Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb

Men carry mummified cats from a tomb at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt on Saturday.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

The more archaeologists continue to explore the tombs of ancient Egypt, the more evidence mounts that ancient Egyptians admired cats — and loved mummifying them.

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.

The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.

The Ministry of Antiquities was clear about its goals in announcing the discoveries: attracting visitors back to Egypt’s heritage sites, as the country has experienced a significant drop in tourists since the 2011 mass protests that overthrew dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak.

The ministry tweeted photos of the findings. Pictures of the cat statues took front and center — with the ancient felines looking proud and cool, like an upscale, 4,500-year-old version of what a cat fancier today might try to commission.

The mummified cats themselves … well, those images are more unsettling, though they offer incontrovertible evidence that mummification is highly effective.

While ancient Egyptians saw cats as divine, they didn’t exactly worship them, Antonietta Catanzariti, curator of the Smithsonian Sackler Gallery exhibit Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, told NPR last year.

“What they did is to observe their behavior,” she said, and create gods and goddesses in their image — much as they did with other animals, including dogs, crocodiles, snakes and bulls.

And while cat mummies are fascinating, Catanzariti said they were also pretty common in ancient Egypt, where cats were bred for the purpose. “In the 1890s, people from England went to Egypt and they collected all these mummies. One cargo was 180,000 of them.”

An Egyptian archaeologist cleans mummified cats in the necropolis at Saqqara, south of Cairo, on Saturday.

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps that’s why the antiquities ministry made a bigger deal about something else they discovered in the tomb: mummified scarab beetles. Two large specimens were found wrapped in linen, apparently in very good condition. They were inside sarcophagi decorated with drawings of scarabs.

“The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told outlets including Reuters.

“A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before.”

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

(BY JAMAL KHASHOGGI)

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

In April Jamal Khashoggi gave this speech, saying the dangerous idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world.

By Jamal Khashoggi

Mr. Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist.

Image
A Saudi flag at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Credit Ozan Kose/Agence France-Press — Getty Images

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist who was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, was the keynote speaker at a conference in April organized by the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington. Excerpts from his speech, edited for clarity and length, are below.

I am from Saudi Arabia, where the issues of democracy and Islam are very much relevant. When a Saudi official wanted to brush away the question of democracy, in the past, he would always raise the question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam.

The debate about the relationship between Islam and democracy conclusively ended with the coming of the Arab Spring, when the people of the Arab world, — especially the youth, and even the Islamist, including some Salafis, who were always critical of democracy — supported the protests for democratic and political change. Other Salafis remained very critical of democracy, viewing it as “kufr,” or un-Islamic, based on the belief that democracy represents a rejection of religious values.

The long voting lines during the 2012 elections in Tunisia and Egypt clearly demonstrated that the people of the Arab world were ready for change. They enthusiastically participated in democratic elections, including Islamist parties that had often been the focus of the debate on Islam’s compatibility with democracy.

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Those images from Egypt and Tunisia of men, women, young, and old going to the polls should be contrasted with the sham elections we see today in Egypt and in other parts of the Arab world. This is an argument we can use against anyone who might claim that “Arabs are not ready for democracy.”

Today, Saudi Arabia is struggling with different aspects of modernity — with cinemas, art, entertainment, mixing of the sexes, opening up to the world, rejecting radicalism. The tight grip that the religious establishment has had on social life is gradually loosening.

But while we’re pursuing all these forms of modernity, the Saudi leaders are still not interested in democracy, They aren’t advancing the old, lame excuse that democracy is not compatible with Islam, however. Instead, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic they’re saying that absolute monarchy is our preferred form of government.

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Indeed, we are living in the age of authoritarianism. Some people believe that it is a better form of political rule. They argue that societies need a great leader and that democracy will undermine the ability of the great leader to guide his people to a better future.

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Today around a dinner table in Riyadh, Cairo or Amman, you are likely to hear intellectuals who were once considered liberals, who once supported liberty, political change and democracy, say, “Arabs are not ready for democracy.” If you push back against this argument, you would be told: “Even if Arabs are ready for democracy, they don’t know how to take advantage of it. They always make the wrong choice.”

A related argument is, “The Islamist and the Muslim Brotherhood have kidnapped the Arab Spring.” In my country, a variant of this argument is: “The Saudis don’t know how to choose. If we have democracy, they will not vote out of their conscience, they will vote based on their tribal loyalties.”

A popular argument in the Arab world is that we need a strong leader. You can hear it in Egypt from an Egyptian businessman who supports the ruling regime. You can hear it from a doubtful Jordanian, maybe even a doubtful Tunisian who seeks a return to the old order.

A Saudi friend of mine who was raised abroad openly defends the term “benevolent autocracy.” He is prepared to write about the value of benevolent autocracy in an American newspaper and thinks it is the best choice for Saudi Arabia.

It is the old notion of the “mustabidu al-adl,” or the just dictator, that died with the rise of Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, a late-19th-century Arab-Muslim reformist of Syrian origin. The Arab and Muslim intellectuals who followed Kawakibi supported democracy or at least some variant of it.

Regrettably, though, the idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world. A chorus of anti-democratic Arab and non-Arab voices are using the media and the lobbyists to oppose democracy. I’m told that at the Riyadh International Book Fair in March, which I was not able to attend, one of the books on display was called “Against the Arab Spring.”

Democracy in the Arab world is also under attack from radical Islamists who are making a comeback as the so-called Islamic State or as the Salafis fighting in Libya alongside Khalifa Hifter (who was a general in Muammar Gaddafi’s army and is now backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt). They preach against democracy in the mosques — and through acts of violence.

We must reassure people in the Arab world who either have lost hope in democracy because of its perceived failures or because they fell victim to the concentrated propaganda about democracy coming from television networks run by states and the intellectuals aligned with them.

When I use the term “democracy” I mean it in the broader sense of the term that overlaps with values such as liberty, checks and balances, accountability and transparency. We were aiming for these goals in the form of good governance, equality, and justice in the Arab world. There is another reason we need democracy now in the Arab world: to stop mass violence.

Today, there are two kinds of Arab countries. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, need democracy for good governance and the checks and balances it brings.

