Defense officials seek to restore the policy of ambiguity regarding Israeli strikes, but Netanyahu has all but ended it Noa Landau and Yaniv Kubovich
Feb 13, 2019 9:41 AM
Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu confirmed on Tuesday evening that Israel struck Hezbollah
targets in Syria
the previous day. The confirmation runs contrary to the position of the Israeli
defense establishment, as senior defense officials refrained from addressing
the incident on the Syrian Golan Heights.
“We operate every day, including yesterday, against
Iran and its attempts to entrench itself in the region,” Netanyahu said as
he set out to attend an international
conference on the Middle East in Warsaw.
Senior defense officials say the decision not to respond
to the reports on the strike stemmed from the desire to renew the policy of
ambiguity of recent years. The fact that the targets were Hezbollah position on
the Golan is what prompted the officials to demand the defense establishment
remain mum on the reports coming in from Syria.
Israel’s policy of ambiguity regarding its Syria strikes
has been all-but-lifted recently by Netanyahu and former IDF Chief of Staff
“Iran is issuing threats against us. On the fortieth
anniversary of their revolution, they threatened to destroy Tel Aviv and
said that they won’t succeed and if they try it will be the last
anniversary they celebrate,” Netanyahu added.
“We are constantly operating according to our
assessments and needs to prevent Iran and its satellites from forming
bases near our northern border or in our area at all,” Netanyahu
said at a naval base in Haifa earlier Tuesday, adding: “We do whatever
Monday’s attack apparently targeted Hezbollah forces, with
the goal of driving them away from the Israeli border.
“We are operating through a lot of different means
and elements against their attempts to arm up on nuclear weapons and ballistic
missiles. We also halt their attempts to entrench themselves in Syria,”
the prime minister said of Israeli actions to fend off Iranian threats in the
Netanyahu also noted that Israel’s relations with
countries in the Middle East “are very good. With all of them except for
“Descriptions according to which we are disconnected
[from countries around us]
are the opposite of the reality. Relations are
tightening. Not everything is out in the open but some of it is,” he added.
Addressing the conference in Warsaw that he will
participate in and that the Palestinians have chosen to shun, the prime
minister said he “doesn’t think the deal of the century [or Trump’s peace
plan] will be at the center of discussions.”
Challenge along the border
Israeli intelligence officials said that Iran and
Hezbollah haven’t given up their desire to open a new front against Israel in
the Golan. All the intelligence agencies’ scenarios predict that Lebanon-based
Shi’ite organization will try to challenge Israel along the Syrian border, and
that Iran will attempt to exploit these efforts.
Israel proudly announced last year that it had reached
understandings with Russia and the United States under which.
Monday’s incident casts doubt on the promises Israel said
it received from Russia and the U.S., which stipulated that Iran and its
proxies would be kept at least 80 kilometers from the Syrian-Israeli border, as
the apparent targets were forward outposts of Hezbollah in the Golan, just a
few kilometers from the Israeli border.
And while Israel has made significant efforts to enforce
the agreement itself, it doesn’t seem to be succeeding.
The defense establishment thinks that today, Iran has very
few officers and advisers in Syria, and Hezbollah has also significantly
reduced its forces there. Nevertheless, both Iranian and Hezbollah personnel
remain in the country.
Iran’s main activity in Syria now is trying to entrench
its Syrian militias and locate them near the Golan. Hezbollah is also trying to
bolster its control over the triangle where Israel, Syria, and Jordan meet in
the southern Golan.
All this is happening as the Syrian army has regained
control of most of the country, including the Golan Heights. The fact that
Iranian and Hezbollah forces are stationed among or alongside Syrian soldiers
in the Golan worries Israel.
In December, the IDF spotted several armed men
crossing the fence into the buffer zone between Syria and Israel. Israeli
soldiers fired at the men, but they fled and returned to Syria unharmed.
After the incident, senior IDF officers said they were
displeased with this outcome, as the armed men should have been killed.
Last month, an Iranian missile was fired at Mount Hermon
following an airstrike near the Damascus airport that was attributed to Israel.
That missile, an Iranian model that came from an Iranian factory, was also
launched from much closer to the border than the 80 kilometers Israel was
These events show that Iran hasn’t abandoned its desire to
entrench itself much closer to the Israeli border than Israel would like.
“And you will come from your home in
the farthest north, you and many peoples with you—all of them mounted on
horses, a vast horde, a mighty army.” Ezekiel 38:15 (The Israel Bible™)
In the wake of Israeli airstrikes
targeting Iranian military sites in Syria, Russia released what seemed to be conflicting
statements; decrying “arbitrary Israeli airstrikes” on one hand while at the
same time claiming they were deeply concerned about “ensuring a very strong
security of the State of Israel.” With a major military presence in Syria, it
is essential to understand Russia’s intentions for the region.
Russia’s role takes on apocalyptic
implications when considering verses that identify the pre-Messiah War of Gog
and Magog which, according to the prophet Ezekiel, will be a war against Israel
fought by a multi-nation coalition led by a nation from the north.
Therefore prophesy, O mortal, and
say to Gog:
Thus said Hashem: Surely, on that day, when My people Yisrael are living
secure, you will take note, and you will come from your home in the farthest
north, you and many peoples with you—all of them mounted on horses, a vast
horde, a mighty army. Ezekiel 38: 14-15
This was emphasized
in a teaching
from the 18th century Rabbinic sage known as the Vilna Gaon who singled out
Russian aggression as a precursor to the Messiah.
“When you hear that the Russians
have captured the city of Crimea, you should know that the times of the Messiah
have started, that his steps are being heard,” the Vilna Gaon told his
followers just before his death in 1797. “And when you hear that the Russians
have reached the city of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), you should put on
your Shabbat clothes and don’t take them off, because it means that the Messiah
is about to come any minute.”
