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Archaeologists Uncover Life of Luxury in 2,000-year-old Priestly Quarters of Jerusalem

A bird's eye view of the Mt. Zion excavation, as seen from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, Photo Credit: Kevin Caldwell

A bird’s eye view of the Mt. Zion excavation, as seen from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, Photo Credit: Kevin Caldwell

Archaeologists excavating in the heart of ancient Jerusalem have begun to uncover the neighborhood that housed the elite 2,000 years ago – most probably the priestly ruling class.

One of the houses had its own cistern, a mikveh (a Jewish ritual bathing pool), a barrel-vaulted ceiling and a chamber with three bread ovens.

Inside a room found with its ceiling intact was a bathtub – an extremely rare luxury that commoners of the time could not afford.

Bathtubs, as opposed to ritual dipping pools, have so far only been found at King Herod’s palaces in Masada and Jericho, and in the so-called “Priestly Mansion” in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.  Read more at Haaretz.

Synagogue from Second Temple era unearthed on Sea of Galilee shore

Synagogue from Second Temple era unearthed on Sea of Galilee shore

Synagogue from Second Temple era unearthed on Sea of Galilee shore

The excavation of a 2,000-yearold Jewish settlement and synagogue from the Second Temple period in Magdala, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, recently revealed rare and well-preserved antiquities, including a bronze incense shovel and jug.

The dig, overseen by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of a building there, took place in an area considered to be the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history for its historical and religious significance for both Jews and Christians.

Magdala was once a large Jewish settlement in the early Roman period. Its Greek name, “Taricheae,” means “place where fish are salted,” possibly alluding to the main source of income of the city’s inhabitants two millennia ago.  Read more at The Jerusalem Post.

U.S. Acknowledges Cash Payment to Iran Was ‘Leverage’ in Prisoner Release

Story Via: Wall Street Journal


State Department confirms U.S. refused to allow Iran to take $400 million cash payment until plane carrying freed Americans left Tehran

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration said for the first time on Thursday that its $400 million cash payment to Iran in January was used as “leverage” to gain the release of American prisoners, fueling criticism that the exchange amounted to a U.S. payment of ransom.

State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the U.S. refused to allow Iran to take possession of the cash until a plane carrying the freed Americans had taken off from Tehran.

“If you’re asking me was there a connection in that regard, at the end game, I’m not going to deny that,” Mr. Kirby said at a State Department press briefing.

“We took advantage of leverage that we felt we could have to make sure that they got out safely and efficiently,” he added.

Mr. Kirby was responding to questions about a report in The Wall Street Journal disclosing that an Iranian cargo plane was not permitted by the U.S. to leave Geneva with $400 million in euros, Swiss francs and other currencies until the Americans had left Tehran.

The exchange took place on Jan. 17.

Administration officials, including President Barack Obama, have said the cash payment was not ransom because the $400 million was money the U.S. already owed to Iran over a failed arms deal from more than three decades ago.

U.S. officials also have said that the prisoner release and the arms-deal settlement took place through two separate diplomatic channels, and denied that the two were linked.

Read more at WSJ

“Gaza World Vision director diverted millions to Hamas’s military wing”

Story Via: Washington Post


The Gaza head of the U.S.-based humanitarian aid organization World Vision funneled as much as $7 million a year over the past 10 years to Hamas’s terror activities, Israel’s domestic security agency said Thursday.

The Shin Bet said the aid group’s Gaza director, Mohammed el-Halabi, is an active figure in Hamas’s military wing. He was indicted by Israeli authorities Thursday, accused of diverting some 60 percent of World Vision’s annual budget for Gaza to Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that rules the coastal enclave. He was charged with transferring money and working with a terror group.

Hamas is viewed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union. Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2009.

Read the full story at Washington Post