But for war-torn countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen, democracy would lead to some form of power sharing. It can be along the lines of the Afghanistan arrangement, where you bring all of the factions in one huge room and force them into an agreement on how to share power. The chief reason the wars in these countries are continuing is the lack of a mechanism for power sharing.

The immediate need for Libya, Syria and Yemen is not good governance, but a mechanism to stop the killing. Inevitably, the question of good governance will emerge. There is great hope for democracy in other countries that have not been mired in civil or internal conflict, such as Tunisia, which is struggling toward a lasting democratic system.

Many of my Tunisian friends, despite the progress they have made, are also worried about democracy. They do not want to appear to be preaching to the rest of the Arab world. They simply want to be left alone. Yet I still think that Tunisians have an important responsibility.

News channels that are supportive of freedom and political change in the Middle East should spend a considerable amount of time covering even municipal elections in Tunisia. Every Saudi, every Egyptian and every Syrian should see what the Tunisians are enjoying. I hope it will inspire the rest of the Arab world to work for a similar form of government for themselves.

We need to defend the rights of the Arab people to have democracy in our own countries, in our own localities, but at the same time we must speak to foreign leaders, foreign powers and foreign parliamentarians. They have a role to play and many of them have begun to lose hope in the prospects of Arab democracy.

Some of them are now repeating the old racist statement, “Arabs are not ready for democracy [because they are Arabs].” The Trump administration has zero interest in supporting democracy in the Arab world. Even the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has suggested that there will be little political change in Egypt or in Saudi Arabia.

People are losing hope in democracy because of the failure of the Arab Spring revolts. They’re afraid of ending up like Syria. Many Arab regimes, their television networks, their writers, their commentators, are trying to scare people off democracy by actively promoting this idea.

Both Arab citizens and foreign leaders are affected by the limited reforms that Arab leaders are pursuing. In Saudi Arabia there are serious reforms that Prince Mohammed is leading. Many of my Saudi colleagues are saying I should support them. I do support them.

My position is that we should take what we have and build on it.

When Mr. Macron stood next to Prince Mohammed, he made this point and he was correct to do so. We need to support the crown prince in his effort to reform Saudi Arabia because if we let him down, he will come under pressure from radical elements who are not willing to reform.

These limited reforms and the general political condition of the Arab world today are adding strength to the argument of the anti-democracy forces. This unfortunate reality puts more responsibility on our shoulders to resume our work and to redouble our efforts to push for democracy in the Arab world as a realistic choice for people and a solution to the failure of many Arab states.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

King says Jordan to reclaim land leased to Israel under 1994 deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA)

 

King says Jordan to reclaim land leased to Israel under 1994 deal

King Abdullah II says Amman will terminate parts of peace treaty which allowed Israeli farmers to use Jordanian land.

by

Jordan's King Abdullah II [File: Jordan Pix/Getty Images]
Jordan’s King Abdullah II [File: Jordan Pix/Getty Images]

Jordan has told Israel that it intends to reclaim two tracts of territories leased under a 1994 peace treaty, King Abdullah II has announced, in a move that was welcomed by activists and civil society groups opposing the deal.

As part of the agreement, Israel leased about 405 hectares of agricultural land in the southern sector of its border with Jordan called al-Ghumar, as well as the small al-Baqura area near the confluence of Jordan and Yarmouk rivers.

The territories – water-rich farmlands currently cultivated by Israeli farmers – were leased for 25 years, with a 12-month notice period needed to prevent an automatic extension. The deadline for renewing the leases is Thursday, October 25.

“We have informed Israel of an end to the application of the peace treaty annexes regarding al-Baqura and al-Ghumar,” the king said on Sunday, according to Petra state news agency.

“Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar have always been on top of my priorities. Our decision is to end the annexes of the peace treaty based on our keenness to take all that is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians,” the king added.

“Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar are Jordanian land and will remain Jordanian.”

عبدالله بن الحسينPrime Minister 

@KingAbdullahII

لطالما كانت الباقورة والغمر على رأس أولوياتنا، وقرارنا هو إنهاء ملحقي الباقورة والغمر من اتفاقية السلام انطلاقا من حرصنا على اتخاذ كل ما يلزم من أجل الأردن والأردنيين

Following the king’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would negotiate with Jordan an extension of the leases, which expire next year.

“We will enter into negotiations with [Jordan] to option an extension of the existing lease agreement,” Israeli media quoted him as saying.

It is unclear how and when the territories will be returned back to Jordan’s ownership. The territories have been under Israeli control since 1948.

Growing pressure

Jordan is only one of two Arab countries that signed a peace treaty with Israel – the other being Egypt.

Observers said the king’s announcement is expected to be positively received by the Jordanian public amid increasing efforts by activists and civil society groups aimed at forcing the government to end the leasing of Jordanian territories to Israel.

It also comes a week after 85 Jordanian members of parliament signed a petition urging the king to intervene so that the lease agreement would not be renewed, according to MP Khalil Atiyeh.

“For over a year, we have been demanding the scrapping of this agreement that was not in the interest of Jordan or the Jordanian people,” Atiyeh told Al Jazeera.

Oraib al-Rantawi, a political analyst in Jordan’s capital, Amman, said “the king saw the popular rejection against keeping this agreement with Israel, especially in the last few months where economic decline in the country has led to mass protests – and he wisely decided against it”.

Thousands of angry Jordanians took to the streets in June to protest against price hikes, an income tax reform bill and official corruption, in a country where national poverty and unemployment rate stand at around 20 percent.

Political activist Hussam Abdallat praised the king’s decision as one that would “endear him to the public”.

Sufyan al-Tell, a former United Nations environmental official and outspoken critic of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, told Al Jazeera the king’s announcement is “timely and reflects the will of the people of Jordan”.

Public sentiment in Jordan against Israel is strong because of its continued occupation of Palestinian territories and its treatment of Palestinians.

Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports

As Trump cozies up to Saudi Arabia, the rule of law collapses further

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

 

From the moment he laid his stubby hands on that glowing orb in Riyadh, Donald Trump signaled to the world what kind of leader he aspired to be. Bathed in a spectral light, standing alongside the Saudi King Salman and the Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man formerly known as the leader of the free world smiled with self-satisfaction that he had arrived at his chosen destination.