Russia was also named as playing a
major role in events leading up to the Messiah by the late Rabbi Haim Shvili,
a Jewish mystic born in the early 1900s. He made some predictions about the
messianic era recorded in his book, Heshbonot Hageula (Reckonings of
Redemption), which he wrote in 1935. Although obscure and largely unknown, the
predictions in the text were shockingly accurate, stating specific dates and
names he described a final terrifying vision of Gog and Magog as a war waged
against Israel by a Russian-led coalition. He based this on a verse in Ezekiel.
O mortal, turn your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and
Tubal. Prophesy against him. Ezekiel 38:2
In this verse, the Hebrew word for
‘chief’ is רֹאשׁ (Rosh), which Rabbi Shvili claims hints at ‘Russia.’
As an astute student of history,
Rabbi Ken Spiro,
a historian and Senior Lecturer and Researcher for Aish HaTorah Yeshiva, sees
Russia’s intentions as more pragmatic than Messianic. Rabbi Spiro prefaced his
statement with a quote from Winston Churchill.
“I cannot forecast to you the action
of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a
mystery, inside an enigma,” Churchill is credited with saying.
Rabbi Spiro noted that there was
good reason to see Russian President Vladimir Putin as having good intentions
when it came to relations with Israel.
“Putin has very good personal
relations with Jews from his childhood,” Rabbi Spiro noted. “In addition,
Netanyahu has worked very hard to cultivate a positive relationship with Putin.
Until recently, the Israeli Defense Minister was Avigdor Liberman, a Russian
But Rabbi Spiro added the disclaimer
contained in the second half of Churchill’s statement.
“Perhaps there is a key,” Churchill
famously said. “That key is Russian national interest.”
Rabbi Spiro cited a rule in politics
attributed to many political figures throughout history.
“There are no permanent friends and
no permanent enemies,” he quoted. “Only permanent interests.”
“During the Cold War, Russia went
into a decline and he [Putin] wants to reassert his country as a major player
in the world. Rabbi Spiro said. “Russia has always wanted a presence in
the region. It took decades during the Cold War for the U.S. to get control of
the Middle East. Eight years of Obama’s administration allowed Putin to
reassert Russia into the Middle East.”
Spiro applied this rule of Russian
practicality to its alliance with Syria and Iran as well.
“The alliance with Iran and Syria is
not ideological,” Rabbi Spiro said. “It is practical.”
The rabbi emphasized that Russia was
most likely being candid when they claimed to have Israel’s security interests
“I don’t think Putin sees any reason
to antagonize Israel,” he said. “A direct confrontation with Israel would make
Putin’s job of reasserting Russia into the region just that much trickier.
Russia does have our security interests at heart but only inasmuch as it serves
Though Spiro said that Russia’s
interests are clear, the complicated situation on Israel’s northern border
makes it tricky for them to achieve these interests.
“The entire thing is surreal,” Rabbi
Spiro maintained. “Russia put their army in Syria, covering Assad’s forces,
while at the same time they are allowing Israel to come in and bomb stuff. It
is a very delicate balance. Putin is doing a dance with everyone in the region:
Syria, Turkey, Iran, and yes, even Israel.”
Spiro recognized the prophetic
aspect of events on Israel’s northern border but understands it in a moderate
“The north is a generic term for any
country coming from outside the region,” he argued, “though it is interesting
to note that Moscow in due north of Jerusalem. But at the same time, Russia is
not Israel’s nemesis. During the Cold War, Russia supported the Arab countries
only because Israel was America’s proxy.”
Additionally, Spiro expressed a more
general understanding of how Gog and Magog may play out.
“The War of Gog and Magog doesn’t
necessarily have to be a military confrontation,” he explained. “I understand
the imagery includes chariots and that would imply a physical war but it could
also be a war of ideologies. In that case, the multi-national war of Gog and
Magog could be fought in the United Nations General Assembly, much like what we
are seeing now.”
On the ideological battlefield, Spiro
sees Biblical conflicts being expressed in modern terms.
“It is remarkable that the powers of
Esav (Esau, i.e. the West and Europe) put aside their differences with Ishmael
(i.e. the Arab nations) to unite against Israel,” Rabbi Spiro said. “On one
hand, Jewish sources describe a pre-messiah scenario of Gog and Magog as
a world alliance against Israel like we see in the UN.”
“On the other hand, we have
descriptions of Esav and Yishmael fighting each other,” Rabbi Spiro said. “In
fact, these two scenarios aren’t necessarily contradictory. The reality is that
they are both currently happening simultaneously. Radical Islam is going after
Europe’s weak underbelly,, the post-Christian Esav. They don’t like each other
but they put their differences aside to attack us. They feel more threatened by
“That is why we see these strange
alliances of a Euro-leftist gay activist walking hand-in-hand on campus with a
radical Muslim,” Rabbi Spiro noted.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston,
a prolific author and end-of-days expert, emphasized Russia’s claims to caring
for Israel’s security should be treated with caution.
“Russia only has their own interests
at heart,” he told Breaking Israel News, agreeing with Rabbi Spiro. But
he noted a Biblical reference as a guide:
“In the Midrash, Esav is compared to
an animal that has one of the signs of being kosher but not the other; like
cloven hooves, but not the other, such as chewing its cud,” Winston said. “You
might say that this is better than a totally non-kosher animal, that maybe it
is half kosher. But the Midrash says this is even worse. The animal can be
deceitful, hold out is hooves and try to convince the Jew that they are
Rabbi Winston applied this analogy
“Russia is trying to create the
external appearance that they are our friends, that they have our back and care
about our security,” he claimed “The worst tactic of Esav is when they act like
our friend. When Esav wanted to accompany Israel he was only waiting until
Jacob lowered his guard so he could stab him in the back.”
