic archaeological reporting is often contained to single fragments of evidence that draw inferences absent of broader context discoveries found in proximity. For example Jerusalem's oldest constructed cave was probably a mansion carved into the east face of Mount Moriah, south of the upper Gihon Pool. 

Parker and Vincent Excavation ~1910
Early Bronze Age Cave (2018)

Further up the eastern face, a tomb containing ~4000 year old sophisticated tomb pottery was discovered by Parker-Vincent. Importantly this early Bronze Age tomb pottery dates Mount Moriah's first permanent population to a similar time in which the cave home on the eastern face would have been in use.

From Ronny Reich's book - Excavating the City of David: Where Jerusalem's History Began

The Pottery Artifacts from the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem
Direct evidence does not link the tomb pottery to the cave, but both were sophisticated developments of that time. The cave would have been constructed by skilled laborers and the pottery by refined artisans indicating the importance of the individuals to whom these discoveries were once attributed. Leading archaeologist Hillel Geva made it clear that Mount Moriah was sparsely populated until much later periods when permanent construction on the mountain expanded from around 3800 years ago, around the time of Biblical Abraham.

One of the most compelling observations echos a ziggurat like stairway the lower sections having been partly reassembled with steel staircase. Immediately adjacent, north of the cave, the base of the stairway was once quarried in sloping bedrock, but today it is a sheer-rock-cut-face that reshaped the natural slope of the bedrock to displace or destroy the arrangements that once provided gradual stepped-access from lower to upper ridge.

Stairway view bottom to top (looking west)
Stairway view top to bottom (looking east) - see video below

The slope may have first been reshaped to include steps for easier access on the ~30 meter rise (see profile image below) from the lower rock shelf, at the cave's natural entrance to the stairs leading to the high ridge. Interestingly, the lower section of stairs would have once landed on the east face of Mount Moriah, as it falls to the Kidron Valley, but the dramatic absence at the now sheer-rock-cut-face appears related to the quarrying that ultimately formed the large impassable void of the Upper Gihon Pool (see image below).

Profile slice through Mount Moriah looking north.
In 2008 Eli Shukron broke through a false wall on the upper ridge and discovered that the stairway led directly to a sacrificial altar of a significant pre-Solomon temple complex. Soft sand filled the entire upper ridge spaces between the false wall on the east (side of Kidron Valley) and the western bedrock, below the city wall. Thousands of years before Eli's breakthrough, the temple complex had been cleaned of artifacts and purposefully buried, a fact that has not been officially revealed. Below, the four numbered rooms, notably #1 and #3 have short passages connecting these rooms with the upper section of the ridge as it makes its way higher and to the west.

On the eastern bedrock, below the temple complex middle Bronze Age artifacts were discovered by Shukron and previous archaeologists, but several rooms built against the city wall (see image above) contained artifacts that were dated to the Iron Age.

The image above illustrates how access through the rear passage of room #1 of the temple complex led to the bedrock behind the wall. When the temple complex was excavated, several Iron Age artifacts were found in the passages and caused Ronny Reich to firmly date the temple complex to the Iron Age. However, it is evident these artifacts could have moved. The basement of the Iron Age rooms (above image) terminated on the bedrock as it descends east and like so many cavernous basements in and around the old city of Jerusalem the contents on the bedrock found the tunnel of room #1 where the Iron Age contents of the house slipped into and filled the space of the tunnel. 

Based on the above,the definitive statements by Ronny Reich, as seen in the video below would therefore be an example of myopic archaeology. Eli Shukron has made public statements that the temple complex is a Bronze Age construct in direct opposition. 

I'll leave it to you the reader to decide, which version is more likely just keep in mind that the standing stone or matzevah in room #2 (seen below) is most likely a relic from 3800 years ago, the the time of Israel's Biblical fathers, as such it is more likely to fit the context that supports the narrative of Eli Shukron.

Room #2 matzevah or standing stone is not a grave marker

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Jerusalem's 'Temple Zero' Predicament!

The southern room - animal processing and grain press
The lead archaeologist says its Middle Bronze Age, but the tour guides say Iron Age and the City of David is silent? For the uninitiated that’s an impossible gap of 600 years!

In 2011 lead archaeologist Eli Shukron discovered 4 hidden bedrock rooms preserved by a false wall. They feature an altar, a grain press, an oil press and a stone monument known as a matzevah. Small loops chiseled in bedrock corners were once used to tie small animals before they were sacrificed. He openly attributes the rooms to MalchiTzedek’s Shalem, but the matzevah he unwittingly says cannot be Jacob's because"...we're talking about Jerusalem...” (See the video @7:40).

The matzevah of Jacob
This is where Eli and I diverge. Jacob’s matzevah was erected at a place he called Beit El, which according to the clearest geophysical reference in the bible (2Kings 23:4) is on eastern face, on the southern end of Mount Moriah, Jerusalem. Exactly at the location in this blog-post! Eli falls victim to the confusing arguments promoted by Jeroboam after King Solomon built the first temple at its alternative location on Mount Moriah.

The ramifications of Eli's statements strengthen me to overcome ignorance, which I justify because archaeologists are not biblical scholars nor the alternative. Who can blame them? However, the City of David has a far greater responsibility to reveal facts. Jerusalem's "temple zero" predates King David so why didn't he identify these rooms as the location at which his son Solomon would  build the first temple further up the mountain?

If you're fortunate enough to visit this place, tour guides may tell you King David built it to house the Ark of the Covenant during the 37 years before the first temple was built. Or that the rooms already existed so he brought the Ark here to rest and this is where he built a tent to house it. But, nothing in their explanation addresses why King David would permit a matzevah, a practice abolished in the bible ~350 years before him. Worse, they won't tell you of the Middle Bronze Age evidence that predates King David to Jacob, Isaac, Abraham and MalchiTzedek. They promote confusion by saying things that are not helpful to absolving ignorance.

The simplest answer is that King David never found these four rooms. However, someone after him, in the mid-late Iron Age did because Middle Bronze Age evidence was found in the area surrounding these rooms, but the rooms had been filled with soft sand, preserved and cleared of Middle Bronze Age evidence.

I've written extensively about these rooms, you can explore my blog for more, but Jerusalem's Temple Zero predicament challenges interpretations of Jewish law and tradition that preceded King David. Fundamentally, if this is Jacob's Beit El then established ancient traditions also declare it to be the site of the future, final temple, which competes with present views and raises questions that may be too hard for people to answer.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Stop the "fake news"!

Moses was told to gaze west, north, south and east (Deuteronomy - 3:27) similarly Jacob (Genesis 28:14), but Abram was told to look north, south, east and west (Genesis 13:14). The Me'Am Lo'ez says; one would expect east to be mentioned first since this is the direction of sunrise. However, Abram, their predecessor was in BethEl where the future Temple would be built.

About the whereabouts of this location, only one defining statement in all the 24 books of the Bible exists. Undisputed, 2Kings 23:4 states BethEl is the lower south-east slope of Mount Moriah, adjacent to the Kidron Valley in the City of David archaeological park, which is ancient Jerusalem from before the time of King David.

For more than 300 years Israel's tribal logic was dominated by Ephraim's envy over the southern boundary Benjamin shared with Judah, the location Abram was standing. Following King Davids ascension to Jerusalem and unification of the tribes, his son Solomon built the temple at the location. But, one generation later the exiled Jeroboam became King over a divided nation and established a temple of idolatry at Bethel, which is ~20km north of the location at ancient Jerusalem. The nation remained divided since that time.

Significantly, Jeroboam's actions left Israel confused until today. In northern Bethel, Professor Hagi Ben Artzi, the brother of Sarah Netanyahu argues it is the place Jacob experienced his famous dream of a stairway between heaven and earth on which angels were ascending and descending. And, archaeologist Eli Shukron argues the matzevah (monument) he recently discovered at BethEl, the location of Abram cannot be Jacob's because he was in Hagi Ben Artzi's Bethel (to the north) (see Eli @7:40 in the video below). 