Despite the object’s likeness to the orb of Saruman, this was no secret society of evil wizards. Instead, it was a brazenly open society of corrupt old men with a clear disregard for the rule of law, if not a cruel desire to brutalize their opponents.

The fact that they were standing in the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology was either an exercise in paper-thin deception or some kind of sick joke. It’s hard to express your disgust at Isis beheadings, as Trump has done, but feel nothing about the Saudi beheadings of 48 people in just four months this year.

Then again, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s feelings and his limitless capacity to lie. Of course it’s possible to condemn the “bloodthirsty killers”of Isis at the UN, and praise the “unbelievable job” of the death squads of President Duterte in the Philippines. He’s Donald Trump, a bear of very little brain who convinced himself that someone in China thinks he has a “very, very large brain”.

As a self-certified genius, Trump now finds himself in something of a Saudi pickle. The supposedly reformist crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to help him clean up the world by taking on Tehran. But Saudi Arabia can’t even clean up an Istanbul consulate after their own goons are alleged to have hacked to death a single troublesome journalist.

First Trump promised “severe punishment” for those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s death, albeit punishment that didn’t harm any arms contracts the Saudis were interested in. No matter that the Saudis can’t easily substitute another country’s weapons after spending gazillions of dollars on US ones. This commander-in-chief obviously knows his arms from his elbows.

Then Trump spoke to the crown prince, who pinky-promised he had nothing to do with the 15 men identified by the Turkish media as belonging to a grisly hit-squad, which reportedly included an autopsy specialist carrying his own bone saw. So the 45th president of the United States gullibly and dutifully bleated something about “rogue killers” and “very, very strong” denials. In what is surely a remarkable coincidence, Saudi sources leaked word that they were preparing to admit the killing, but insisted it was an interrogation that went wrong.

Interrogations tend to go wrong when they include someone armed with a bone saw.

To clear up this most unfortunate dismemberment, Trump sent his trusted former CIA chief, now the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on a fact-finding mission to Riyadh and Ankara. Pompeo’s approach to the facts was hardly inspiring. “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts,” he said. “They didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”

 ‘I don’t want to talk about any of the facts’: Mike Pompeo on Jamal Khashoggi case – video

That would be an investigation by the crown prince into his own security detail inside his own consulate. Naturally, these things can take time. People are busy. Consulates are hard to find. Word from the palace takes time to write down on parchment scrolls.

Oh yes, and there’s this other thing we need to remember, Pompeo explained: money.

“I do think it’s important that everyone keeps in mind that we have a lot of important relationships – financial relationships between US and Saudi companies, governmental relationships – things we work on together all across the world. The efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, Iran.”

If you’re thinking Trump himself is compromised by Saudi money, why, that’s no more true than the notion that he’s compromised by Russian money. But don’t take my word for it, take his.

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” he tweeted, dismissing anything to the contrary as so much fake news. This is a touch embarrassing for the Donald Trump who told an Alabama rally in 2015 that he loved doing business with the Saudis. “They buy apartments from me,” he said. “They spend $40m, $50m. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

Of course, you’re only supposed to dislike the ones carrying the bone saws.

The Trump administration is not the first to bow and scrape to the Saudi power of oil and cash. But it is the first to surrender all pretense of upholding democracy and human rights – commonly known as American values – while making pathetic excuses for what is widely accepted to have been a barbaric murder. What is the moral difference between Iran sponsoring Hezbollah and the humanitarian disaster triggered by the Saudi attacks and blockade in Yemen?

They deserve one another, the house of Saud and the house of Trump. One is hotheaded enough to bomb Yemen into oblivion and blockade Qatar. The other is hotheaded enough to blow up historic alliances and international trade. Both have managed to look weaker by straining to look stronger.

Their incompetence is only matched their greed; their grand visions of global leadership look as genuine as Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, or the official Saudi investigation into what happened to Khashoggi.

Like all pathological liars, they now find themselves caught in their own web of deceit and delusion. The crown prince was never a reformist, just as the reality TV star was never going to drain the swamp.

No number of expensive Saudi lobbying contracts will wash away the bloodstains. And no amount of Trump’s crazy-sounding tweets – about porn stars or Pocahontas – will distract from his disastrous undermining of American values. Like the catchphrases of an old standup comedian, Donald Trump’s stage act is losing its power to shock and awe.

After a couple of days of pesky questions about whether his friends decapitated a journalist, Trump had reached the limit of his very, very large brain. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

If you’re still looking for an illustration of how the rule of law collapses, here’s one straight from the horses mouth. The bone-saw-wielding Saudis are as innocent as our own supreme court justice. At this point, a good lawyer might rest her case because this sucker just can’t stop talking.

Israel: Truth, Knowledge, History Of God’s Country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Israel

Introduction Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. The territories Israel occupied since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives and Syria to achieve a permanent settlement. Israel and Palestinian officials signed on 13 September 1993 a Declaration of Principles (also known as the “Oslo Accords”) guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. In addition, on 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982. In April 2003, US President BUSH, working in conjunction with the EU, UN, and Russia – the “Quartet” – took the lead in laying out a road map to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005, based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. However, progress toward a permanent status agreement was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence between September 2003 and February 2005. An Israeli-Palestinian agreement reached at Sharm al-Sheikh in February 2005, along with an internally-brokered Palestinian ceasefire, significantly reduced the violence. In the summer of 2005, Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, evacuating settlers and its military while retaining control over most points of entry into the Gaza Strip. The election of HAMAS in January 2006 to head the Palestinian Legislative Council froze relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Ehud OLMERT became prime minister in March 2006; following an Israeli military operation in Gaza in June-July 2006 and a 34-day conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon in June-August 2006, he shelved plans to unilaterally evacuate from most of the West Bank. OLMERT in June 2007 resumed talks with the PA after HAMAS seized control of the Gaza Strip and PA President Mahmoud ABBAS formed a new government without HAMAS.
History Early roots