“But Esav is enticing Israel, trying
to make us sin with the negative trappings of technology that lead to improper
behavior, or act like they are our allies so we can lower our guard in the
Golan. In the end of days, Hashem is more angry at Esav than Ishmael. Ishmael
comes at us directly with violence. Esav, on the other hand, is deceitful and
lures us in, either to sin or to get us to lower our guard. This is precisely
what Russia is doing.”
“The moment that someone uses this
Esav tactic, like what Russia is doing here, when they tell you they have your
back, that’s when you need to turn around and defend yourself,” Rabbi Winston
One of the largest real-estate developers in Israel revealed plans for the
soon-to-be tallest building in Israel that looks surprisingly similar to images
of what the Tower of Babel may have looked like. But a closer look reveals the
new building may be much more, what one rabbi thinks could be a dry-run
for building the Third Temple.
The Azrieli Group, an Israeli real estate and holding company, announced
their plan to build Israel’s tallest building as an addition to their already
impressive Azrieli Center Complex in Tel Aviv. Topping out at 91 stories and
reaching 1,150 feet toward the heavens, it is estimated that the Spiral Tower
will take six years to complete at an estimated cost of $666 million. The new
tower will take its place next to the iconic circle, square and triangle towers
that make up the Azrieli Complex. By building the Spiral Tower, the Azrieli
Group will outdo itself as they built the current tallest building in Israel,
The Azrieli Sarona Tower which stands 782 feet high with 53 floors, just two
The plans are ambitious, with around 150,000 square meters containing
commercial space, offices, residences, and a hotel. Six underground parking
levels, covering an area of 45,000 square meters, will be built at the base of
the structure, in addition to a commercial floor connected directly to the
light rail. The tower’s peak will include space for conferences and meetings,
recreational space, and a 360-degree view of Tel Aviv and the surrounding area.
it is predicted that approximately 100,000 people will pass through the center
The unique design was produced by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), a New
York-based architecture firm which is responsible for five of the 10
tallest skyscrapers in the world. According to the press release, the
architects took their inspiration from nature as well as Jewish heritage.
“The tower was planned and developed in a unique geometric shape, never
before seen in Israel, which captures the eye and the imagination. The main
challenge for the initiators and architects was to create harmony between the
three iconic towers that form Azrieli Center and the new tower, an impressive,
one-of-a-kind structure which stands on its own. The tower’s design takes
inspiration from the twists of a snail’s shell, attempting to imitate their
natural form. The design also draws inspiration from ancient biblical scrolls
and the way they unfurl upwards.”
More cynical critics of the design might draw a comparison between the
elegant design presented by the developers and certain depictions of the
Biblical Tower of Babel. Though the Biblical account contains no details other
than it builders aspirations for it to reach great heights.
And they said, “Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in
the sky, to make a name for ourselves; else we shall be scattered all over the
Traditional Jewish sources provide additional details. Midrash (homiletic
teachings) described “an idol on the top holding a sword, so that it may appear
as if it intended to war with God.” The Midrash also described a structure
built on tall columns designed to protect the tower from another divine flood.
Some modern scholars have associated the Tower of Babel with known
structures, notably the Etemenanki, a ziggurat dedicated to the Mesopotamian
god Marduk built by Babylonian King Nabopolassar in 610 BCE. Indeed, the Spiral
Tower Design closely resembles a ziggurat, an ancient structure from the Middle
East built as a terraced compound of successively receding stories or levels.
at the top of each ziggurat was a shrine. Also, similar to the Azrieli Towers,
each ziggurat was part of a larger complex that included a courtyard,
storage rooms, bathrooms, and living quarters, around which a city was built.
Rabbi Yisrael Rosenberg is an author who has a powerful connection to the
spiritual implications of construction. His daytime job is as a tour guide for
“The main of the sin connected to the Tower of Babel was not in their action
but in their intention. The bottom line is that the intent of the builders and
the architects of the Azrieli tower is l’shem shamayim (in the name of
heaven). The fact that they envisioned a Torah scroll while designing the
building is remarkable. Even if it was just for beauty, beauty can be to praise
Rosenberg noted that the builders of the Tower of Babel came together to
challenge heaven, hence their punishment was to be divided and scattered.
“Tel Aviv needs high towers since it is becoming densely populated,” he
said. “This is a Tikkun (fixing) for what happened after the Tower of Babel. It
allows people to be together in Israel.”
He also noted that for the 2,000 years of exile, Jews excelled in many
fields but were less represented in architecture and land development.
“Everything we learn about construction in Israel is just one step away from
the Beit Hamikdash,” the rabbi said. “Just like Solomon’s Temple, the Third
Temple will be with the agreement and blessings of every nation in the world
and it will be the greatest construction project ever seen. We need to learn
how to lead the world in this project.”
“On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone forth from the land of
Egypt, on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai. Exodus 19:1
(The Israel Bible™)
As researchers debate the location of Biblical Mount Sinai, the Saudi
Arabian government is moving forward with plans for a mega-city built on top of
one of the prime candidates.
Last year, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman announced plans to create a mega-city named Neom on the coast of
the Red Sea. The plans for the city are ambitious indeed: at a cost of $500
billion, Neom will be 17 times the size of London and 33 times the size of
Manhattan. The city will cover 10,230-square-miles extending 285 miles along
the coast of the Red Sea and run entirely on renewable energy. The name “Neom”
was constructed from two words. The first three letters form the Ancient Greek
prefix neo- meaning “new”. The fourth letter is from the abbreviation of
Arabic Mostaqbal meaning “future.”
Though the designated area in northwest Saudi Arabia near the Jordanian
border is relatively desolate and empty, conflict arose when several people
asserted that one mountain, Jabal al Lawz (Mountain of Almonds) was where Moses
stood when he received the Ten Commandments from the hand of God.
