News and Views


News and Views

The 25,000 fragments that make up the Dead Sea Scrolls are considered by many to be the archaeological discovery of the 20th century. They were found mostly in the decade following 1947, yet 21st-century techniques still have more to teach us about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and thus about Second Temple Judaism at the time of Jesus. A highly technical study released on June 11, 2020, in the Journal Cell examines the Dead Sea Scrolls by identifying the ancient DNA of the animals — mostly sheep, but also cow, goat, and other bovids — whose skin formed the underlying parchment. The DNA analysis allowed a definitive determination that some fragments were not part of the same scroll as others, and also to establish that some scrolls at Qumran had come from outside the area. — Bible History Daily, 6/15/2020

New research suggests that worldwide religious people tend to have more children than their secular counterparts as the result of the higher levels of support from non-family members that churchgoing women receive. Previous studies have found that sibling number is negatively related to a child’s cognitive and physiological development, as well as their socioeconomic success in adulthood — because parents have less time, and fewer resources to invest in their development. These greater levels of support are also associated with positive developmental outcomes for children. The report published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, the world’s oldest English language journal, explored how church attendance is associated with social support and fertility, and how help from outside the family influences child development. — Medical Life Sciences, 7/2/2020

In early May 2020, American Church Group of Colorado teamed up with Springtide Research Institute based in Minnesota, and The Parable Group based in California to co-sponsor a national study that surveyed churchgoers to help determine what effect COVID-19 concerns may have on future church attendance. The study identified three distinct groups of people with different perspectives on their willingness or reluctance to return to in-person services. Based on the study’s findings, 25 percent of respondents say that they do not feel strongly about social distancing practices, while 59 percent express concerns over having people in their life that are within a sensitive population. — Religious News Service
(RNS), 6/23/2020

After King Nebuchadnezzar II attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the First Temple in 586 BC, the Jews were exiled in Babylon for some 50 years. At that time, according to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Hebrew Bible, Cyrus the Great became King of Persia and enabled the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple. Few artifacts have been found from the Persian period, roughly 536 BC to 333 BC. In June, The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of two more which provide important evidence. “The finding of the stamp and seal impression in the City of David indicates that despite the city’s dire situation after the destruction, efforts were made to restore the administrative authorities to normal.” The double seal impression shows a person sitting on a chair, in a Babylonian-style design, believed to depict a king. Dr. Eilat Mazar discovered a similar bulla from the Persian period on the eastern slope of the City of David. — Bible History Daily, 7/3/2020


Considered the “guardians of the Grand Canyon,” the Havasupai Tribe are just one of eleven Native American tribes associated with Grand Canyon National Park. One thing that sets the Havasupai apart is that they’re the only tribe still living within the rim’s walls. — Travel Trivia, 6/23/2020

At least 162 people were found dead after heavy rains triggered a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, the deadliest accident that the largely unregulated industry has seen in years. Myanmar is the world’s largest producer of jade, a precious green gemstone mined almost exclusively for export to neighboring China. The multibillion-dollar industry has been linked to decades of corruption, poor labor conditions, and human rights abuses, according to human-rights organizations. — Wall Street Journal, 7/3/2020

The FBI announced a record 3.9 million background checks for gun sales in June, the highest monthly total since the FBI began keeping the statistic in 1998. Adjusting to reflect checks only for gun purchases, the National Shooting Sports Foundation says this works out to 2.2 million, a 136%
increase over June 2019. NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva says about 40% of these checks are for first-time gun buyers. Analysts attribute this surge to the unintended consequences of the Defund the Police movement. They say that the more people fear that cops won’t be around when people need them, the more Americans are exercising their constitutional right to protect themselves and their property. — Wall Street Journal, 7/3/2020


Hong Kong released additional details of China’s sweeping new national security law for the former British colony, saying security forces had the overriding authority to enter and search properties for evidence and stop people from leaving the city. Hong Kong returned to China on July 1, 1997, under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary. But under China’s new legislation, crimes of secession and sedition will be punishable by up to life in prison, stoking concerns of a much more authoritarian era in a city that has been racked by anti-China protests for the past year. — Reuters, 7/6/2020

Britain imposed sanctions on 25 Russians and 20 Saudis on Monday as part of post-Brexit measures foreign minister Dominic Raab said were aimed at stopping the laundering of “blood money”. After leaving the European Union in January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to forge a new independent role for Britain in foreign and trade affairs and this was the first time London could impose asset freezes and visa bans independently. Russia said it would respond to the new measures. The Saudi government media office and Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “If you’re a kleptocrat or an organized criminal, you will not be able to launder your blood money in this country,” Raab told parliament. — Reuters, 7/6/2020

Strike fighters and electronic-warfare jets took off day and night from two U.S. aircraft carriers in the South China Sea to simulate sustained attacks on enemy bases as Washington put on one of its biggest displays of naval power in a potential flashpoint for conflict. China held its own large-scale drills around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, where it has built missile bases, radar facilities, and an airfield. Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the Paracels. The Navy frequently sails through the South China Sea to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims, but an escalation of friction between the superpowers over trade, spying allegations and a shifting military balance also lie behind the rare length and scale of the latest show of American force. — Wall Street Journal, 7/6/2020

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld and strengthened a law banning the broadly unpopular but ubiquitous telemarketing practice known as robocalls, striking down an exemption to the measure that had allowed automated calls for collection of certain money owed to the government. With few exceptions, auto-dialed calls to cellphones are illegal in the United States unless a person has given prior consent. Despite the ban, the volume of automated calls has surged in recent years, with Americans receiving 58.5 billion robocalls last year, an increase of 22% from 2018, according to YouMail, a company that provides a service to block automated calls. — Reuters 7/6/2020