The Land of Israel, known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been sacred to the Jewish people since the time of the biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible has placed this period in the early 2nd millennium BCE.[24] According to the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the Jews as their homeland,[25][26] and the sites holiest to Judaism are located there. Around the 11th century BCE, the first of a series of Jewish kingdoms and states established rule over the region; these Jewish kingdoms and states ruled intermittently for the following one thousand years.[27]

Between the time of the Jewish kingdoms and the 7th-century Muslim conquests, the Land of Israel fell under Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Sassanian, and Byzantine rule.[28] Jewish presence in the region dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE and the resultant large-scale expulsion of Jews. Nevertheless, a continuous Jewish presence in Palestine was maintained. Although the main Jewish population shifted from the Judea region to the Galilee;[29] the Mishnah and part of the Talmud, among Judaism’s most important religious texts, were composed in Israel during this period.[30] The Land of Israel was captured from the Byzantine Empire around 636 CE during the initial Muslim conquests. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads,[31] Abbasids,[32] and Crusaders over the next six centuries, before falling in the hands of the Mamluk Sultanate, in 1260. In 1516, the Land of Israel became a part of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the region until the 20th century.[33]

Zionism and the British Mandate

Jews living in the Diaspora have long aspired to return to Zion and the Land of Israel.[34] That hope and yearning was articulated in the Bible[35] and is a central theme in the Jewish prayer book. Beginning in the twelfth century, a small but steady stream of Jews began to leave Europe to settle in the Holy Land, increasing in numbers after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.[36] During the 16th century large communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities, and in the second half of the 18th century, entire Hasidic communities from eastern Europe settled in the Holy Land.

The first large wave of modern immigration, known as the First Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה), began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe.[38] While the Zionist movement already existed in theory, Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism,[39] a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane.[40] In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), offering his vision of a future state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.

The Second Aliyah (1904–1914), began after the Kishinev pogrom. Some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine.[38] Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews,[42] but those in the Second Aliyah included socialist pioneers who established the kibbutz movement.[43] During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”[44] The Jewish Legion, a group of battalions composed primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Israel. Arab opposition to the plan led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of the Jewish defense organization known as the Haganah, from which the Irgun and Lehi split off.

In 1922, the League of Nations granted Great Britain a mandate over Palestine for the express purpose of “placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home”.[46] The populations of the Ottoman districts in the area at this time were predominantly Muslim Arabs, while the largest urban area in the region, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish.

Jewish immigration continued with the Third Aliyah (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929), which together brought 100,000 Jews to Palestine.[38] In the wake of the Jaffa riots in the early days of the Mandate, the British restricted Jewish immigration and territory slated for the Jewish state was allocated to Transjordan.[48] The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This influx resulted in the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to cap immigration with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine.[38] By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 33% of the population of Palestine, up from 11% in 1922.[49][50]

Independence and first years

After 1945 Britain became embroiled in an increasingly violent conflict with the Jews[51]. In 1947, the British government withdrew from commitment to the Mandate of Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.[52] The newly-created United Nations approved the UN Partition Plan (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) on November 29, 1947, dividing the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem was to be designated an international city – a corpus separatum – administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.[53] The Jewish community accepted the plan,[54] but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee rejected it.

Regardless, the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the British Mandate for Palestine.[56] Not long after, five Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – attacked Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[56] After almost a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were instituted. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949.[57] During the course of the hostilities, 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, fled from Israel.[58] The fate of the Palestinian refugees today is a major point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[59][60]

In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics.[61][62] These years were marked by mass immigration of Holocaust survivors and an influx of Jews persecuted in Arab lands. The population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958.[63] Most arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma’abarot. By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities. The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea of Israel “doing business” with Germany.

During the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Arab fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip.[65] In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with Great Britain and France aimed at recapturing the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis). Despite capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Israel was forced to retreat due to pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.

At the start of the following decade, Israel captured Adolf Eichmann, an implementer of the Final Solution hiding in Argentina, and brought him to trial.[67] The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust[68] and to date Eichmann remains the only person sentenced to death by Israeli courts.

Conflicts and peace treaties

In 1967, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, during which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights.[70] The 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories. Jerusalem’s boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980, reaffirmed this measure and reignited international controversy over the status of Jerusalem.

In the early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which those responsible for the Munich massacre were tracked down and assassinated.[71] On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. The war ended on October 26 with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering great losses.[72] An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin’s Likud party took control from the Labor Party.[73] Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state.[74] In the two years that followed, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.[75] Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians across the Green Line, a plan which was never implemented.

In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese Civil War to destroy the bases from which the Palestine Liberation Organization launched attacks and missiles at northern Israel. That move developed into the First Lebanon War.[76] Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone until 2000. The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule,[77] broke out in 1987 with waves of violence occurring in the occupied territories. Over the following six years, more than a thousand people were killed in the ensuing violence, much of which was internal Palestinian violence.[78] During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO and many Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi missile attacks against Israel.

In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party promoted compromise with Israel’s neighbors.[81][82] The following year, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, on behalf of Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to self-govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in return for recognition of Israel’s right to exist and an end to terrorism.[83] In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.[84] Public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by a wave of attacks from Palestinians. The November 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a far-right-wing Jew, as he left a peace rally, shocked the country. At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron[85] and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.

Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it.[87] After the collapse of the talks, Palestinians began the Second Intifada.

Ariel Sharon soon after became the new prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier.[88] In January 2006, after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke which left him in a coma, the powers of office were transferred to Ehud Olmert. The kidnappings of Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hezbollah and the shelling of settlements on Israel’s northern border led to a five-week war, known in Israel as the Second Lebanon War. The conflict was brought to end by a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations. After the war, Israel’s Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, resigned.

