in case you were wondering where kids can pee in the ben gurion airport

i arrived in israel without incident. i had a wonderful flight on us air.

i flew on us airways from lax to tel aviv via philadelphia. i love the new airbus 330. each seat (and there was no one next to me :) has an on demand touch screen for tv shows (i watched flight of the conchords), movies (i watched australia) music, games, etc. the meals were great too. us air really impressed me.

the ben gurion airport is nice. i had a quick time at the passport checkpoint. however, i had to chuckle when i stepped into a bathroom and saw the following sign on the wall. just in case you needed to know where children can pee in the airport:

Children Pee Here

In case you wanted to know where children can pee at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

the sign was above that one urinal that is lower to the ground than the others. it is written in multiple languages for the international traveler. hebrew and english appear on the top, and the pee stream appears to be written in braille. ;-)

anywho, all is well in israel, an now you know where your kids can pee when you get to ben gurion.

rom dead sea scrolls exhibition breaks record

in the midst of a global economic downturn, toronto has something about which to be very excited: the royal ontairo museum’s exhibition of the dead sea scrolls was a huge success. according to canada’s national post:

“Words that Changed the World,” is the most popular exhibition staged at the Royal Ontario Museum in the past nine years.

the numbers are quite impressive:

331,500 people visited the exhibit between its opening on June 27, 2009 and its January 3 closing earlier this year. That makes the exhibit the most successful since Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids almost a decade ago.

according to the museum’s press release,

From the exhibition’s June 27, 2009 opening to its January 3, 2010 closing, an exceptional 331, 500 visitors responded to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. This attendance includes those viewing the Ten Commandments Scroll, on display at the ROM for only 80 hours from October 10 through October 18, 2009. The great appeal of these presentations led to the Royal Ontario Museum’s 2009 attendance reaching 1,024,964 visitors. This figure includes Dead Sea Scrolls’school visits of approximately 12,000 students and accompanying adults, as well as over 790 organized groups representing approximately 23,000 visitors.

it is encouraging to see that 12,000 students got to see the scrolls. i’m always encouraged when young minds get to see anything ancient.

according to the press release the distinguished lecture series was also highly successful:

Approximately 4,500 people attended the Anne Tanenbaum Lecture Series, making it the largest, most successful lecture series in the ROM’s history.

the fact that 4,500 people were willing to pay to come and hear professional nerds talk about the scrolls also speaks to the intelligence of the toronto residents and visitors. imho, the distinguished lecturer series was a perfect blend of dss scholars, and one of the best and most relevant programs ever assembled.

so, despite drummed up protests across from the entrance, the rom experienced record attendance. i’m trying to determine what was different about the toronto exhibition that was not present in san diego and raleigh/durham. why was the toronto exhibition so positive? can anyone think of anything?

anywho, congrats to the rom, its administration, all the participants, and the curator, dr. risa levitt kohn for all their hard work. your success is well deserved!

earliest hebrew inscription reported found

Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon

Professor Gershon Galil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa claims this inscription on a pottery shard discovered in the Elah valley dating from the 10th century BCE is the earliest example of Hebrew writing. Courtesy of the University of Haifa

researchers at haifa university are claiming that the ostracon discovered in 2008 at khirbet qeiyafa contains the earliest example of hebrew writing. professor gershon galil of the department of biblical studies at the university of haifa has translated the text of the faded ostracon. according to a press release:

The inscription itself, which was written in ink on a 15 cm X 16.5 cm trapezoid pottery shard, was discovered a year and a half ago at excavations that were carried out by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley. The inscription was dated back to the 10th century BCE, which was the period of King David’s reign, but the question of the language used in this inscription remained unanswered, making it impossible to prove whether it was in fact Hebrew or another local language.

galil’s english translation reads as follows:

1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

galil uses the ostracon to argue that hebrew was established much earlier that most scholars date the origin of the language. while the gezer calendar, which dates to approximately the same period is a simple text telling the reader when to plant and when to harvest and may have served as a school text, this qeiyafa ostracon echoes some of the teachings that would later be found in the bible, such as caring for slaves, widows, orphans, infants, foreigners, and the poor.