The confusion has become endemic and logic circular causing many investigators to justify the ancient city of Ai  must also be ~20km to the north because that's where Bethel was and Abram is said to have pitched his tent between these two locations (Genesis 12:8). Despite the ancient city of Ai never being discovered academics happily defend their entrenched views.

Few have stopped to consider ancient Jerusalem is Mount Moriah, Salem of MalchiTzedek (Noah's son Shem), BethEl of Abram who became Abraham, akeida of Isaac, Luz and BethEl of Jacob's matzevah, Zion of King David and the Temple of King Solomon. Further that Abram could just as easily have pitched his tent opposite BethEl at the site of a Benedictine Monastery that is today a guesthouse called Maison d'Abraham - the House of Abraham. Finally that Ai could have been east of Maison d'Abraham toward the village Jabal Batin Alhawah.

Maison d'Abraham opposite BethEl in the reclaimed City of David.
Regardless, the irrefutable evidence that Eli Shukron discovered in 2011 is too impact-full to uphold the confusion that has permeated our logic for thousands of years. The temple complex in which the matzevah is located predates King David. Middle bronze age artifacts in the adjacent surroundings, the stone cut rooms of bedrock, preservation of the altar platform, liquids channel, oil and flour press are far too compelling to endure prevailing confusion. Further the middle bronze vessels found under the stone floor of homes built in the perimeter wall of the lower south-eastern valley floor, establishes occupation to the time of Abram. 

This enlightenment firmly establishes a path to realize this location. It is repeatedly referred in the Bible, a living text that is archaeologically established for at least 2300 years. It serves as Israel's permanent record which governments will be formed to express and a King appointed to realize Jerusalem's temple at this location that screams out for it.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Shaft Tomb or Deep Well Preceded Jerusalem's Upper Gihon Pool

Honed bedrock entry to Shaft Tomb
Shaft tombs were commonly used during the Middle Bronze Age to bury the dead, including in and around Jerusalem. They were generally constructed as a vertical shaft, cut into bedrock leading to a chamber at the bottom of the shaft where bones and valuable possessions of individuals or family members were laid to rest. Important people were buried in prominent locations where they had once lived, the scale of their burial commensurate.

Cylindrical Shaft Tomb
Prayer at the graveside of those who had progressed to afterlife may have been practiced similar to Jewish  religion and tradition in Israel today. Cemeteries from this period are found scattered through Israel like the one in Michmash from the Middle Bronze age. Generally the tombs were constructed cylindrical, but sometimes rectangular or irregular shapes were built. Over extended periods of tens or hundreds of years populations at specific locations waxed and waned. Because of famine, pestilence, disease or wars shaft-tombs were often abandoned, which exposed the contents to vandalism.

Once tombs had been vandalized and emptied and with the passage of time as local inhabitants lost touch with lore of the deceased, they may have been used for other purposes. One such example could be the Round Chamber (named by lead archaeologist Ronny Reich) of the Upper Gihon Pool at the City of David, Jerusalem.

Upper Gihon Pool and Round Chamber in front of image (camera facing south)
The Upper Gihon Pool is immediately south of  the Gihon Spring, from where it once received its water. The eastern rock-cut face, which is substantially lower than the other faces marked the pools maximum potential water line.  Today the sunken walkway sits in the pool immediately adjacent (south) of the Round Chamber resembling the remnant of a cylindrical shaft.  The top of the Round Chamber appears roughly honed suggesting its original deep cylindrical shaft preceded cutting rock away from it to form the large cavity of the Upper Gihon Pool. Since the lower height of the eastern face is the maximum water line, it can be concluded most of the cavity area was quarried for some other purpose.

Southern face of rock cut Upper Gihon Pool (camera facing south-east)
The southern rock cut face (seen above) of the Upper Gihon Pool expansion follows the original slope of the mountain as it falls east toward the Kidron valley.  The cavity bedrock once filled the entire pool area. The Shaft tomb or deep cylindrical well of the Round Chamber was first cut from untouched bedrock. Later more rock was cut and removed to form the present cavity of the Upper Gihon Pool.

Yardstick in Round Chamber expanded in the direction of camera facing north-east
The yardstick in the image above illustrates the height from the bottom of the Round Chamber to the top of the northern rock cut face. The north-eastern Tunnel III (considered to be Middle Bronze Age) is visible and leads directly to the Gihon Spring. It is possible it once formed a Shaft Tomb burial chamber prior to widening the south-east side of the Round Chamber and the addition of steps into the pool (as can be seen in the map below).

Round Chamber - Shaft Tomb and east facing burial chamber

Entrance to the northern Tunnel IV in the image (bellow) is considered an Iron Age addition and may have been part of Iron Age efforts to dam water for storage within a few hundred years of the construction of the Siloam (Hezekiah) Tunnel.

View north-east to the expanded corner of the Round Chamber
In a previous post I identified the "other purpose" of the quarrying effort in the Upper Gihon Pool was entirely political. Specifically to stop Israel's access and to obfuscate the Middle Bronze Age, holy temple complex on the high, east facing ridge facing east, looking over the Upper Gihon Pool.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Dueling Altars in Time and Place.

One of the most confusing sections in the entire 24 books of Torah (1 Kings 13:1) describes the account of the man of God from Yehuda who arrived as the altar was being dedicated by King Yerovam (Jeroboam) in BeitEl - Shomron. Yerovam had capitalized on King Solomon's opulence, its burden on taxpayers, which he used to revitalize a lingering grievance between the leaders of Yehuda and Yosef about the location of Solomon’s Jerusalem Temple. After Solomon, he led a successful split of the entire nation. Then, he reintroduced a form of nationalized, intermediate idolatry using golden calves. His success confused many that grappled God’s intent.

The man of God from Yehuda arrived, interrupted proceedings and directed his prophecy to the altar proclaiming it would be destroyed in the future by a man born to the House of David (of the tribe Yehuda) named Yoshiahu. Then, he paralyzed the right hand of a crazed Yerovam and released it before he returned along a different path. On his way he was intercepted by an old prophet who had not joined Yerovams entourage that day. The old prophet challenged and convinced the man of God to break the oath he took when accepting God's mission to deliver the prophecy. On his return, the man of God was mauled by a lion who sat by the side of the road with a donkey. The old prophet sent his sons to recover the body and instructed it be buried in his grave, which he proclaimed he would share with the man of God.

Some three hundred years later (2 Kings 22:1) King Yoshiahu rid Israel of idolatrous objects and realized the man of God’s prophecy by destroying the altar in BeitEl. Seems simple at first, but the detailed time and place descriptions that span Kings one and two are separated by 300 years and the places these verses speak of span the tribal territory of Yehuda and Yosef (Ephraim) which were separated by the territory of Binyamin in between.

Consider this pre-requisite information about the altar of akeida, the place Abraham bound and offered his son Isaac. Rambam, the famous Maimonides states: “The altar is [to be constructed] in a very precise location, which may never be changed, as it is said (I Chronicles 22:1 [by David]): "This is the altar for the burnt-offerings of Israel." David’s conclusion or Rambam’s insistence that a “universally” accepted tradition that the altar once stood on Mount Moriah does not suffice for the Jewish law stringency akeida imposes on the precise location required for the third temple’s altar.

The prefix ‘Ha’ of the word ‘Ha’Makom (הַמָּק֔וֹם) is unique as to “The Place”, generally ‘The’ place of God’s resting presence. The word is never used to describe Yerovams altar in BeitEl in Shomron. However, it is extensively used to describe locations associated with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob especially at Mount Moriah. It is therefore a universally accepted tradition that HaMakom, used in Torah verses to do with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob more often associate with Mount Moriah including Shalem of Malchitzedek, akeida, BeitEl and Luz.

In the text of 2 Kings 23:4 Yoshiahu ordered the High Priest to remove objects of idolatry from the temple, in Jerusalem, which the High Priest, for the strong symbolism burned in the Kidron valley (in Jerusalem) before depositing the ashes at BeitEl in Jerusalem. Then, the eradication of idolatrous objects continued in and around Jerusalem and Yehuda until 23:14. At 23:15 - “And also the altar that was at BethEl…” in Shomron, of Yerovam, “also that altar” he destroyed. At Yerovams BethEl the prophecy of the man of God came true. But, here it was Yoshiyahu who did the destruction not the High Priest, because  human bones were used to defile the altar and that precludes the High Priest.