On November 27, 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to begin negotiations on all issues, and to make every effort reach an agreement by the end of 2008.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
Geographic coordinates: 31 30 N, 34 45 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 20,770 sq km
land: 20,330 sq km
water: 440 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 1,017 km
border countries: Egypt 266 km, Gaza Strip 51 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307 km
Coastline: 273 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
Climate: temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
Terrain: Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m
Natural resources: timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand
Land use: arable land: 15.45%
permanent crops: 3.88%
other: 80.67% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,940 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1.7 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.05 cu km/yr (31%/7%/62%)
per capita: 305 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited arable land and natural fresh water resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: there are 242 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 0 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2005 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source
Politics Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic country with universal suffrage.[2] The President of Israel is the head of state, but his duties are largely ceremonial.[101] A Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament becomes the Prime Minister, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister is the head of government and head of the Cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties.[103] Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the Knesset can dissolve the government at any time by a no-confidence vote. The Basic Laws of Israel function as an unwritten constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws.

Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel’s six districts. The third and highest tier in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against decisions of state authorities.[105][106] Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court as it fears the court would be biased against it due to political pressure.[107] Israel’s legal system combines English common law, civil law, and Jewish law.[2] It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries.[105] Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges.

The Israeli Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties. Israel is the only country in the region ranked “Free” by Freedom House based on the level of civil and political rights; the “Israeli Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority” was ranked “Not Free.”[109] Similarly, Reporters Without Borders rated Israel 50th out of 168 countries in terms of freedom of the press and highest among Southwest Asian countries.[110] Nevertheless, groups such as Amnesty International[111] and Human Rights Watch[112] have often disapproved of Israel’s human rights record in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel’s civil liberties also allow for self-criticism, from groups such as B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.[113] Israel’s system of socialized medicine, which guarantees equal health care to all residents of the country, was anchored in law in 1995.

Israel is located in the region of the world (i.e.,Southwest Asia including North Africa) that is the ” . . . least hospitable to democracy. Of the 19 states in this broad region, only 2 Israel and Turkey are democratic (though in Turkey the military still retains a veto on many important issues).”

People Population: 6,426,679
note: includes about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.1% (male 858,246/female 818,690)
15-64 years: 64.2% (male 2,076,649/female 2,046,343)
65 years and over: 9.8% (male 269,483/female 357,268) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 29.9 years
male: 29.1 years
female: 30.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.154% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 17.71 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 6.17 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.048 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.015 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.754 male(s)/female
total population: 0.994 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.75 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.45 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.59 years
male: 77.44 years
female: 81.85 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.38 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 3,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 100 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Israeli(s)
adjective: Israeli
Ethnic groups: Jewish 76.4% (of which Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish 23.6% (mostly Arab) (2004)
Religions: Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2004)
Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.1%
male: 98.5%
female: 95.9%

Egypt’s Sisi Hinges on Developing Health, Education to Improve Living Conditions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt’s Sisi Hinges on Developing Health, Education to Improve Living Conditions

Thursday, 20 September, 2018 – 09:45
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (3rd L) visits police officer Mohamed el Hayes, who was rescued after being kidnapped during an attack in the Western Desert, at a military hospital in Cairo, Egypt on November 1, 2017 (Reuters)
Cairo – Mohamed Abdu Hassanein
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has revealed a huge interest in developing the education and health sectors to improve the living conditions of Egyptians.

During the inauguration of a number of development projects, Sisi said he would not allow citizens to suffer, promising to take the new education system to a whole new level.

The majority of Egyptians, living under the poverty line, fail in meeting their own basic needs and suffer from deteriorating health and education services amid growing inflation and a devalued currency.

Sisi inaugurated Wednesday a military hospital in Monufia governorate and a number of educational projects and new institutions, including Japanese schools, in several other provinces.

In his comment, he hailed the state’s initiative to eradicate queues in hospitals, noting however that the challenge in providing good medical services remains in the funding.

The president stated that queues had ended around 75 days after launching the initiative. The time-frame could have been shorter because Egypt has medical staff and hospitals that can offer medical services, he said.

Sisi urged civil society organizations to participate in the development and management of state hospitals.

He further tackled the screening campaign for Hepatitis C, saying it was launched because the virus has caused illnesses for the past 50 years.

Jordan: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Middle-Eastern Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Jordan

Introduction Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country’s long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, despite several wars and coup attempts. In 1989 he reinstituted parliamentary elections and gradual political liberalization; in 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, the son of King HUSSEIN, assumed the throne following his father’s death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and undertaken an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Parliamentary elections were held in November 2007 and saw independent pro-government candidates win the vast majority of seats. In November 2007, King Abdallah instructed his new prime minister to focus on socioeconomic reform, developing a healthcare and housing network for civilians and military personnel, and improving the educational system.
History Beginnings

With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations created the French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate Palestine. Approximately 90% of the British Mandate of Palestine was east of the Jordan river and was known as “Transjordan”. In 1921, the British gave semi-autonomous control of Transjordan to the future King Abdullah I of Jordan, of the Hashemite family. Abdullah I continued to rule until a Palestinian Arab assassinated him in 1951 on the steps of the Mosque of Omar. At first he ruled “Transjordan”, under British supervision until after World War II. In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following this approval, the Jordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah as the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, which had been under its control since the armistice that followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom (de facto in the case of East Jerusalem).

In 1965, there was an exchange of land between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Jordan gave up a relatively large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of sea-shore near Aqaba.

Jordan signed a mutual defence pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war against Israel along with Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel (the western sector having been under Israeli control). In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

Refugees and Black September / AKA White September

The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians, especially from the West Bank, living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population — 700,000 in 1966 — grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The fedayeen were targeted by King’s (Hussien) armed forces, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. The battle in which Palestinian fighters from various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September, it is also known as white September to many.

The heaviest fighting occurred in northern Jordan and Amman. The Syrian army battled the Jordanian army in Amman and other urban areas. The global media portrayed King Hussein as a corrupt King slaughtering the Palestinian refugees. Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force invaded northern Jordan to support the fedayeen but subsequently retreated. It is said by some people, such as Ahmed Jibril, that King Hussein asked for help from Israel,[1] then Israel threatened that it would invade Jordan if Syria intervened. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces led by Habis Al-Majali with the help of the Iraqi forces (who had bases in Jordan after the war of 1967),[1] won a decisive victory over the fedayeen on July 1971, expelling them from the country.

At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan agreed, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, thereby relinquishing to that organization its role as representative of the West Bank.