a few comments and questions should surely be asked:

  1. what was the context of the sherd? this is instrumental in ruling out forgery. the ostracon came from the elah fortress excavation. the new york times’ ethan bronner wrote an article highlighting the excavation. there is an excellent timeline of the discovery of the ostracon.
  2. is the translation accurate? scholars will no doubt debate each letter of the transcription and translation. stephen smuts has blogged about a youtube video where professors hagai misgav and yosef garfinkel discuss their translation of the ostracon. galil’s translation will be sure to continue the debate.
  3. does this prove the existence of king david? the answer is no (nor does it arge against his existence). what it does show is that hebrew (if it is determined to be, in fact, hebrew and not some canaanite dialect) writing was practiced in the 10th century bce. this would support the presence of literate hebrew scribes at qeiyafa. whether the presence of scribes in a smaller coastal town supports the existence of an even larger israelite presence in jerusalem is yet to be seen. we cannot assume that just because someone in a small town southwest of jerusalem can write in hebrew means that there are even more people writing in a capitol in jerusalem. what it would tell us is that literacy was more common and widespread at an earlier period than previously thought. of course, none of this lends any evidence to the existence or absence of king david, but a widespread literacy of hebrew in the 10th century bce could be used as evidence of an established or coordinated scribal system in israel.
  4. does this mean that the bible was written earlier than we thought? no. because the text of the ostracon only makes references to themes that would later appear in biblical books, and does not cite them specifically, we cannot say that the bible was composed at any earlier of a date than the 7th-to-1st century bce periods that scholars already date the bible. conservative scholars argue that some portions of the bible were written as early as the 8th century reign of king hezekiah (with some archaic hebrew songs and poems perhaps dating a bit earlier), and other scholars date the composition of the bible to the 6th and 5th centuries bce, during and after the exile to babylon. still other minimalist scholars date the composition of the bible to the 3rd and 2nd centuries bce. (some books like daniel and esther were written even later and date to the second and first centuries bce). thus, we cannot state that this ostracon requires us to date the biblical texts to an earlier period. what we can say is that the themes of social justice and care of the poor and marginalized that would later be echoed in the torah and by the prophetic books were already in the consciousness of the peoples that would later com to identify themselves as jews.
  5. does this prove the story of david and goliath is true? no. better yet, not on your life! the story of david and goliath claims to have taken place in a valley where this ostracon was discovered. here’s a great rule of thumb in archaeology: just because something – anything – was found in a place where a legendary story is said to have taken place does not prove the story. it does nothing. it’s as if i told you that i floated in mid air unaided at ucla. you then traveled to ucla and found a flip flop that said ‘rainbow’ on it. you then tell the world that you discovered a rainbow flip flop in the same place that cargill claims to have floated in mid air. this does not make my story valid, it just means that the place i claimed to have done something exists. likewise, the discovery of this ostracon in the place where david was said to have battled goliath does not in any way lend evidence to the historicity of the legend. it only means that there is a place named the valley of elah. this, of course, won’t stop reporters form mentioning david and goliath.

links

http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2010/01/linguistics-and-dating-of-texts.html

http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2010/01/etching-hints-bible-is-older-than-thought-earliest-hebrew-inscription-found/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+TheChurchOfJesusChrist+(The+Church+of+Jesus+Christ)&utm_content=Google+Reader

http://jamestabor.com/2010/01/07/oldest-hebrew-text-deciphered/

http://www.dailyhebrew.com/2010/01/07/update-10th-century-khirbet-qeiyafa-inscription/

a satire for creation literalists

Lord God, Creator of All, caught thousands of Sumerian farmers and mathematicians somewhat off guard.

in perhaps one of the greatest news websites on earth, the onion posted an article entitled, ‘sumerians look on in confusion as god creates world,’ which juxtaposes the supposed chronology of a literal six-day creation from the bible with archaeological evidence of sumerians, who existed more than a thousand years earlier than the supposed creation of the earth. it’s worth a read for the humor, but also to highlight the fact that so few people are even aware that ancient cultures existed and even thrived before the supposed 4004 bce creation of the earth.