Three hundred years before the man of God incident, before the book of Kings toward the end of Joshua’s reign Judges 1:8-15 briefly states Judah conquered Jerusalem, 1:20-21 states Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem and 1:22-26 declares the house of Joseph smote Beit El, which was Luz. Therefore, Judges declares a northern (Benjamin) and southern (Judah) Jerusalem (since the city ran in a north south direction) - this is not controversial. However that Joseph smote BeitEl, which was Luz contradicts Judah conquering the southern section of Mount Moriah synonymous with Jerusalem at the time. This may be the first hint of competition between Joseph and Judah over the location of the temple Solomon would eventually build.

2 Kings 23:4 is the only specific reference to BeitEl being in Jerusalem. It leaves little ambiguity about its proximity to Jerusalem and the Kidron valley and is directly supported by archaeology discovered in the area. The BeitEl of Jacob and the Bethel of Yerovam are different places that are deeply convoluted by competition and grievance that have long distorted facts. Perhaps that time is coming to an end.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sword over Jerusalem!

The Bible relates King Davids' dilemma, his test. To unify the nation he was required to identify the location of the national altar from which Israel’s temple would eventually be built. Without his selection no temple could ever be built and King David would be unable to fulfill his life mission. The King had to locate the altar, precisely at the place Isaac was offered as a sacrifice by his father Abraham and he had to do it with prophetic support. However, his search for Isaac’s altar was futile, instead he turned to the advice of Prophet Samuel, his teachers, Do'eg, Achitofel and eventually the Prophet Gad.

Do'eg was a convert and very serious Torah scholar. He was known to have ruthlessly consumed the intellects of his fellow students and teachers with his sharp commentary. His rivalry with knowledge of Torah law, that King David possessed revealed his jealous disposition. Paradoxically Do'eg tried to disqualify David from being King because David was born through the lineage of Ruth, a Moabite convert which was allegedly forbidden by Torah law. However, the prevailing legal opinion in David’s favor ruled that Torah's prohibition is limited to descendants of male Moabite converts only.

Do'eg also challenged David who was struggling to determine the site of the future temple, lobbying for it be located in the high mountains south-west of ancient Jerusalem. David preferred it be built in close proximity of the people of ancient Jerusalem. In his later years, King David, by the King’s own will ordered his general to make a census of the nation, it was not requested of him through a prophet by God, as was the law. After 9 months and 20 days Yoav, his general reluctantly delivered his count of males over 20 in Israel.

David reflected on the opposition expressed by his general and his public contravention of  Jewish law and became remorseful. Retribution followed swiftly and Gad conveyed his prophecy as three choices by which to repent; seven years of famine, three months fleeing his enemies or 3 days of plague in the land. King David chose plague. Immediately 70,000 men from the northern tribal lands received their fate. On the second day, as the nation suffered the King witnessed a vision; the angel of death was standing on the threshing floor where Ornan - King of the Jebusites would separate chaff in the wind. From there the angel stretched out its sword over Jerusalem (The ancient City of David). David immediately and deeply repented for his sins asking God’s forgiveness for the people. With David’s confession and the angels dictate, Gad told David to purchase the threshing floor on which to build an altar to God and through which he would be forgiven.

David purchased the threshing floor from the willing Jebsuite King. He built the altar, made holy sacrifices to seek forgiveness for the sin of his ill fated census. In the process and the pandemonium the tribal leaders of the day unanimously accepted this altar as the beacon by which the future site of the first and second temples in Jerusalem would be determined. The demand, in 1 Chronicles 21:18  by the angel of death to build an altar on the threshing floor, at the angel's feet became accepted as a prophecy of Gad.

Are we to rely on a a vision, much less than a prophecy through the voice of an angel or on chance or hidden meaning that David's altar is in fact the site at which Isaac was bound and offered by Abraham - Akeida? Was David opportunistic? There are no scholarly sources that directly state King David’s selection of this location is one and the same with Akeida. For the past 2840 years from the time King Solomon built the first temple and its altar, people have simply believed the site to be precisely the true Akeida. How is it that the most holy site for Jews is identified with the feet of the angel of death?

David struggled to find the site of the temple, for years he contended with Doeg over its location. Did he not have a sign, an archaeological fingerprint, something to go on that was better than the feet of the angel of death and a prophecy of Gad to annul the plague that he caused? Did David know that the altar of Isaac was a prerequisite for the building of the Temple? David’s son Solomon built Jerusalem’s first temple based on the plans of his father, we don’t have those plans. What we have is a declaration in 1-Kings Chapter 6 that details how it was built by Solomon.

The missing ingredient in all this is the location of the altar of Isaac's binding, which is the essential item according  Rambam and Halacha (Torah Law) for building a temple in Jerusalem. So where is it?

Intriguingly the sacrifice offered for a sin offering is the same as the new month (Rosh Chodesh). When David brought his sacrifice at the altar the first time, he repented for his sin, not that of the nation it was not a communal offering, but David's. Today, in the Rosh Chodesh prayer Jews the world over ask for a "New altar to be built in Zion", but when David first used the word "Zion" the angel of death's altar had not been identified and Solomon had not built the temple. So where is David's Zion the place we ask for a new altar to be built?

In numerous articles I have argued that the newly excavated temple complex above the Gihon, on the neck of the mountain, where sacrificial worship and ceremony is now known to have taken place, is in fact the site of the altar on which Isaac was bound. Notwithstanding popular opinion, this site is likely to be the original site of Salem, Luz, Beit-El, Zion and Jerusalem as such it ought to be more seriously considered as the primary site King David did not identify. To understand the reasons why the King did not identify the site, we must be sensitive to a chronological series of events that presented him a great difficulty.

When King David and a small band of men first attacked and conquered the Jebusite city, now known as the City of David, its walls had been heavily fortified and constructed to prevent and protect its residents from attack while allowing them to obtain water from the perennial Gihon Spring. Within and adjacent inner sections of the city walls, many homes had been built.

The walls and the homes were built on the foundation of bedrock over the site of Isaac’s altar, that had once been carved out of bedrock on the Upper Ridge. After occupants first began living on the mountain area, they extended the small Upper Ridge which serviced worship on the east facing hillside. It is probable the first small walls were chiseled or even built by Jacob and his sons when they returned from Shechem on their way to Hevron via the place of the matzevah (monument) Jacob erected at the site of Akeida, the altar. This is also the place where Jacob experienced his famous dream in which the angels walked up and down the ladder or stairway between heaven and earth and where he accepted the name Israel upon himself. It is also where he anointed his monument to God and formally took the name Israel.

When King David entered the city for the first time this general location, at and around the Gihon Spring became known as the Zion fortress and is referred to numerous times in the Bible. There is little doubt this is the physical location Tzion or Zion that David referred to. Whether or not King David knew of the existence of the temple complex is unknown, regardless its emergence for the first time in more than 3000 years and its identity today is remarkable. The question remains whether we will be open minded enough to seriously question whether or not the site we presently identify for the third temple is in fact its true location?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Jerusalem - alternative theories

David Ussishkin’s alternative view is a wonderful account of excavations at the City of David on which many facts turn. Three references ought to be given greater weight because they fit the Biblical timelines.
  1.  Fill L1654A/1656A comprised the fill beneath the floor which also abutted Wall 285 (De Groot and Bernick-Greenberg 2012: 110, photo 130, plan 58). The floor yielded MB II pottery, including one complete, and two partly complete storage jars (Eisenberg 2012: figs 7.4–7.6, 7.12–7.14).
  2. We should add at this point that ʻMB II pottery is likewise associated with the floor inside the cave at the south-eastern exit of Warren’s Shaft System’ (Reich and Shukron 2000b: 333).   
  3. Hardly any remains from the Late Bronze or Iron I–IIA periods — structural remains and pottery alike — were uncovered in the Gihon Spring excavations (Reich 2011: 304–06; Reich and Shukron 2004: 213; Uziel et al. 2013: 24*). This datum indicates that, for some 800 years or so, between the end of the MB II in the 16th century and the Iron IIB in the 8th century, there was hardly any human activity in the area of the spring.