Post Black September and Peace Treaty

Fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf War of 1990–91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian fedayeen representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel at the Madrid Conference, sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on July 25, 1994 (see Washington Declaration). As a result, an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was concluded on October 26, 1994. Following the outbreak of Israel-Palestinian Authority fighting in September 2000, the Jordanian government offered its good offices to both parties. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.

Recent events

On November 9, 2005 Jordan experienced three simultaneous bombings at hotels in Amman. At least 57 people died and 115 were wounded. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq”, a group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a native Jordanian, claimed responsibility.

Geography Location: Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 31 00 N, 36 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 92,300 sq km
land: 91,971 sq km
water: 329 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Indiana
Land boundaries: total: 1,635 km
border countries: Iraq 181 km, Israel 238 km, Saudi Arabia 744 km, Syria 375 km, West Bank 97 km
Coastline: 26 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
Climate: mostly arid desert; rainy season in west (November to April)
Terrain: mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west; Great Rift Valley separates East and West Banks of the Jordan River
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Jabal Ram 1,734 m
Natural resources: phosphates, potash, shale oil
Land use: arable land: 3.32%
permanent crops: 1.18%
other: 95.5% (2005)
Irrigated land: 750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 0.9 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.01 cu km/yr (21%/4%/75%)
per capita: 177 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba and as the Arab country that shares the longest border with Israel and the occupied West Bank
People Population: 6,053,193 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33% (male 1,018,934/female 977,645)
15-64 years: 63% (male 2,037,550/female 1,777,361)
65 years and over: 4% (male 117,279/female 124,424) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 23.5 years
male: 24.1 years
female: 22.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.412% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 20.69 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 2.68 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.042 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.146 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.943 male(s)/female
total population: 1.102 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 16.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.33 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.55 years
male: 76.04 years
female: 81.22 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.55 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 600 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 500 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Jordanian(s)
adjective: Jordanian
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%
Religions: Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shi’a Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.9%
male: 95.1%
female: 84.7%

Saudi Forces Take Part in US-Led Military Exercises in Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Forces Take Part in US-Led Military Exercises in Egypt

Saturday, 8 September, 2018 – 19:00
The Bright Star 2018 military drills kick off in Egypt. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Saudi forces took part in US-led military exercises in conducted in Egypt.

The US-Egyptian Bright Star 2018 exercise kicked off on Saturday with the participation of Greece, Britain, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Italy and France, in addition to observers from 16 countries.

Commanding officer of the participating Saudi force Colonel Nasser bin Hatlin al-Suhaimi said that their involvement is part of a pre-training curriculum prepared for the armed forces to engage in joint exercises, reported the Saudi Press Agency.

The exercise covers anti-terrorism operations and include training on combat, sea landing, diving, medical insurance and the use of live ammunition.

Saudi forces took part in this exercise with paratroopers and special security forces units, which have been assigned to carry out a number of major operational duties, especially combating terrorism and piracy.

Egypt Sentences 75 to Death

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt Sentences 75 to Death, Hundreds to Jail Over 2013 Sit-In

Saturday, 8 September, 2018 – 14:30
This picture shows detainees inside the soundproof glass dock of the courtroom during the trial of 700 defendants including Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, in the capital Cairo, on September 8, 2018. Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP
Cairo- Asharq Al-Awsat
An Egyptian court on Saturday issued death sentences for 75 people, including prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and jailed more than 600 others over a 2013 sit-in which ended with the killing of hundreds of protesters by security forces.

The sentencing concluded the mass trial of some 700 people accused of offenses including murder and inciting violence during the pro-Muslim Brotherhood protest at Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo.

The government says many protesters were armed and that eight members of the security forces were killed.

In Saturday’s hearing at the vast Tora prison complex south of Cairo, a criminal court sentenced to death by hanging several Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Essam al-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi and preacher Safwat Higazi.

Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie and dozens more were given life sentences, judicial sources said. Others received jail sentences ranging from five to 15 years.

Furthermore, the court handed a five-year jail sentence to award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid.

Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, is however expected to walk free soon, his lawyer said.

Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 as he covered deadly clashes in Cairo between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

He was accused of “murder and membership of a terrorist organization” — charges that can carry the death penalty — but has already spent five years in jail.

Shawkan should, therefore, be able to leave prison “within a few days”, his lawyer Karim Abdelrady said as he welcomed the verdict.

New carbon-dating tool could pinpoint ancient eruption, gauge if tied to Exodus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

A NEW CHRONOLOGY

New carbon-dating tool could pinpoint ancient eruption, gauge if tied to Exodus

Calibration technique aims to show exactly when Thera erupted on Santorini, some 4,000 years ago. Volcanic blast has been linked to rise and fall of civilizations, even the Plagues

  • Assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)
    Assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)
  • Ancient wood sample used by assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)
    Ancient wood sample used by assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)
  • Image of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on Greek island of Santorini where the volcano Thera erupted, wiping out the island. (Gretchen Gibbs)
    Image of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on Greek island of Santorini where the volcano Thera erupted, wiping out the island. (Gretchen Gibbs)
  • In a May 26, 2018 photo, area residents, the media and national guard flock to what is now the end of Leilani Avenue to take in the fiery show at fissures 2, 7 and 8 of the Kilauea volcano near Pahoa. (George F. Lee/The Honolulu Advertiser via AP)
    In a May 26, 2018 photo, area residents, the media and national guard flock to what is now the end of Leilani Avenue to take in the fiery show at fissures 2, 7 and 8 of the Kilauea volcano near Pahoa. (George F. Lee/The Honolulu Advertiser via AP)
  • The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin, 1634 (Public Domain)
    The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin, 1634 (Public Domain)

The ancient eruption of Thera on the Greek island of Santorini has long been a font for popular flights of fancy. The volcano’s devastating blast — volcanic rock has been discovered as far away as Greenland — was thought by Plato to be the source of the famous Greek legend of Atlantis. With black ash-filled skies, pillars of fire, and disastrous tsunamis that may have reached the shores of Egypt, the eruption’s potential fallout is used as “scientific” source material by some theorists to explain the Book of Exodus plagues, and even the parting of the Red Sea.