In a recent documentary, Finding the Mountain of Moses, Ryan Mauro,
National Security Analyst for the Clarion Project, warned of the dire
consequences should the Saudi mega-city be built.
Many scholars claim that Mount Sinai is in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt but
Mauro rejected that claim based on the “more than 70 times the Bible says the
Israelites went out of Egypt.”
“If all of us don’t take action, Saudi construction in the area may destroy
key evidence and prevent excavation for the foreseeable future,” Mauro said in
Mauro is not alone in his assertion that Jabal al Lawz is the Biblical Mount
Sinai. After visiting the site in 2018, Bible scholar and bestselling author
Joel Richardson told WND,
“If those on the fence actually could visit the site, I guarantee they would be
fully convinced, or 95 percent there.”
“This is a mountain with a dark-colored basalt rock on the top, as well as a
cave on its front – ‘the Cave of Elijah’ – with an altar at its base with bulls
carved all over it, ‘the Golden Calf altar,’ he said. “It also has an animal
corral and altar, and pillars at its base, consistent with God’s command to
Moses to build at the base of the mountain,” said Richardson.
Researchers have proposed
about 20 different locations for Mt. Sinai and there is no consensus of
Scholars fall into two camps: those who suggest sites found in the modern
Sinai Peninsula and those who favor locations in Saudi Arabia. Of the five
proposed locations in the Sinai Peninsula, Jebel Musa (Moses’ Mountain), the
site of St Catherine’s monastery, is the most popular.
In addition to the conflicting opinions, there is also some confusion as the
location of the precise mountain. Jabal Maqlā (Burnt Mountain) located about
four miles to the south, is often misidentified as Jabal al-Lawz by various
authors such as Bob Cornuke, Ron Wyatt, and Lennart Moller as shown by local
and regional maps.
Mauro will be posting a website with a petition calling on the U.S. State
Department and Saudi government to preserve the sites and have them put on
UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Due to Saudi restrictions on visitors, the site
is difficult to research and if the Saudi plans go through, it will be
Newly discovered petroglyphs at the foot of mountain depict archers which
Richardson claimed are based on a warning by Moses that anyone who set foot on
the mountain would be shot with arrows. Another petroglyph depicts a
seven-branched menorah which Richardson maintained indicates the ancient
Hebrews visited the site. Consistent with the biblical account of water pouring
out of the rock, there are clear signs of water erosion in an arid area where
such erosion is evident nowhere else, said Richardson.
Moskoff, the author of the A.R.K Report, concurred that Mount Sinai
is in Saudi Arabia but disagrees with the theory that Jabal al Lawz is Mount
“The theory that Jebel al Lawz is the location of Sinai is very low on
Biblical facts,” Moskoff told Breaking Israel News. Moskoff explained
that the theory was first made popular by a book, The Gold of Exodus, published
20 years ago. “Other researchers followed that lead but there were a lot of
errors in that theory. In order to research this subject, it is necessary to go
back to the original sources which are Biblical and Jewish.”
As an example, Moskoff pointed out that Cornuke
based his theory on the Hebrews leaving Egypt 19 days before crossing the sea.
“I don’t know where he gets 19 days from,” Moskoff said. He cited Seder
Olam Rabbah, a 2nd-century CE Hebrew-language chronology detailing the
dates of Biblical events from the Creation to Alexander the Great’s conquest of
Persia. “The Seder Olam Rabbah states explicitly that it was seven days until
they arrived at the sea.”
Moskoff noted that in many cases, sites of Biblical importance were usurped
“There is a bit of tension between the religions when dealing with sites of
Biblical importance,” Moskoff said. He noted that the site of Christian
researchers do not typically refer to Jewish sources. Moskoff noted the irony
in the religious division over the site since Jethro, Moses’ non-Jewish
father-in-law, joined the Hebrews at Mount Sinai. This particular multi-faith
aspect of Sinai is described in the section of the Torah being read by Jews
around the world this week.
“There are monasteries and mosques at most of the holy sites as well,”
Moskoff noted. “This may be a religious conflict but it may also be just
staking out territory. The Palestinians are staking out territory, trying to
take over all of Israel. For the Christians, it is theological. Ideally, it
should not lead to a monopoly by one religion and the exclusion of all others.”
Neom was slated to be completed in 2025 but construction has stalled, if not
from heaven then due to political entanglements. Bin Salman’s government was
accused of murdering a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. The crown prince admitted
in 2018 that, as a result of the ensuing scandal, “No one will invest [in
the project] for years.”
A Bedouin huntsman and his dog, climbing on rocky mountainous cliffs above
the Dead Sea, spotted a likely prey. The dog chased it into the mouth of a cave
where inside, the Bedouin discovered jars containing scrolls with writing upon
them. The find was reported to Jews living in Jerusalem, who mounted an
expedition into the Judean Desert to retrieve them. They discovered many
scrolls written in Hebrew script, including books of the Bible.
The year was 790 CE.
The events, recorded in a letter written by the East Syriac patriarch Timothy I in
800 CE, eerily anticipate the famous 1946 (re)discovery at Qumran of the trove
of ancient sacred texts we now know as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
For a new team of Qumran excavators, who this week finished a third dig
season high above the Dead Sea, the story is a beacon of hope.
“The Bedouin were not the first ones to find the scrolls in 1947,” said Dr.
Oren Gutfeld, co-director of the Cave 53-Qumran Excavation.
The question is, will looters be the ones to discover any remaining scrolls?