The presence of whole jars at L1654A/1656A is sufficient archaeological proof, by any standard that the floor post-dates the fill. The MBII pottery in the cave at the south-eastern end of the Warren’s Shaft System is sufficient to tie the period with L1654A/1656A, therefore the use of these features. Finally an 800 year gap in evidence at the Gihon Spring must surely be alluded to in the Biblical record.

According to Wikipedia, the Bronze Age and Iron Age together are sometimes called the "Biblical period".[9] The periods of the Bronze Age include the following:

Early Bronze Age I (EB I) 3330–3050 BCE
Early Bronze Age II–III (EB II–III) 3050–2300 BCE
Early Bronze Age IV/Middle Bronze Age I (EB IV/MB I) 2300–2000 BCE
Middle Bronze Age IIA (MB IIA) 2000–1750 BCE
Middle Bronze Age IIB (MB IIB) 1800–1550 BCE
Late Bronze Age I–II (LB I–II) 1550–1200 BCE

In the Iron Age/Israelite period both the archaeological and narrative evidence from the Bible become richer and much writing has attempted to make links between them. A chronology includes:

Iron Age I (IA I) 1200–1000 BCE
Iron Age IIA (IA IIA) 1000–925 BCE
Iron Age IIB-C (IA IIB-C) 925–586 BCE
Iron Age III 586–539 BCE (Neo-Babylonian period)

We can already see the discrepancy between Ussishkin’s “800 year gap” and Wikipedia’s 625 years. Give or take inaccuracies, that could be reduced to 550-600 years. In any event it’s a significant period where trace of life is almost non-existent.

L1654A/1656A fill pre-dated the physical construction of wall 285, as such wall 285 may have occurred some reasonable time after MBII, the time for signs of life begins to narrow. If the theory that the Massive Fortified Corridor (MFC) of the Gihon Tower was built in response to Israel’s exodus from Egypt, it would serve the evidentiary gap. In the 436 years between the time Israel, under Joshua returned to their homeland and the appointment of King David, there is good reason significant evidence is absent.

Joshua 10:2-4 discloses that after news of Joshua’s destruction of Ai and secession by Gibeon , Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem gathered neighboring kings from Hebron (south) Jarmuth (west), Lachish (south west), Eglon/Debir (south) to a battle they ultimately lost against Joshua.

The opening verses of Judges, 1:4-7 states the tribe of Judah brought Adoni-bezek to Jerusalem to die after he had been maimed by them. 1:8-15 briefly states Judah conquered Jerusalem. 1:17-19 states Judah also conquered Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron and territory. 1:20,21 states Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. 1:22-26 declares the house of Joseph smote Beit El, which was Luz. Shortly after these accounts Joshua dies and the period of Judges begins.

I included Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron to illustrate that the tribe of Dan, to which this territory was allotted was unable to occupy it fully and were forced to also establish territory in the north. Further, Jerusalem was split because Judah conquered Jerusalem, but Benjamin did not. Finally the question about the location of Luz must be addressed. Two potential locations exist for BeitEl/Luz, Jerusalem and to the north modern Bethel. If Jacob’s dream at HaMakom was Mount Moriah - Jerusalem, it would support that the following tit-for-tat verses are not declarative as to territorial achievements. In any event there appears to be empirical victory over some of Jerusalem, which may also be related to the area defined as Beit El or Luz.

Wall 285, to which L1654A/1656A abuts was a wall of the lower city on the south east slope of Mount Moriah, therefore it stands to good reason that this was the Jerusalem Judah conquered. It would also comport with Benjamin’s allotment to the northern section of Mount Moriah, designated Jerusalem. Curiously Judges 1:22-26 uses the adverb גם (gum) meaning also or further to the previous verse, regarding Benjamin's Jerusalem. As such BeitEl/Luz, which was smote by the House of Joseph forms a relationship between the verses and associates BeitEl/Luz with Jerusalem.

Returning to the absence of evidence at the Gihon, if indeed Judah or Joseph had destroyed the lower city of Jerusalem, it would necessitate that life ceased abruptly and that the ever present Israelite threat may have rendered the lower slopes of Mount Moriah uninhabitable for the entire ~440 years of Joshua through through King David.

The biblical account emphasizes that Ussishkin’s unusual absence of evidence associates the time of Joshua-Judges and suggests that use of the Warren’s Shaft System, following the Judah-House of Joseph attack on the lower city became the limitation on access to water, a significant factor that restricted the upper city's population growth.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Israel's House of Lords

In future the Prime Minister will look to his right where he will see the Chief Rabbi of Israel, perhaps even The King!


Convergence of Jewish Law and Common Law in Israel - not  inconceivable!

The 2016 Pew report entitled ‘Israel’s Religiously Divided Society’ delved deep into the issues that distinguish Jewish religious and secular groups. Among their many reporting's were these statistical extracts that demonstrate strong support from the religious and traditional communities that religious law should prevail. This paper suggests a way forward through the complex issues that arise from a nation governed by one body of law that competes with a sentimental and often preferred alternative.
Preferential support for religious Jewish Law (halacha) is growing and demands by religious-political groups continue to meet political reality. However, the slow bleed of halacha into common law is no unifying principle. Rather, the nation should reach a conclusive view as to how it wants to reconcile its preferences so as to build the best outcome for the nation's future. For most this won't be easy to digest, but halacha and secular law is bound only in convergence via parliamentary legislation.

This paper suggests a way forward imagining that societal demands for integration of Jewish Law will continue in the face of rising opposition. But, there is a mutually beneficial managed outcome.

Bicameral Parliament, Legislative Unification and Long Term Economic Prosperity

Jewish sovereignty secured by rabbinical representatives elected to an upper house of Israel’s future parliament (Knesset) may be confronting to many, but the national benefits are presently misunderstood and misconstrued. Reorganization of community representation, suggested by this paper is already gaining momentum. Over the next 25 years the nation will begin to understand and realize the social and economic benefits that will flow from it.

The majority of Israel’s Jewish electorate periodically participate in religious services of a local synagogue. Presently, members of these community synagogues nominate municipally appointed, government funded Town Rabbis to represent their communal religious interests. Elected Town Rabbi’s are self-interested to empower their electoral framework and elevate it to a more prominent place on the national political stage. Grass root, community participation is a principal requirement for any such advance, therefore town hall meetings, community activities and societal representations organized by appointed Town Rabbis and leaders are campaign hallmarks that will mark the successes of this movement.

Participation by religious professionals servicing the judiciary and other segments of Israel’s legislative and legal sectors will provide support to integrate Israel’s secular laws with balanced, favorable (to society) interpretations of Jewish Law as founded in Torah and Talmud. This process will strengthen Jewish Sovereignty and realize one body of law for the entire nation.

Simultaneous growth in the demand for unskilled labor will be essential to improve the wealth of Israel’s constituent underclass. Political parties that prioritize development of sustainable industries capable of employing a significant portion of the non-participating[1] workforce will benefit. Israel’s indigenous and cultural prerogative, including tourism is a principle dogma of this plan. As such this powerful linkage of community representation and sovereignty is tied directly to economic prosperity through means for people to develop skills[2], obtain economic benefits and improve wealth distribution to the broader population.

The role of the Rabbi: Spiritual leader or religious governing minister?

We investigate the role of the elected rabbi in the modern era, especially in Israel and seek to define the authority that will be required to fulfill this unifying role.