(just a note of clarification: the sumerians are real. they existed long before bishop ussher dated the creation of the earth to 4004 bce. the joke is that we have modern, archaeological, factual, real, verifiable evidence of sumerians working, reproducing, writing, and thriving long before 4000 bce, the supposed creation of the earth.)

enjoy

twitter suspends huffington post impersonation account

Twitter Logo

social networking site twitter today suspended an account because it attempted to impersonate the huffington post. twitter suspended the account, @huffpostnews, because it was designed to look like the huffington post’s twitter feed, @huffingtonpost, and made numerous negative and insulting comments about left-leaning public figures like president barack obama and msnbc news anchors keith olbermann and rachel maddow.

the associated press reports:

A Huffington Post spokesman says the left-leaning news and opinion Web site was not hacked when a Twitter social network feed emerged in its name and began issuing insults with a conservative bent.

Mario Ruiz tells The Associated Press in an e-mail Saturday that the account isn’t operated by The Huffington Post, but was set up to appear as though it was. He followed up later Saturday to say that Twitter had suspended the account.

again, i repeat: impersonation is a crime. phishing websites that attempt to lure internet surfers to their sites by mimicking or impersonating real sites should be punished. sites that utilize anonymity and aliases that impersonate known figures are illegal too, especially when the false accounts are used to harass, defame, and libel their victims. even first amendment champions like twitter know this. (too bad nowpublic didn’t know this…)

la times article examines cyber bullying in south korea

apparently, i’m not the only one having to confront issues of cyber harassment.

internet crime continues to be a growing problem worldwide. in addition to hacking, internet scams, and online theft, issues of cyber libel, defamation, and online harassment are also a growing concern. as many know, i suffered from online harassment for nearly two years. fortunately (or unfortunately), raphael golb, son of university of chicago oriental institute historian norman golb, crossed the line and expanded his smear campaign from the civil to the criminal to include acts of forgery, identity theft, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment – crimes for which he has been arrested and is being prosecuted by the new york district attorney’s office. (details are available at who-is-charles-gadda.com.)

john m. glionna wrote a jan 2, 2010 article for the los angeles times entitled, ‘Cyber bullies reign in South Korea.’ in the story, he speaks to the growing concern of cyber bullies, noting that because

99% of citizens between the ages of 10 and 39 use the Internet, cyber thugs carry inordinate social weight.

In recent years, celebrities, authors and ordinary South Koreans have been subjected to relentless online assaults — at times with disastrous, or even lethal, effects.

the article focuses mostly upon legislative efforts to quell online ‘insults’ made anonymously, but these efforts rightly raise questions of free speech. but make no mistake: the practice of cyber bullying, online intimidation, libel, de facto accusations in the form of baseless hypothetical questions, and outright defamation (or whatever you want to call it) against individuals from beneath the presumed cloak of anonymity is growing. and while everyone wants to preserve the right to free speech, repeated, targeted attacks on individuals (anonymous or not) with the intent of harming their professional development or otherwise causing them fiscal damage is still illegal.

cowards that hide in the shadowy recesses of the internet for fear of being sued for saying things they would otherwise never say in their own name is growing to absurd proportions, and defamation, libel, and cyber bullying laws are just now beginning to catch up with the various technologies like blogging, message boards, distribution lists, and discussion groups that are used to commit these crimes on the internet. and, much like at the outset of the internet, when many claimed that pesky, traditional laws like sales tax and copyright were no longer valid, new defamation rulings are beginning to make their way into the legal system.

however, in the end, cyber libel is still libel, and is remedied in civil court, whether it is done under an attempted internet anonymity or not. indeed, the very purpose of using aliases is to duck libel and defamation accusations in the first place. if you can’t get caught, you can’t get sued (or so the thinking goes). how much more are one’s motives laid bare when one opts for using an alias to make criticisms of another?

of course, for raphael golb, civil suits concerning defamation, harassment, and libel are merely secondary at this point. for when defamation and libel cross from the civil realm into the criminal, and smear campaigns evolve from repeated targeted criticism and harassment to identity theft, impersonation, aggravated harassment, and forgery, then one has committed serious crime, for these are still very illegal, whether they take place online or not.

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