On Tuesday, The Times of Israel joined the Qumran expedition on the last day
of its three-week winter excavation of a new cave complex. Based on results
from two previous seasons, the team, led by Hebrew University archaeologist
Oren Gutfeld and Randall Price from the private Virginia-based Christian
institution, Liberty University, believes there are more undiscovered finds
that have slipped through the fingers of archaeologists — and even of intrepid
For example, no one knows the whereabouts of Timothy’s particular cave, described in his letter as being in the vicinity of
Jericho. Perhaps it was fully emptied, its scrolls used by the community and
eventually deposited in the Cairo Genizah. Or maybe it is one of the 11 major
caves that held the 900-plus manuscripts and 15,000 tiny text fragments that
have been unearthed since the besieged Qumran community stashed them away from
the Romans circa 68 CE.
Or maybe, just maybe, Timothy’s cave is still out there to be discovered. If
so, Gutfeld is positioning his team to find it — as well as a wealth of
information on the people behind the Dead Sea Scrolls and their everyday lives.
The previous two excavation seasons of Cave 53 bear out the possibility of
“We prove in Cave 53 that the caves
of Qumran were not excavated, they were surveyed,” said Gutfeld. The previous
archaeologists “just entered, they found the scrolls or the jars and they took
them,” he said. There was no digging, and certainly no fine sifting of
materials during the heady days of the first excavations.
Beginning in 1949, teams of excavators — authorized and not — combed the
cave-dotted cliffs of Qumran in search of scroll caches. For a while, the finds
were abundant. And then, after the mid-1950s, there was nothing new discovered
under the blazing Dead Sea sun.
For the past three winter seasons, Gutfeld’s team has re-examined previously
surveyed, but unexcavated caves. This year, the team took to the heights and examined
an uncharted cave to discern if more finds await in the sheer cliffs.
Before the expedition concluded, Gutfeld took a pair of journalists up to
the cave complexes numbered 52 and 53, based on earlier archaeological surveys
that found some 600 caves in the cliffs. After ascending the steep, often
unmarked path high above the Qumran National Park, the view is breathtaking
(and not only because this journalist needed to catch her breath from the
rope-aided climb) from the small man-made terrace outside Cave 52, some 212
meters (695 feet) above the Dead Sea.
It is commonly accepted that the major scroll finds originated in 11 caves,
explained Gutfeld before we entered the cave located high above the park’s
hiking trails. The assignation, he said, is often based on secondhand Bedouin
testimony, since several of the manuscripts were purchased, not excavated. He
thinks it possible that the massive hoard may have originated in other caves as
well, which have until now been overlooked by archaeologists.
A faint, spray painted 52 points out the mouth of the cave. In the 1950s, it
was surveyed by a member of the original Qumran excavations team, Józef Milik,
a one-time Catholic priest and archaeologist. Milik, said Gutfeld, wrote an
article in the 1950s suggesting that this spot was in fact the cave described
by Timothy. Milik hypothesized that it had been emptied of scrolls by monks
sent by Timothy from the Jericho Caranthal Monastery, over a thousand years
prior to his survey.
“We believe maybe — we don’t know, but it’s a possibility — that it’s not
the Bedouin who looted the cave, but that it was done hundreds of years earlier
by the monks of the Caranthal Monastery,” said Gutfeld.
In the three seasons of excavations so far, the team has discovered
indications of “scroll activity” — accessories including jars, textile
wrappings, leather ties. This winter, the team also examined a pair of
hard-to-enter elevated caves, reachable only with full climbing gear and metal
guides hammered into the rock.
Taking in the Dead Sea panorama, Gutfeld swept his arm out and said with a
smile, “This is my office.”
What Cave 52 yielded
Spoiler: No scrolls were discovered this winter, either.
From an academic point of view, the 2019 excavation was launched asking the
question of whether caves found so high on the cliff were used as living spaces
or only for hiding scrolls.
Through the excavation of Cave 52 this season, and the paucity of material
culture from every day life, the conclusion is that it was only meant as a
vault. A probe excavation of the even higher Cave 52B offered the same result,
“The story of the cave and the
excavation is more about the climbing, bringing up the tools, and rappelling
when going down,” he said. “Just think about the Essences who climbed with jars
in their hands — what we did with the ropes — how many jars fell?”
The opening of Cave 52 “was a rabbit hole tunnel,” which the team enlarged
with small picks. “Everything was sifted from the first bucket, even the dirt
piles outside the cave,” said Gutfeld, on the assumption that perhaps some of
the looters had dropped some pottery.
Inside Cave 52, the team found Second Temple scroll jar pottery sherds and a
few organic materials.
“The minute we lowered the level of the dirt we started to find the pottery
sherds from Second Temple period jars,” he said. But there were few other
finds, even after excavating a promising back tunnel. “Unfortunately we dug
here for two weeks, it’s a very nice tunnel, but we didn’t find anything,” he
“Our conclusion is that it was used as a scroll cave, but the minute the
jars were taken, it was empty,” said Gutfeld.
What was found in ‘juicy’ Cave 53
Excavation co-director Price, a pastor and Jewish Studies professor,
fervently believes there are more mysteries to be discovered here. Joining
Gutfeld and The Times of Israel at the mid-cliff level Cave 53, Price explained
how the cave — and its surprise adjacent Cave 53B twin — were excavated
beginning in 2017.
“We had hoped to find a scroll cave,” Price said honestly of his initial
goals. He told The Times of Israel that to find a cave holding the sacred
scripture given to the people of this land would be thrilling.
“This is one of the first caves
excavated south of the plateau. The more famous caves are in the north. And in
excavating this,” Price said, sweeping his hand around the cave, “we did find
scroll jars — seven in total.” But no scrolls.
The cave was identified in a 1993 IAA survey and has interesting man-made
features, including a column which supports an overhang ceiling at the cave’s
edge. Although it is has remained stable thus far, it is definitely not a place
to set a chair and enjoy the view.
A second, previously uncharted cave was discovered in an easy climb above
Cave 53, and is called Cave 53B.