The various functions of the Rabbinate

Various rabbis defined the role of the Rabbinate in different ways depending on the nature of the role tailored to the specific circumstances of time and place. In the book "B’nei Bina" varied answers are cited of the rabbis consulted on the question offered by Rabbi Rafael Kook:

"Rabbi Rafael Kook the late Rabbi of Tiberius, told me that he heard from R. Meir Berlin that when he attempted to write an article on the role of the rabbi in our times" He consulted with his uncle [and Grandfather], Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, of Navahrudak and author of Aruch  HaShulchan, who replied that the task of a rabbi  is to  decide questions of lssur Veheter [Kosher  etc.].  He traveled to Brisk and asked the same question to Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik who answered: The Rabbi’s role is to;

a. look after babies born out of wedlock, known as 'bastards' so they don't land in the hands of Christian church. The rabbi's duty is to hire nursing staff to raise these children as Jews.
b. supervise the annual re-election of the treasurers for the free loan societies so that when the poor apply for loans they are not rejected because they were already given loans the earlier year. [...] the rabbi should make sure the treasurers are honest and God-fearing[3]

Parallel explanations clarify the social attitude of the Brisk rabbinical dynasty. The first is entirely pragmatic: As the spiritual leader of the community, the rabbi is the only one in position of authority that allows him to fight the wars of the weak and oppressed. This battle is a holy war of doing justice, charity and benevolence, fundamental Jewish values to which each person must strive to reach.

The second explanation adds to the first, and views the rabbinate as a reflection of "walking in the ways" of God. Leading the congregation is a multi-dimensional mission in the name of God, a "long arm" of making the will of God on earth. Just as His attributes are to grace the poor, to elevate the crushed ones and revive the spirit of the humble (see Isaiah 57.15), so too that should be the role of the spiritual leader, the rabbi must focus on the disadvantaged exposed to abuse by the powerful.

In this way, the rabbi continues the traditional role of the Bet Din (Jewish Law Court) "to save the oppressed from the hands of the oppressors"[4].

However, it seems that the social role does not substitute for the traditional functions of a rabbi, but adds to them. From the testimony of Rabbi Michel Zalman Shurkin. He brings another approach to the role of the Rabbi; "when they asked the Gaon Rabbi Raphael [Shapiro] what is the work of a rabbi, he responded: nothing, just to sit and learn Torah day and night".[5]

In his work "the Halachic Man" Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik mentions the Brisk perception of the rabbinate. To his view the rabbinate does not deal with teaching and political leadership, "but fulfillment of the ideals of justice is the pillar of fire of a rabbi and teacher in Israel. Fulfilling these ideals is the purpose of creation, imposed on the person, correcting the world through the kingdom of halacha (Jewish Law) and revitalizing creation".[6]

From this we can conclude that teaching is not the exclusive role of the rabbi, but he must use it to implement the "kingdom of halacha" and "revitalize creation" in accordance with the ideals of justice. The role of the rabbi according to Rabbi Soloveitchik, is therefore to realize the halacha in its widest sense within the framework of a real and concrete community. As he puts it:
"the halachic man materializes the Torah with action, without concessions and compromises, since indeed fulfillment of Jewish law is his desire and glorious dream.

The halachic man is fearless of humans hence he creates worlds and partners with God in the creation of the world. Since he has no fear of humans he does not betray his mission nor does he desecrate the holy. He stands in the real world, with his feet stuck in the ground of reality, and he observes and sees, listens and hears and protests openly against oppression of the poor, theft of the impoverished and the cry of the orphan.

The role of the rabbi is to ensure that the Torah and Jewish law will not be far away and cut off from the daily affairs of the community, but rather they will see it as an essential part of life itself.  Rabbi Soloveitchik (ibid) explains that "halacha does not seek divine transcendence or flying on the wings of the abstract and mysterious. Halacha looks directly into the real world and does not distract from it." It is therefore the role of the rabbi to bring the Torah- Halacha to its real, concrete expression in worldly life of the communities members.  Practical halachic decisions and concern for the disadvantaged, according to this principle are two sides of the same coin: a halachic man and the communal Rabbi who is in charge of both.

Israel's spiritual leadership in the modern era

In summarizing the various roles of the rabbi, as discussed in the previous section the essence of the role is spiritual leadership. This leadership is reflected on the one hand by teaching people how to act through the study of Torah, on the other hand it is shown by concern for the weak, strengthening religious institutions and introducing their activities into the lives of the community.

When asked to explain his refusal to apply for the post of Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Soloveitchik clarified the gap between a rabbi as spiritual leader and one who is a mere religious minister: "The rabbinate was not for them [my ancestors] an issue of the position in office, but rather a matter of holy work of Torah study with Jews...their attitude to the community folk was not formal at all, but personal and intimate, as a rabbi has with his disciples. For that reason, my ancestors lacked the typical features of [modern] rabbis. Their garments were not rabbinical! They never let the congregation wait for them to conclude the Amidah (prayer)...unfortunately, I did not inherit a lot of the great virtues of my ancestors, but some things I still inherited from them: a lack of affection to ceremonies and love for teaching. I do not see the rabbinate as an institution and its head as a symbol of the institution...I despise formal ceremony and artificial manners, segregation associated with high positions is particularly alien to me especially formal representative ceremonies...In short, as a formal rabbi with all that entails, I am a failure".[7]

While talking on a personal note, it is clear from his words that he saw "the ceremonial Rabbinate" askance. This Rabbinate, which to his understanding characterized the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, can be defined as the transformation of religious leadership of the Rabbinate into a rabbinate of "Religious Ministers" - a style, in the opinion of Rabbi Soloveitchik better suited to Christianity than to Judaism, because it distinguishes between the spiritual realm of life to the physical one.

More than the personality of the Rabbi, the character of the rabbinate, as leaders or ministers depends primarily on the authority given to him. In this regard one should distinguish between authority conferred from his community, in the style of the authority of a "parnass" [communal political leader] appointed with public consent and the authority granted by a state authority. Clearly, the first style suits the spiritual leadership since the hearts of the members are open for this leadership, whereas the second is inclined to the religious ministry officiating formally and detaches from the style of the former.

In the present era, many towns and neighborhoods are secular. The lack of authority of the rabbi in the modern community is due to the eroding desire of the public to grant authority. It doesn't mean that rabbis stopped officiating. Also in modern communities, the rabbi continued to serve and monitor the religious affairs, but a distinction has arisen between religious and secular life. Therefore, the Rabbi's authority has been reduced to supervising life ceremonies, marriage, births, funerals and shivah's, which lack any connection to the routines of everyday life. Design of communal life, even their spiritual aspects; remain in the hands of the political authority, with no rabbinical intervention.

Status of the Israeli Rabbinate

Analysis of the present state of the rabbinate in Israel can be divided into two parts. The first and more significant for our purpose are the elected rabbis of towns and neighborhoods among the general public. In this regard their situation is similar to the new rabbi serving mainly as "Religious Minister".

Contrary to early times, the authority of the town or neighborhood rabbi does not depend upon the will of the public. Sometimes elections are held, but usually the community is not aware of them and the result does not reflect their will. Instead, the authority of the rabbi is given to him by virtue of the state and it focuses purely on religious matters: Kashrut, Mikvaot and Eiruvin. The Rabbi is also in charge of religious ceremonies, but in civil day to day life the role of rabbi is significantly reduced.

The second part is the pool of neighborhood rabbis available from which the ‘elected’ rabbi will appointed. Each in place by the free will of the members of the community. In these cases, the rabbis are involved in community life intensely deal with general issues such as housing, education to personal issues such as disputes between neighbors and spouses. The difference is of course the will of the community. Nevertheless, it seems that this will reflects a much deeper relationship a factor that is worthy of consideration.

Ministerial Rabbinical training program

If we want to see the return of rabbinic involvement in broad, public civilian life, which can happen only if the public wills it, it is necessary to bridge the gaps between the rabbi and the population he is to lead. These gaps are structured into the educational and cultural differences between secular and religious, particularly in relation to Haredim. So, it seems that the only way to restore people’s confidence and desire for rabbinic involvement is by training and community wide educational programs.

Traditional rabbinical training that focuses solely on Halacha, is not sufficient. The need is for extensive training that will enable rabbi’s to heal the present societal alienation and allow them to return to a position of popular influence. This training should include some exposure to worldly values, trends in modern/secular thinking and provide a basic level of introduction to global and Israeli culture in particular. Possible and desirable this framework would establish a special course for young rabbinical candidates that would complement traditional Halachic studies to establish solidarity between the rabbi and his local members. One may define this complement as a form of "language interface". An average Haredi person lacks the language of communication with his non­-Haredi counterpart. And without a common language, it is impossible to lead!