While these theories do not currently get much mileage in academic circles, the allure and mystery of the very real eruption of Thera is abiding among scholars attempting to pinpoint its actual occurrence. And because it was such a terrifically cataclysmic event in the Mediterranean, if scientists are able to accurately date the blast, other ancient “floating,” or unattributable, dates may fall into place in its wake.

Now, a University of Arizona study on carbon dating methodology could catalyze a shift in the timeline for ancient Mediterranean chronology, and potentially set a firm date for the natural disaster.

In a new article published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances called “Annual radiocarbon record indicates 16th century BCE date for the Thera eruption,” an interdisciplinary team led by dendrochronologist, or tree-ring expert, Dr. Charlotte Pearson attempts to use high-resolution radiocarbon dating methods to firm up the Thera blast, one of the most elusively undated events of the ancient world.

Using the study of tree-rings’ radiocarbon-14 molecules, alongside a new proposed annual radiocarbon calibration curve (as opposed to the current decade-averaging approach), Pearson’s team aims to arrive at a more precise dating for the blast.

Assistant professor of dendrochronology at the University of Arizona Dr. Charlotte Pearson. (Peter Brewer)

This data, along with radiocarbon dates of several organic samples frozen in time immediately preceding the volcano’s eruption, will then be synchronized with archaeological evidence from sites where Thera pumice was discovered, including the Aegean, Egypt, and the Levant — in particular Israel’s Tel Ashkelon and Tel el-Ajjul in Gaza.

The Odeon at Ashkelon was shaped in a semi-circle and probably held either city council meetings or musical events – or both. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am, at Tel Ashkelon)

“What we are trying to do is be part of the global realization that the radiocarbon calibration method is ready for an improvement. Because now the technology is there to measure the radiocarbon in every single tree ring, and we’re just pulling out one treasure from the box — in this instance the carbon-14, and seeing how that can be applied to improve the way we date material in the Mediterranean… and anywhere in the world,” said Pearson, in a video explaining her project.

The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin, 1634. (Public Domain)

One of the ongoing problems in dating the Thera eruption is that the timings derived from radiocarbon dating and archaeological evidence do not currently match up: The radiocarbon testing of contemporary organic material consistently results in a date of the late 17th century BCE. However, when archaeological evidence is also taken into account, two schools of thought are formed — a “high” or “low” chronology — which place the blast date about 100-150 years apart, from 1650-1500 BCE.

Now Pearson proposes that the calibration curve may be shifted to an annual resolution to resolve the discrepancy.

“We can use the annual precision of tree rings in combination with carbon-14 to underpin some big questions in terms of the rise and fall of civilizations,” said Pearson. “We can look at the tree rings as a timeline and connect with people that lived in the past, and I think that gives us more of a sense of who we are, but also a sense of where we’re going and perhaps ways to deal with some of the issues that we might collectively face.”

How does C-14 dating work?

Radiocarbon testing was developed by an American former Manhattan Project scientist, physicist Willard Libby, as a tool for archaeologists to date ancient organic material in the wake of World War II. In theory, when radioactive atmospheric rays hit nitrogen in the atmosphere, they form radiocarbon, an isotope that is distinctive in that it has eight neutrons and an atomic mass of 14 (thus the term “C-14”).

In the atmosphere, the C-14 is mixed with oxygen to form radioactive carbon dioxide, which is then “inhaled” by plants through photosynthesis. The plants are ingested by animals and transported through their bodies. When the flora or the fauna die, the C-14 also begins to decay. The smaller the amount of C-14, the older the sample, which is then assigned a date according to a calibration scale.

The current iteration of the calibration scale, called IntCal13, was crystalized in 2013 and is increasingly seen as a not fully reliable measure for assigning dates. The curve is based on securely dated findings taken from trees, usually oaks or conifers, from the northern hemisphere. But a recent study from Cornell University’s Prof. Sturt Manning asks whether these hardy northern trees are a good source or have the same growing patterns as, for example, olive, which is grown in arid regions such as the Levant.

Prof. Sturt Manning coring an example multi-century old Juniperus phoenicea tree near Petra in southern Jordan of the type employed in the Taybet Zaman buildings. (Sturt Manning, Cornell University)

An additional wrinkle, says the new Pearson study, is that the decadal or semi-decadal approach used by most labs today averages and flattens spikes in data. In her study, Pearson pushes for a more high-resolution, single-year focus, instead of taking decades of data and averaging them, so anomalies such as the Thera eruption could be more precisely addressed.

Pearson explained in an email to The Times of Israel that her team attempted to create an annual average plateau from the C-14 records gleaned from individual securely dated tree-rings, such as Irish oak trees and the North American bristlecone pine.

The next stage was to study how annual tree rings’ C-14 readings were affected during “spike” events, and how the calibration curve could be improved to accommodate these one-off occasions.

View of the damage caused by the eruption of the Fuego Volcano in village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, taken on June 5, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Johan ORDONEZ

“Such events have already been shown to have a powerful role as anchor points for synchronizing chronologies. But we also wanted to test, given the large amount of annual data that are now being published, how such data might contribute to the onward improvement of the radiocarbon calibration curve. I.e., is there any point in spending time and money on a lot of annual 14C measurements? Could it help improve calibration?” asked Pearson.

In general, the team found there would not be massive shifts in radiocarbon dating calibration using this annual approach — except for cases of catastrophic events such as the Thera eruption.

A radiocarbon ripple effect

The Thera eruption, the focus of the study, was a “spike” in radiocarbon evidence, and its dating could potentially be improved with an annual calibration — to the benefit of many other ancient Mediterranean chronologies.

“The event has been intensively studied from archaeological and paleoenvironmental perspectives because it provides a geological marker that, if precisely dated, could synchronize Bronze Age histories of the Aegean, Egypt, and the Near East and anchor a wide range of contemporary environmental data,” according to the paper.

Assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)

One such example of how dating Thera could influence other cultures is the dating of pharaonic Egypt: It is possible the Thera eruption was noted in contemporary or close-to-contemporary documents found in Thebes.