The path to and from these caves is unmarked, but at only 100 meters (328
feet) above the Dead Sea it is much less strenuous than that of caves 52 and
52B, which were the focus of this dig season. (At its highest, this year’s path
is only accessible through rappelling).
Today, the mouth of Cave 53 gapes wide open, but during initial checks in
2010, it would have been more hidden from view. Then, Price and Gutfeld spotted
sleeping mats made of palm fronds next to the man-made pillar in the back of
the cave, as well as pottery.
Price secured funding for the excavation from private donations (digs are
not funded through the Israeli government or universities) and a license was
granted by the Staff Officer for Archaeology in the Civil Administration of
Judea and Samaria, which is responsible for excavations in the West Bank, where
Qumran is located.
Ahead of the 2017 winter excavation, all signs were positive. “The
expectation was that there was something here to be found,” said Price.
And there was: What was originally scheduled as a two-week excavation
stretched into an intense five. In addition to pottery pieces for seven scroll
jars, through careful sifting of the dust and dirt the team uncovered hundreds
of olive and date pits, as well as seeds, telling of ancient habitation of the
cave. There was “scroll activity,” including 15 fragments of linen textile that
used to cover the scrolls, cut leather straps, and a carved stick which Price
said was used to wound the manuscripts into the jars.
Through sifting, the team discovered “an acorn that was brought from the
Judean Hills over 50 kilometers [31 miles] away,” said Gutfeld. In sum, they
filled an almost unprecedented 450 bags of organic material.
The two most astonishing finds were discovered in Cave 53B: an intact
Qumran-style oil lamp that was discovered at the mouth of the cave, and a
beautiful bronze pot that was found in the back in a previously undiscovered
The cave complex also offered signs of much earlier habitation: Within
moments of arriving to the terrace outside its mouth, Gutfeld bent over and
picked up several pieces of pottery. In one hand he held a few sherds from the
Second Temple period. In another, prehistoric pottery from thousands of years
ago, possibly Neolithic or Chalcolithic.
Other prehistoric finds include arrow and spear heads, flint blades, an
interestingly carved carnelian seal and a piece of precious obsidian, which
would have somehow made its way from Turkey.
“There was a lot of activity here, but it wasn’t until the Second Temple
period that the jars were brought in, probably from the Qumran community, and
placed here,” said Price.
Price has a theory why the scrolls are absent from this spot: When the
Qumran community was attacked in 68 CE and the Romans turned the plateau into a
fortress, the northern path was closed. So the residents turned south, possibly
to Masada, and picked up their scrolls from this cave on the way.
Cave 53 is now excavated in parts down to bedrock. Charcoaled remains of
thousands of year old fires can be seen on the pillar next to straggly strands
of 2,000-year-old sleep mats. The team said there is no more work to be done
here, and it will soon look for another location.
Ahead of the 2020 excavation
In early February, Gutfeld will begin surveying for locations in the middle
terrace of the cliff for the 2020 excavation. “Hopefully we’ll find another
‘juicy’ cave, like Cave 53,” he said.
“There is still much more to do, especially in this region,” said Gutfeld.
According to a recent Haaretz article, head of the IAA Yisrael Hasson is
on board with the team’s goals. “The desert is full of hiding places. Until we
have thoroughly checked and mapped them all, we won’t declare the work
finished,” said Hasson.
Hasson said his archaeologists are also working in the area: “Six months ago
we excavated six caves and more recently we excavated two more caves in the
northern Dead Sea area, but I won’t say more because I don’t want to give
information to robbers… We’re doing ‘low profile’ work to stay ahead of the
competition,” said Hasson.
Each year the team must apply for a new dig license from the Civil
Administration of Judea and Samaria. Part of the application process includes
secure funding for both excavation and publication of finds. For this team, the
funding comes through private donations — not always easy to come by despite
its high-profile objectives.
Because of the very real threat of looting in the area, the dig is
considered a “salvage excavation” and is permissible by law in order to save
and rescue the potential precious heritage items. Likewise, he said, all
excavation is only conducted after securing a permit. (Asked whether the West
Bank location was an obstacle to garnering funding, Gutfeld said the only
blow-back he has felt so far was from a Jewish woman at a conference in the
But his third reason for why the excavation’s West Bank location is not
significant is that scrolls are overwhelmingly important to Judaism and early
Christianity. They are a direct tie to the historical Land of Israel, which
predates modern borders.
“When I take my kids to the [Israel Museum’s] Shrine of the Book and they
can read directly from the scrolls, it says everything,” said Gutfeld.
Israel and Iran are edging dangerously close to a state of all-out war. On Sunday night, Israeli forces rained missiles down on Iranian forces based in the Damascus area “for nearly an hour”. According to the IDF, this was a response to “dozens” of missiles that were fired by Iranian forces in Syria toward targets in Israel earlier that day. The Israelis were able to intercept the Iranian missiles, but if any of them had gotten through they could have caused a tremendous amount of damage. Some of the missiles that Israel fired at the Iranians were reportedly intercepted, but quite a few of them did hit their intended targets. If the violence continues to escalate, we could potentially soon be talking about an all-out war between Israel and Iran in which both sides use their weapons of mass destruction.
Syrian state media cited a Syrian
military source as saying Israel launched an “intense attack through
consecutive waves of guided missiles”, but that Syrian air defenses
destroyed most of the “hostile targets”.
Witnesses in Damascus said loud
explosions rang out in the night sky for nearly an hour.
The Syrians are boasting that they
were able to destroy quite a few of the Israeli missiles, but independent
observers confirm that quite a few Iranian targets were destroyed.
Targets striked by the IDF, which
number at around 10 according to its statement, include weapons warehouses at
the Damascus International Airport and in other locations, an Iranian
intelligence site and an Iranian training camp in Syria’s south.
Now that the Iranians have been hit
so hard, will they respond by striking back at Israel?