It's clear that a plan of this nature will be opposed. However, those who oppose can continue to serve as rabbis in voluntary Haredi or other religious "private" communities.  A person who sees himself fit to serve as Rabbi for the general public - a public that does not belong to his own religious sub-sector - will take it for granted that he must acquire the appropriate tools for this position, both the Torah and secular skills.

In this context it would not be superfluous to mention the words of Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, in a letter from 1955 recently published[8]. In a letter to his friend Rabbi Dr. Leo [Eliyahu] Jung,who was a prolific writer and one of the most important rabbis in the United States, he expressed his strong view of the need to train rabbis to obtain also a general education. The words of Rabbi Weinberg speak for themselves: "I will not stop from revealing my heart; I am of the opinion that also in Eretz Israel one should provide highly educated rabbis, because the rabbis who are Yeshiva and Kollel graduates are not suitable at all for the great mission of leading the new generation that is growing up in the new Israel.”

In another letter to the same recipient (from 1956) Rabbi Weinberg repeats his view of the need for training educated rabbis, and reveals that the main reason for this is due to the necessity for rabbis "who are well versed in the ways of the world and can influence the youth”. On the opposition of the "Haredim and rabbis of the old type", who oppose any amendment in the rabbinic educational institutions, he says "it is really a very tragic situation." Unfortunately, this "tragedy" bore fruit, and is to blame (at least partially) for turning the rabbinate from a spiritual leadership role into a functionary role of a religious clerk.

Amora - Rabbinic Leadership Training
Policy Paper Abstract

Legal introduction

By law[9], the Chief Rabbinate of Israel (“CRI”) which serves as the highest rabbinic institution is responsible for providing religious services to all Jewish residents of the country[10]. This includes Torah training of rabbis, rabbinical judges and shochatim (slaughterers) and provision of certifying them to serve in office. The CRI is also responsible for operating a State Kashrut system[11] and registration of marriage and divorce. As any statutory entity it may enact regulations[12], which obligates the appointed rabbis in any venue or position and are subject to its provisions[13].

Chief Rabbinate of Israel (CRI) - Authority and Smicha (Ordination)

With its formal authority the CRI is authorized to grant two types of titles and certificates: those acknowledging Torah scholarship: 'Yoreh 88" and 'Yadin Yadin" certificates - indicating the holder succeeded in written tests on various select Laws from the Shulchan Aruch suited to the role the candidate applied for (Rabbi of Neighborhood, of Town or Dayan [Rabbinic Judge]). Another is the "Ability certificate" attesting to the candidate’s fitness to serve in a position, granted almost automatically to those wishing to be appointed as rabbis of cities or rabbinical judges after their lifestyle and suitability for the post were examined and they were interviewed before a committee. Out of ~3000 students tested annually the "ability certificate" is awarded to a mere 500 to serve as rabbis of cities. Only a few dozen are appointed as rabbis across the country, the appointment is carried out in coordination with the designated community and the Ministry of religious affairs, occasionally taking place a very long time after the time of the test. The main problem is the lack of correlation in training and variation with the dual role. Reviewing the historical and Torah role of the rabbi proves that it stands on two main foundations; Authority as "Halachic decider" requires knowledge of Halacha and "Communal leader", requires spiritual responsibility towards the public.

As the CRI carefully scrutinizes the Torah education scholarship of the candidates, it turns a blind eye from the more complex rabbinical leadership role. Rabbinic candidates are not required as part of their training to intern under acting rabbis and there is no way to ensure that they are skilled to mediate their Torah to the crowd. Are they equipped with socio-political intelligence in order to lead their congregants in the right path? Are they able to communicate in a productive and empowering way? Reality shows that it is precisely in the modern era that the role of "communal leadership" has become more complicated, and Torah knowledge is not a reason for ignorance or secular matters sufficient to rise to become a leader. Finally if the Rabbi is not seen as a "merciful father" to the congregants, they will not turn to him to seek Torah from him and benefit from his sage counsel.

Appointed Rabbis are required to work with diverse communities in their own cultural languages and levels of religious commitment. Many see this as minor sector role, and feel alienated from the rabbi and others see him as a "religious technician" giving a technical service only for lifecycle events. Even when a congregant refers to his rabbi, the referrals often cover areas for which the rabbi had no training for, like problems with relationships, sexual abuse, education, various disputes (mediation), and more. The rabbi also lacks basic working tools for public management in the modern world, such as computer applications, speech and rhetoric, and proper language. In this situation it would difficult for the rabbi to become a leading figure, whose Torah - Halacha dialect could be translated into a professionally articulate moral language, that could constitute a source of sympathy for a public ever seeking significant statements and spiritual support for life crises. This fact contributes to the decline in the appreciation accorded to rabbis who are viewed as "free riders" eating from the account of the public without providing any meaningful service in return.

The proposed solution - "Amora" :  Rabbinic Leadership Training Program

The Talmud relates[14] that alongside the Tana who was of a very high torah standing served the Amora as the interpreter, reader or commentator for the wider public. This means that tools are needed in order to translate the language of Jewish law and tradition, making it meaningful for its recipients especially to the reality of their lives. The vacuum in rabbinic training in Israel has led us to offer two training frames for the role of Amora incumbent on upon the Rabbis:
Training program as a prerequisite for the "Ability" certificate.

This program takes place, one day per week for as long as two years. Alongside the Yore certificate, participants of the program would be recognized as BA graduates, in relevance to the Israeli public service.

The program offers:

A. Basic familiarity with therapeutic tools on family, relationships, violence and sexual abuse, enabling the rabbi to identify and refer those in need to more extensive professional help they need.
B. Deepening knowledge of Jewish philosophy and its ways of confronting various challenges along the ages.
Image may contain: 19 people, people smiling, people standing
A group of program participants in memory of Rabbi Raziel Shevach z'l (center)

Useful tools such as the theory of rhetoric and speech. Conceptual language for holding significant dialogue relevant to the community and its cultural values[15]. This is part of a wide and encompassing leadership tool box. It includes the ability to translate Torah language into 'Israeli' dialect.  Analyzing moral dilemmas stemming from current affairs, from their social and legal aspects, including a deep familiarity with groups and individuals in Israeli society. Attaching an experienced rabbinic "mentor" to the students, along with a professional Torah support network for the program graduates, this as an alternative to the conventional Shimush (internship) prevalent in the Torah world.

Superior Judiciary

Active Rabbinical representation in Israel’s judiciary is virtually nonexistent despite the obligation to refine social justice as expressed in the Torah portion Shoftim and the requirement to pursue that end in Talmud Sanhedrin (32b). Such pursuit relates to the effort an individual expends to bring all of society to a more refined state, in this case through a superior judiciary. Although Torah and Talmud may emanate from a different era, the responsibility to refine justice is unequivocal at all times. Therefore the obligation is active and must be carried out with clear intention and conviction. This paper defines a plan to achieve such a result. 

Rabbinical ordination and certification to practise law may not appear to have much in common, but Israel’s state judiciary would be better served by qualified applicants who have also learned the legal foundation of Torah. Such a scenario in which these qualified individuals integrate and assimilate ideas through the Ministry of Justice is one where the Rabbis and scholars of Israel’s communities and their various Talmudic institutions take command. In doing so they also fulfill their obligations to pursue justice in a manner that would imbue Israel with a more just judiciary capable of incorporating into precedent substantially Talmudic principles.  

The number of places available to students in Israel’s law schools is limited. Each year approximately 1500 students qualify the bar examination to become lawyers in Israel. Some move to private practices, partnerships, corporate jobs, politics, advocacy and the judiciary. Whilst enlistment is competitive, selection of accomplished Torah students would virtually be be assured and supporting grants could encourage this development. Although negative biases at certain educational institutions may prevent a fair balance of religious enlistment, it would not take more than a few years before selection on the merits prevailed.