Bir Tawil in Africa is an 800-square-mile area along the border between Sudan and Egypt with no residents, rulers, or laws. Getting there isn’t exactly easy — the desert is as remote as it is hot, reaching temperatures in excess of 90 degrees Fahrenheit all 12 months of the year. Neither Egypt nor Sudan have claimed the territory due to a long and complicated border dispute dating from 1899 and 1902. According to how the maps are drawn under each treaty, claiming Bir Tawil would acknowledge that the other country could claim the Hala’ib triangle — its rich soil and larger size makes it a far more lucrative territory, and neither wants to relinquish it. (Egypt currently occupies Hala’ib and has de facto control, but both countries claim sovereignty.) — Travel Trivia, 7/3/2020


While corporations can always offer more stock, and governments can always issue more bonds, there is one asset that has had a pretty fixed supply on earth for the last several million years: Land. And some Americans own quite a lot of that asset. The Land Report publishes an annual ranking of the biggest private landowners in the US, as measured by total acreage. According to their most recent list, each of the 20 individuals and families that own the most land hold over a half-million acres each. Many of the biggest landowners are families with deep, inter-generational roots, holding vast swathes of ranch or timberland across the country for decades. — Legal Guidance Now, 6/15/2020

China’s new security law for Hong Kong has many business leaders worried. Its wording is so broad that it is easy to imagine how a business dispute with a Chinese company could end up construed as a breach of the law, putting executives at risk of prosecution. It also threatens the unfettered communication and information flows that underpin global markets. It gives Chinese authorities the right to intercept electronic communications and conduct warrantless searches. Market research or
financial analysis on state firms could be interpreted as revealing state secrets. — Wall Street Journal, 7/3/2020

Some 51.1 million jobs were protected by a highprofile pandemic aid program of $521.4 billion in taxpayer cash. But the data underlined that in addition to mom-and-pop shops, the funds went to several well-heeled and politically connected companies, some of which got between $5 million and $10 million. In the scramble to distribute funds, the program was beset by technology glitches, documentation snags and revelations that some lenders prioritized their most profitable clients, leading to some affluent companies receiving funds while less well-heeled borrowers missed out. — Reuters, 7/6/2020

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 4.8 million in June, and the unemployment rate declined to 11.1 percent. These improvements in the labor market reflected the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In June, employment in leisure
and hospitality rose sharply. Notable job gains also occurred in retail trade, education and health services, other services, manufacturing, and professional and business services. — Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7/2/2020 (Editor’s note: the continuing openings and shutdowns of economic activity makes this a time-sensitive statistic. This BLS report was the latest issued before going to press with this issue)


Two thousand years ago, Jerusalem residents were storing food and water, cooking, maybe even living in a unique subterranean multiple-room structure barely 30 meters from the holy Temple. This new discovery was unveiled by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. “At the time of the Second Temple, 2,000 years ago, this was a public area, the civic center of ancient Jerusalem,” Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon, co-director of the excavation said. “We think that the public street passed just a few meters from here, and we are standing next to what we archaeologists call the ‘big bridge’ that connected the upper city to the Temple itself.” The structure was discovered under the white mosaic floor of a monumental Byzantine building from about 1,400 years ago. Clay cooking vessels, oil lamps and stone containers, useful to store water and minimizing the risk of giving it ritual impurity according to Halacha, are among the objects retrieved by the researchers so far, allowing them to assess that the carved structure was in use in the first century CE. — Jerusalem Post, 5/18/2020

The Vatican issued a statement reinforcing its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after the recently installed government of Israel announced plans to vote for the annexation
of the West Bank territory. “The Holy See reiterates that respect for international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, is an indispensable element for the two peoples to live side by side in
two States, within the borders internationally recognized before 1967,” read the Vatican statement. — RNS, 5/20/2020

The economic fallout from the coronavirus in Israel could lead to half a million unemployed by the beginning of 2021. The unemployment rate in the country skyrocketed over the past few months due to the economic lockdown imposed on the country as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, reaching a record-breaking 27.5% in mid-April. Government economy and welfare officials said prior to the health crisis Israel’s unemployment rate was among the lowest in the world, ranging from 3.4% to 4.2% for the past four years-averaging between 160,000 and 180,000 jobless. — Bridges for Peace, 6/7/2020

Israel is experiencing an unexpected effect of the global health pandemic: a wave of “post-coronavirus” immigration that will see tens of thousands of Diaspora Jews making aliyah to Israel. Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata told the Knesset to expect 90,000 new immigrants or olim to Israel by the end of 2021, nearly tripling the 35,463 who returned to the Jewish state in 2019. There has been in North America and the UK an unprecedented upsurge in interest among US Jews to make Israel their home. The situation is similar in France, home to the world’s third largest Jewish population after the US and Israel, where there has been, according to the Jewish Agency, “three times the number of requests for aliyah from France” since the outbreak of COVID-19. Many Diaspora Jews view Israel as a safe haven that would offer them sanctuary in the event that anti-Semitism, terror, war, religious persecution or economic collapse drive them from the countries of their birth. — Bridges for Peace, 6/26/2020

The US says that the Islamic Republic will under no circumstances be allowed to go nuclear. In fact, the US is prepared to take military action to put a stop the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. This was US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook’s pledge yesterday during a visit to Jerusalem. “We’ve made very clear, the president has, that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon,” Hook said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 13.”The Israeli people and the American people and the international community should know that President Trump will never allow them to have a nuclear weapon,” Hook said, adding that “the military option is always on the table.” — Bridges for Peace, 7/1/2020

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