If both sides continue to escalate
the violence, eventually a “point of no return” will be reached, and then all
hell will break loose.
Prior to the IDF missile attacks on
Iranian targets, rockets were fired toward the Golan Heights from inside Syria,
and Israel blamed those attacks on the Iranians…
The Israeli military said earlier on
Sunday that missiles fired toward the northern Golan
Heights were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. It added in a statement on Monday
that an Iranian force fired these missiles, but said it holds the Syrian regime
responsible for any activity in its territory.
It seems extremely unlikely that
this conflict will be resolved any time soon. The Iranians are certainly
not going to leave Syria, and they are definitely going to continue to funnel
arms and resources to Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon.
And the Israelis have clearly stated
that they are going to resist any Iranian attempts to strengthen Hezbollah or
to establish a permanent military presence inside Syria. In fact, Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t have been any clearer when he said this to reporters…
“We have a permanent policy, to
strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
If a full-blown war erupts in the
days ahead, Israel will almost certainly find itself fighting Iran, Syria and
Hezbollah simultaneously. Of course Hezbollah is essentially an Iranian
proxy, and at this point they have between 130,000 and 150,000 missiles aimed at
Israel. When war finally comes, it
will be extremely bloody and extremely destructive.
Tonight, we are closer to such a war
than ever. The Iranians and the Israelis absolutely hate one another, and
now they are firing missiles at one another.
It isn’t going to take much to push
the two sides over the edge, and if that happens we are just a hop, a skip and
a jump away from the start of World War 3.
The Israeli military said early
Monday it was carrying out strikes against Iran’s Qud’s Forces, in a rare
statement on its military activities in Syria. “The Israeli missiles
managed to destroy weapons depots and military posts of the Iranians and the
Lebanese Hezbollah in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport and the
area of Al-Kiswah and Jamraya,” the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights
Israeli airstrikes on Syria destroyed weapons stores and military positions
belonging to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, a war monitor said
On Monday, Israel began a massive campaign of air strikes on Iranian
and Lebanese military targets located in Damascus in Syria. The word Damascus appears
exactly 60 times in your King James Bible, and is heavily associated with
fulfillment of end times Bible prophecy, most of it still yet future.
“The burden of Damascus.
Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall
be a ruinous heap.” Isaiah 17:1 (KJV)
So it comes to no surprise to me at all that Damascus continues to be
in the exact epicenter of the action in the Middle East as Iran continues to
slither closer and closer to their dream of invading Israel by overrunning
their border with Syria at the Golan Heights border.
strikes said to destroy Iranian, Hezbollah sites near Damascus
FROM THE TIMES OF ISRAEL: The Israeli military said early Monday it was carrying out
strikes against Iran’s Qud’s Forces, in a rare statement on its military
activities in Syria. “The Israeli missiles managed to destroy weapons
depots and military posts of the Iranians and the Lebanese Hezbollah in the
vicinity of Damascus International Airport and the area of Al-Kiswah and
Jamraya,” the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights said.
The monitor said there had been casualties and extensive damage, without
providing details. A news site in the southern Syrian city of Suweida reported
that eight soldiers had been brought to a local hospital with injuries
sustained during the Israeli strikes, including two who died.
There was no immediate confirmation
of casualties from Damascus. Syria’s state-run media described the attack as
“heavy” and said Israel had launched “consecutive waves of guided missiles.”
However, it claimed the majority of the missiles were shot down.
“Our air defenses responded
effectively to an Israeli air attack targeting the southern region and
prevented it from achieving any of its objectives,”SANA quoted a military
The airstrike was the second attack
on the airport and al-Kiswah in as many days, after a rare daytime attack
attributed to Israel on Sunday morning. Both locations have been attacked by
Israel in the past and are thought to house Iranian or Hezbollah assets.
“Warehouses containing weapons for
Syrian regime ally Hezbollah and Iranian fighters are located in that area,”
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor,
Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that
could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to
the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.
Last year, the Israeli military said
bases near al-Kiswah were used by pro-Iranian militias. An Iranian weapons
depot at the airport was targeted in an airstrike a week and a half ago, Israel
said. Jamraya, which has also allegedly been attacked by Israel in the ast, is
thought to house a military facility and scientific research center.
This would be the largest pro-Iranian military increment into Syria since
the Hizballah intervention of 2014 – and Tehran’s rejoinder to Israel’s
The 10,000 troops massed on the Iraqi border belong to the large Iraqi
Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) aka the Hashd Al-Shaabi militia, DEBKAfile’s
military and intelligence sources report. They have been ordered to stand there
by Iran’s Middle East commander, Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Their
commander is one of his deputies, Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi of Iranian
descent. This Iraqi force awaits a green light to cross into northern Syria
from President Bashar Assad.
It is intended to be Tehran’s response to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s “advice” to Iran to “hurry up and get out of Syria” ahead of the
IDF’s action. Soleimani has responded by “hurrying up” to top up Iran’s forces
in Syria, before Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi has had three days to settle into his
new job as IDF’s Chief of Staff.
Our sources note that permission for this large force to cross the border
and link up with the Syrian government’s army would present Gen. Kochavi with
his first major test. Tehran is anxious to find out whether Israel – or the US
– means to actively halt this major troop buildup by bombing it from the air. If
the PMU fighters are not stopped as soon as they set foot on Syrian soil, the
Iranians will have won this round and feel able to safely augment the PMU force
of 10,000 fighters by pouring thousands more into Syria
They invite their kin to the mountain, Where they offer sacrifices of
success. For they draw from the riches of the sea And the hidden hoards of the
33:19 (The Israel Bible™)
A company founded on the prophetic advice of the Chabad Rabbi has found a
type of gemstone unique to Israel…and outer space.