Israel’s Law Schools

Developing channels of cooperation between religious community leaders and Law Schools will provide a foundation for parties to explore these ideas. Financial assistance in the form of grants and other incentives for participation by underprivileged applicants, over and above existing assistance programs from Law Schools can and should also be considered.  The Law Schools of Israel are listed below;

1.     Bar Ilan University (BIU), Yaakov Herzog Faculty of Law, Ramat-Gan
2.     University of Haifa, Faculty of Law, Haifa
3.     Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI), Faculty of Law, Mount Scopus Campus, Jerusalem
4.     Tel-Aviv University (TAU), Faculty of Law, Ramat-Aviv

In addition there are six schools of law at these Israeli colleges: Academic Center of Law & Business [1], Ramat Gan; College of Management [2], Rishon Lezion; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) [3], Herzliya; Netanya Academic College [4], Netanya; Ono Academic College, [5], Kiryat Ono; Sha'arei Mishpat, [6], Hod HaSharon
Increasing religious participation in the legal affairs of Israel is a sure way to bring productive Torah principles to the nation. Concern about imbalanced secular influence has led to an isolationist response by many Haredi communities. Such community wide response can be progressively improved by their participation in the Israeli judiciary with a view to producing laws that would reflect their interests. Some communities are already participating in this manner and we are encouraged to support them in their efforts toward these stated objectives.

Working with the Ministry of Justice and the administrator for judicial appointments, including magistrates we intend to promote a more balanced representation from the Haredi and religious sector.

Bicameral Government - Israel as Constitutional Monarchy

Israel’s government and constitution are remnants of the British system of government prior to 1948. The unicameral Knesset and Basic Law of the country followed forms that did not emanate from Jewish culture and therefore remain somewhat cumbersome, not addressing national, traditional or religious constituents particularly well. Further the 20% mostly Muslim block of Israeli Arabs are often antithetical to sensitive national issues that favor the Jewish majority because of an ambiguous constitutional construct.

Although not immediately apparent, Israel’s unicameral system of government does not ideally represent the demographic it represents. Voter turnout over the past 50 years has progressively dropped from the 80th to the 60th percentile, but voter turnout is not the primary issue. More than a third of Israeli Jews observe traditional laws and another 25% consider themselves to be traditional non-observing. Returning Israel to its more traditional model of judiciary and government will be culturally compatible for its majority Jewish population. Notwithstanding the spread of secularism in Israel, economic pragmatism will continue to direct domestic politics toward this ideal.

Establishing legal and cultural uniformity will certainly clarify the sovereign rights of Israelis, but the objective of these unilaterally mandated propositions is to significantly boost economic development for citizens. The legal and citizenship rights consistent with a democratic institution to appoint a king are not foreign to Jewish culture or those of the region and the benefits of a constitutional sovereign, would ultimately accrue through pomp, ceremony and constant global fascination that would boost tourism well beyond anticipated levels.

A newly convened group has been established to promote and educate the electorate, electoral assembly and Town Rabbis to provide direction, insight and inspiration to ultimately move a resolution on a referendum for a bicameral structure of government that would draw its new members from the electoral framework specified in the The Jewish Religious Services Law, 1971.

Tourism showcase and economic incentive

The shortfall in contribution to GDP through added revenue from tourism is now widely acknowledged at various levels of government and is closely tied to unskilled labor demand. Response to the shortage of hotel rooms is the acute focus of government evidenced in development grants that offer 28% cash rebate for approved developments. In addition very few municipal councils in Israel will not grant relaxed zoning conditions for new hotel developments because these offer significant contributions to the economy of any city. The economic shortfall from Israel’s sub-optimal exploitation of global tourism demand presents an opportunity to build and focus awareness on Israel’s most significant national economic initiative. The government views the deep reforms required to address the complexity of the issues, but has not actioned all of the top down changes required to realize the benefits that would flow. Realizing potential revenue and employment advantages from tourism requires Israel attracting, accommodating and facilitating millions of additional visitors to the country each year. Planning and developing infrastructure, attracting capital and skills and training and educating workers needed to kick start the momentum is a significant undertaking that requires attention from the Prime Minister and the entire cabinet.

The Jerusalem 5800 team are a good example having assumed responsibility for planning a future Jerusalem capable of expanding tourism by providing hospitality and infrastructure for residents and visiting guests. These plans are now well established, published and in circulation among the country’s most active bureaucrats. Planning has occurred over much of the past 3 years and the principle project team will soon complete its initial work. The work on individual projects anticipated by the plan will soon commence and are expected to span the next 25 years.

Jerusalem anchors Israel’s ability to attract mass tourism, its unique qualities allow it to compete in a world filled with malls, tall buildings and resorts. Inherently its ‘holy city’ attractiveness guarantees it a significant place on the world stage, but narrow vision, distractions and complacent attitudes are a constant threat to the city realizing its full potential. To illustrate the magnitude of the attitudinal shift required, we return to the idea at the opening of this paper - sovereignty expressed through national religious representation.

In order to advance Jerusalem and other major cities in Israel to their ultimate and most beneficial conclusion, a new, but different phase of planning and development for Israel leading to the year 5800 will be required. Anything less than a cross-government, highly professional approach, the likes of administrators who transform a city in preparation for the Olympic Games, would be a poor result. This effort must be fully embraced by the highest office of the land, as such the Prime Minister must have received a mandate for the idea’s covered in this document from the electorate as the Knesset platform on which they are voted to power.

Present Government Representation

Appointment of Israel’s Town Rabbis is governed by the Minister for Religious Affairs. Town Rabbis are elected via the electoral domain of the Religious Council, city council, synagogues and communities in accordance with The Jewish Religious Services Law, 1971. They receive lifetime appointments.

The election of Israel’s chief Rabbi takes place in accordance with Chief Rabbinate of Israel Law, 5740-1980* through a legal Electoral Assembly that forges an alliance of 150 people made up of elected Mayors and Rabbis of Israel’s largest city’s, public figures, religious and regional councils and knesset members. In all 80 Rabbis and 70 members of the public make up the body required to make the appointment.
The Electoral Assembly representing the communities of Israel is constructed as follows;
      (1) 30 Town Rabbis from the major towns;
      (2) 14 Town Rabbis from the major local councils;
      (3) two regional rabbis from the major regional councils; "regional rabbi" means a person appointed with the approval of the Minister of Religious Affairs to be a rabbi of a regional council;
      (4) eight rabbis from the major moshavim (smallholders' settlements);
      (5) the most veteran neighbourhood rabbi from each of the towns of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa and Beersheba, and in the case of neighbourhood rabbis with equal length of service, the oldest of them; "neighbourhood rabbi" means a person appointed by the Religious Council, with the approval of the Minister of Religious Affairs, to be a neighbourhood rabbi;
      (6) the ten most veteran dayanim, and in the case of dayanim with equal length of service, the oldest of them;
      (7) the Chief Army Chaplain and his deputy, and if he has no deputy, the army chaplain with the highest military rank, and in the case of army chaplains of equal rank, the one with the greatest length of service in the Army Chaplaincy;
      (8) ten rabbis appointed by the Minister of Religious Affairs with the approval of the Government.

The representatives of the public in the Electoral Assembly is;
      (1) the mayors of 25 major towns;
      (2) the heads of six major local councils;
      (3) the heads of four major regional councils;
      (4) the heads of the religious councils of 14 major towns;
      (5) the heads of the religious councils of four major local councils;
      (6) two Ministers elected by the Government;
      (7) five members of the Knesset elected by it or by one of its' committees empowered by it for this purpose;
      (8) ten members of the public appointed by the Minister of Religious Affairs with the approval of the Government.

The overwhelming construction of this Electoral Assembly are religious representatives making up 98 of the 150 members.

Whilst this Electoral Assembly is a temporary body assembled for the purpose of electing the chief Ashkenazi and Sephardi Rabbis, its 80 Rabbinical members are empowered in communities that extend deep into the heart of the Israeli electorate. These Rabbis have within their collective power the ability to move the nation toward electoral reform to enable Israel to finally address its constitutional construct, legal authority and sovereignty. Any initiative directed to bring such constitutional change would need to occur from the level of Town Rabbis who would lobby for and obtain community support for such an initiative. The hurdles to any change are high, to understand them let’s look at referenda in Israel.