Recently, new readings of ancient Egyptian inscriptions have led scientists to propose an Egyptian documentation of the disaster. On the Tempest Stela, the Pharaoh Ahmose describes a major catastrophic climactic event, including loud explosion, earthquakes, and darkness, according to Nadine Moellerassociate Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.

“It is now time to consider the possibility that the Tempest Stela is indeed a contemporary record of the cataclysmic Thera event,” Moeller wrote in a 2014 article.

According to a 2014 University of Chicago press release about the Stela, Ahmose was the first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, which marked the beginning of the powerful New Kingdom. For decades, scholars have debated the actual start-date of the New Kingdom era. Assuming the Tempest Stela is dated in close proximity to the Thera eruption, then Egyptian pharaonic chronology would have a new “anchor” for its timeline.

The Pearson article writes that “evidence indicates that the eruption occurred after the start of the New Kingdom in Egypt, which, according to proponents of conventional, archaeologically based chronology, is considered to be sometime after c.1550 to 1500 BCE.”

A picture taken on September 9, 2017 shows Egyptian archaeologist restoring a wooden sacrophagus at a newly-uncovered ancient tomb for a goldsmith dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Amun, in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west bank of the ancient city of Luxor, which boasts ancient Egyptian temples and burial grounds.(AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

However, according to the Pearson study, “direct radiocarbon evidence for the Thera eruption currently places this event multiple decades earlier than the earliest possible start of the New Kingdom.”

For example, in 2006, an olive tree on Santorini that was buried under volcanic ash was radiocarbon dated, and found to pinpoint the Thera eruption between 1621-1605 BCE. While this discrepancy is a blink in terms of the historical record (or the current lifespan of the State of Israel), it causes a clear conundrum for archaeologists and historians.

But is Pearson’s annual approach to solving spikes such as Thera earth shattering?

In her study, she writes, “No definitive calibrated radiocarbon range for the Thera eruption is currently possible, but the altered position of the 14C plateau indicates that improved calibration has much to offer chronological synchronization of human and environmental timelines in this period.” To paraphrase, while she cannot arrive at a solid timing for Thera, the methodology of the calibration curve may still benefit.

Cornell University’s Goldwin Smith Professor of Classical Archaeology in the Department of Classics and director of the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory Sturt Manning. (courtesy)

Fellow dendrochronologist Sturt Manning, a professor at Cornell University, told The Times of Israel that the Pearson study has an “impressive dataset” and that the results were “a little bit of a surprise,” for which he awaits confirmation from other labs.

“I suspect when other labs have run data on 1-year samples in this period the ‘real’ picture will be somewhere between the previous one and the Pearson et al. findings. So some change but rather less dramatic,” Manning said.

“Even so, Pearson et al. over-claim. Their revised curve, even if right, does modify dates just in this period, yes. But where there are sequences of 14C dates from longer order series, whether archaeological, or from the series of Pharaohs, etc., then it will make much less difference as the rest of the calibration curve is not changed they say,” he wrote.

A source for Exodus?

The new dating doesn’t only affect the timing of the eruption of Thera or Pharaoh Ahmose’s reign and the start of the New Kingdom. It could also help assign dates to other important events such as the end of the Babylonian Empire, as well as the rise and fall of the Anatolian Hittites and the mysterious Semitic-speaking people called Hyksos.

The Exodus: Illustration of Moses leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt in the Kaufmann Haggadah, 14th century. (Wikimedia Commons)

Some theorists say dating Thera could solidify the natural source of the Exodus narrative as well.

Asked whether she sees her study as having implications on the dating of the roots of the biblical Exodus story, Pearson questioned her qualifications to answer. In an email she wrote, “All I can say is that continued work to improve chronological frameworks is essential for the study of past civilizations!”

Image of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on Greek island of Santorini where the volcano Thera erupted, wiping out the island. (Gretchen Gibbs)

There is no doubt the eruption was an event of biblical proportions. According to Greek archaeologist Christos G. Doumas who excavated on Santorini from the 1970s to 1990s, “When the volcano literally ‘blew its top,’ the sides of the mountain collapsed into the abyss; then the sea poured into this great caldera — 32 square miles of it… The blast was so powerful that the eruption column reached an estimated height of 20 miles, sending particles of dust hundreds of miles away,” writes Doumas in a 1991 Biblical Archaeology Review article.

Every decade or so, there is a scholar or ostensible scholar willing to go on record and state that the Thera blast may have caused the Exodus narrative. In the 1980s, Johns Hopkins Prof. Hans Goedicke was lauded by the New York Times, then raked over the coals for his suggestions.

An entertaining, if not entirely drily factual, 2006 documentary called “The Exodus Decoded” by Canadian “Indiana Jones” filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and producer/director James Cameron caused waves of backlashin scholarly circles.

In general, the theories state that Thera jump-started tsunamis that could have caused the parting of seas (location is subject to change depending upon the scholar). Additionally, it may have sparked a pillar of fire in the sky visible as far as Egypt.

Other environmental effects of the Thera eruption likewise may have caused “some major hemisphere-wide climate episodes” that could link to the plagues, wrote Cornell’s Manning in an email outlining the more popular theories. Some scientists tie the dating to the Israelites in Jericho, based on radiocarbon dating of the city’s destruction.

The linkage between Thera and the Exodus narrative is fodder for numerous articles, books, and even conferences, including the one held in 2013 at UC San Diego called “Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination” where University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Mark Harris, a former physicist and current theologian, delivered the lecture “The Thera Theories: Science and the Modern Reception History of the Exodus.”

In his witty 20-minute talk, Harris broke down the various “Thera theories,” and noted that, regardless of their pseudo-scientific questionable veracity, the “volcano remains a rich resource for the imagination.”

The theologian said that implementing it as an interpretation of the miracles is as legitimate as reading the text through a feminist lens or through liberation theology.

“The Thera theories give us ‘scientific readings.’ They challenge or inspire the imagination without necessarily requiring a firm historical commitment that this is what really happened,” said Harris.

He personally does not think Thera had a role in the Exodus, but clearly fathoms the impulse of those who do.

“There is a fascination with the Bible in the popular imagination, and there’s a fascination with science, and when the two get together, you literally get an explosive combination,” said Harris.