Last week, the International Mineralogical Association recognized a new, distinct mineral
discovered by Shefa Yamim, the only mining
company searching for precious gems in Israel. The mineral is embedded in
sapphire and is named carmeltazite for the Carmel Mountains, the location of
its discovery, and the trace minerals it contains: titanium, aluminum, and
zirconium. It will be marketed under the name ‘Carmel Sapphire.” The largest
stone the company found to date weighed in at 33.3 carats. After density
testing, it was shown to be harder than diamond.
“We are delighted that our Carmel Sapphire has been recognized as a host to
many rare minerals,” Avi
Taub, CEO of Shefa Yamim, said in a statement. “In today’s world where the
prices of gems are determined predominantly by their rarity, the Carmel
Sapphire is a unique discovery because it has not been found anywhere else in
The quantity of carmeltazite hidden under the Carmel Mountains is still
unknown but if it is sufficiently rare, it may prove to be more valuable than
Taub’s statement was intentionally precise. The stone has been seen before,
but not “in the world.” The mineral has been found in rocks originating in
space, as described in Forbes
“Carmeltazite is found in corundum, an aluminum-oxide, embedded in volcanic
rocks mined in the Haifa District in northern Israel,” Forbes wrote. “It
is a complex zirconium-aluminum-titanium-oxide, with traces of scandium,
calcium, and magnesium to be found in its crystalline structure. Curiously, the
chemical formula resembles allendeite, a mineral identified for the first time
in the Allende meteorite,
a rocky meteorite that fell February 8, 1969, in the Mexican state of
Chihuahua. Its formation on Earth dates back 65 million years.”
Taub, a religious Jew and follower of Chabad branch of Hasidut, naturally
connects the recent find with the Temple.
“When I think of precious stones in Israel, my thoughts go straight to the
Temple and the vestments of the High Priest,” Taub told Breaking Israel
News. “No one thought we would find stones here in Israel but the Temple
and the Kohanic vestments required many precious
stones. Nowhere does the Bible say that these stones were brought from
outside. It was clear the stones from the Temple were from here.”
Taub noted that on the High Priest’s breastplate, every tribe was
represented by a precious stone. Coincidentally, in the high priest’s
breastplate, Zevulun’s name was engraved on a diamond. The only source of
native diamonds in Israel found by his company is in the territory belonging to
Taub’s vision was directed by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson who passed
away in 1994. Taub’s family had a diamond polishing plant and dealt in
manufacturing and marketing jewelry. In 1989, Taub, a follower of Chabad
Hasidut, visited the rabbi, known to his millions of followers simply as “the
Rebbe.” With very little explanation, the Rebbe told Taub to begin mining. Taub
entered into an unsuccessful project in Australia. He struggled to understand
the Rebbe’s message. Through a friend who was also a follower of the Rebbe,
Taub was made aware of a video in which the Rebbe made a remarkable statement,
given to then-mayor of Haifa, Arye Gurel in 1988.
“In Haifa, there is a sea. One shouldn’t become intimidated by something
that is deep,” the Rebbe said to Gurel. “This is the uniqueness of Haifa – that
it has a sea and that there is a valley and in the valley are precious stones
and gems. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, did a wondrous thing; he concealed them
in the depths of the earth, and in any case, in the depth of the river.”
Taub searched for more clues and found that the Rebbe discussed these hidden
gems again in a public lesson in 1991. The Rebbe explained new and
unprecedented knowledge and material resources, hidden since the Creation of
the World, will be discovered as the redemption approaches. The Rebbe specified
that precious stones and gems will be for the purpose of giving additional
charity and performing other mitzvoth (commandments) to hasten the Messiah in
its final stages.
Taub went searching for other clues to hidden gems in Israel and found hints
that the region assigned to the tribe of Zevulun was hinted at in the Bible as
the source of hidden wealth. This was based on Moses’ blessing to the tribe in
And of Zevulun he said: Rejoice, O Zevulun, on your journeys, And Yissachar, in your
tents. They invite their kin to the mountain, Where they offer sacrifices of
success. For they draw from the riches of the sea And the hidden hoards of the
The Meam Loez, an 18th-century commentary on the Bible initiated by Rabbi
Yaakov Culi, wrote the following on that verse.
“There are vast amounts of natural treasures that are hidden in the sea and
in the earth in the portion of the tribe of Zevulun. These treasures include
the rare “chilazon” from whose blood the aqua color is obtained for ‘tzitzit’,
precious stones and gems – diamonds – most of which afforded the Land of Israel
vast wealth, generally speaking, and especially for the tribe of Zevulun!”
Taub was satisfied that all of the clues pointed towards Israel to find
these hidden gems the Rebbe had told him to search for. In 1999, Taub and
several other Chabad Jews established Shefa Yamim Co. Ltd. with the intention
of locating precious stones and gems in Israel. As per the Rebbe’s instructions
to Haifa’s mayor, Taub focused his company’s efforts along the Kishon riverbed
in the Zevulun Valley, the Carmel Mountain Range bordering Haifa, and the area
of Ramot Menashe.
“Everyone thinks that Israel is a desert with no natural resources,” Taub
said. “The government discovered that under the ground we have vast reserves of
natural gas. Now we found precious stones that no other country has. When it
comes to the land of Israel, we have much to thank Hashem (God,
literally ‘the name’) for.”
Taub’s business model is “mine-to-market.” Sefa Yamim will not only mine the
stones but they will also produce a line of exclusive jewelry made from Holy
Land gemstones drawn from the mines of Shefa Yamin. The jewelry will be
designed by Yossi Harari, a
Taub noted that even the timing of their find is significant.
“These stones could have been discovered ten years ago, or 100,” he
emphasized. “The Rebbe told us to begin when he did because he knew the
Moshiach (Messiah) was coming and that was when these stones were to be brought
Revelation 1:3 "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near".
Watchman for Christ