The Basic Law of Israel does not provide for the holding of referendums and the country has never held one. The holding of a referendum has been proposed several times over the course of Israel's history, although none of these proposals have ever succeeded. David Ben-Gurion proposed a referendum on the introduction of a majoritarian electoral system in 1958 to reduce the influence of the National Religious Party. Menachem Begin proposed the introduction of a legislative initiative, which would have allowed 100,000 citizens to demand that a proposed law be submitted to a referendum. The referendum was also briefly discussed in the 1970s, when a plebiscite over the future of the West Bank was considered[16].
The enactment of significant constitutional reform would require the Knesset to adopt a nationwide referendum or at least a referendum of a Knesset supermajority, a seemingly impossible undertaking at this time. However, analyzing the reasons why events that promote such an adventure could be embraced by the country and its elected representatives are beginning to become apparent.

The national disparity that exists between religious and secular Jews also exists between Ashkenazim and Sephardim; Haredim and Religious Zionists; new immigrants and old; hardline Muslims, Christians and Jews; Bedouins and Druze; people under the Palestinian Authority, Gazans and Israelis. In addition post military education ensures Israel’s concentration of the highly skilled, while torah scholars and those without any post school education are often left without skills. The principle unifying prospect for such a diverse society will be that which provides the most apparent economic benefit. This presents a unique opportunity in Israel for constitutional reform centered on employment centric economic prospects that are otherwise not obtainable. Although other sector opportunities may contribute, tourism associated with Israel as the “Holy Land” stands out from the crowd.

Putting it all together

A promoter organization has enlisted Town Rabbis and Electoral Assembly officials to form a loose body that concentrates its lobby to organize its electoral framework to serve Israel and its economic objectives. The promoter organization, operated without fanfare, will direct its objective to promote its ideals and organize its participants. Its objective is to document and approve a charter directed toward establishing a bicameral parliamentary system, by referendum using elected Rabbis to perform a national function beyond their present role as ‘Town’ Rabbis.

Promoting the expanded mandate of the existing electoral framework, by which Town Rabbis are appointed, as a means to elect a second house to the legislature of government is a starting point that will no-doubt transform as the idea matures. Although the development or even the marketing of such an objective is feasible, a factor of financial budgeting, the higher motivation and inspiration to drive toward the objective would make such an initiative far more compelling for many of its participants. If the body of participants are motivated by the prospect of expanded power and by a higher reason to obtain it, there may be sufficient impetus to achieve the objective.

The multitudinous and substantial issues to be addressed by any elected body responsible for approving law in an upper house of a bicameral parliament would be daunting. However, as the nation and the Jewish people’s authoritative religious body, its higher purpose would also become the progressive amalgamation of religious and secular law in order that Israel’s indigenous Jewish culture be expressed and fully exploited to the benefit of all its people. Such an ambitious undertaking can only ever be initialized by motivated participants who bring a religious and secular sensibility and can foresee a future Israel which enables its prophetic cultural realization and releases the economic benefits that flow from it. Envisaging and developing a path forward is a function of education and direction toward the objective, a matter of interpretation already well prescribed in the Jewish exegesis. 

The Law

The separate existence of national and religious law establishes a basis for confusion and dismissal, each rendering the other impotent at the secular and religious fringes of Israel’s Jewish society. The equal application of law by Israel’s executive and enforcement agencies is made more difficult by the existence of underlying legal precepts that are culturally observed to a lesser or greater degree by diverse groups in different parts of the country.

Israel’s unicameral legislative structure cannot serve its cultural or religious disposition because it does not permit an authoritative body of representatives qualified in accordance with  halachic principles to prevail over it. As such it is conflicted by its inability to express Jewish sovereignty over the land to which it claims an indigenous right on behalf of its Jewish people. This proposition addresses the present shortcoming. A law to enable a one time national referendum to introduce a bicameral structure would also introduce to the national debate the constitutional representation in Israel’s sovereign image.

The election of Town Rabbis to the upper house of a bicameral parliament is presently influenced by public opinion through the Electoral Assembly and Minister of Religious Affairs. The future  process would ensure that selection criteria as modified in the course of drafting the referendum, would satisfy the demands of both religious and secular communities in Israel. The hope that Talmudic law and Israel’s state laws would converge as enabled in a bicameral parliament would shift the paradigm. In such a scenario Knesset Kattan (upper house) would be responsible for approving law, Knesset Gadol (the existing lower house) responsible for drafting law and the executive branch under the Prime Minister responsible for administering and executing law.

The Tourism Benefit

Toward a positive referendum, momentum for economic growth can be characterized in terms synergistic with the vision of Israel’s postexilic future. The present desire of local and state government is for 10 million tourists to arrive in Israel each year from the present 3.5 million. The presently stated requirement is an additional 19000 hotel rooms to be constructed in Jerusalem in order to accommodate 5 million tourist arrivals. Although enormous potential exists, the complexity of the task requires a detailed knowledge, much of which can be understood through the work of the Jerusalem 5800 team. Ultimately the limit to tourism arrivals in Israel is unknown because the expression of sovereignty in a bicameral government would also allow Israel to resolve its cultural and religious prerogatives, which would significantly increase tourism demand and boost the economy accordingly.

For every 1 million new tourists GDP increases $1.8 billion and includes at least 20,000 direct jobs and 60,000 indirect jobs in employment classes which span unskilled and skilled labor sectors. The future benefit to people in Israel and Jerusalem as a direct result of tourism is arguably more significant than any other single industry sector. In addition to economic benefits, tourists leave Israel with a realization of safety and security an orientation that counters the dangerous image cast upon Israel every day in the global media. A bicameral government that provides this stimulation and direction would finally re-establish Israel’s most important cultural, religious and national icons and assets which would add significantly to the nation's economic outlook.

Perhaps the promise of a restored, authentic Jerusalem competing with annual pilgrimage to the Vatican or Mecca, where history and exploitation of narrative entertain visitors who can be touched in ways never before imagined, is sufficient to motivate Israel’s secular and religious communities to recognize and realize their awaiting benefit. 

[3] Chaim Reuven Rabinovitz, Benei Binah (Jerusalem, 1972, pp 348
[4] ( Rambam, Laws of the Sanhedrin, 2,7).
[5] (Zalman Shurkin, Meged Givot Olam (Jerusalem, 1999), p 57.
[6] (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Halachic man: visible and hidden (Jerusalem, 1979), p 80).
[7] (Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Community Covenant and Commitment - Selected letters and Communications (New York, 2005, Section V, pp. 247-268, Quoted in Liechtenstein, p 998-997.)
[8] Section 2 of the Act.
[9] Law of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, 1980
[10] (by Mark B. Shapiro, "necessity of providing rabbis who are scholars of Torah and science to serve in the State of Israel," Milin Chbibin 7 p. 181-180)
[11] The Subject of Kashrut was formalized in the "Kashrut fraud prohibiting" law, 1983.
[12]  Jewish Religious Services Regulations (town rabbi's elections), 2007 . For more see the legal appendix in appendix A
[13] See  Rule  5  (3)  of  the  Jewish  Religious  Services  Regulations  (town  rabbi's  elections),  2007. The regulations prescribe the places which require a Rabbi,the qualifying conditions, and more details.For more see the legal section of this document .
88 From the website of the Chief Rabbinate - Certification and Examinations Department.

[14] And how did R.Abbahu display humility? - The wife of R.Abbahu's Amora said to R.Abbahu's wife, 'my husband has no need of [instruction from] your husband;and when he bends down and straightens himself, he merely pays him respect.  R. Abbahu 's wife went and reported this to him,and he said to her,'Why worries about it? Through me and him the All-Highest is praised '.(Sotah 40)
[15] Yedidia Z. Stern "Wealth kept with its owner against him: the role of law and religious law in Israeli society " Thoughts on Jewish democracy 561 (Benny Porat, editor, 2010}