A Critical Respond to: “A Unique Miqveh in Upper Galilee” (by Eldad Keynan) – A Guest Post by Mordechai Aviam

A Critical Response to: “A Unique Miqveh in Upper Galilee” by Eldad Keynan

Mordechai Aviam
Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology
Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee
maviam53@gmail.com

It is very sad to see a baseless article, published in a distinguished Web-site (www.bibleinterp.com) which purports to publish new archaeological discoveries concerning the Biblical world. Keynan’s article is based on a very shallow research and presents poor academic standards, with very little archaeological knowledge and full of mistakes of different types!

One can just walk in the field, take some photos of archaeological finds and then “write” an article. But this is not Archaeology! The field of archaeology, like any other field of research, demands much more.

Writing an article in 2015 concerning Miqva’ot without referring to Reich’s book on this type of installation (Reich R. 2013. Miqwa’ot (Jewish Ritual Baths), in the Second Temple Mishnaic and Talmudic Period. Jerusalem) is complete ignorance, and then stating that “Dozens has have been found in Israel”, making it even worse. Reich gives us the numbers: 459 from the Second Temple Period and 74 from later periods; all together 533 miqva’ot which are much more than ‘dozens’.

Kenyan’s description of the “miqveh” at Horvat Amudim as having “…a small pit in the floor corner…” makes every archaeologist immediately understand that this installation is actually a collecting vat of a wine press. This small depression was cut to collect the last drops of wine from the vat’s floor and it is totally absent in any real miqveh! If Keynan would open Reich’s book and he could see hundreds of plans and sections of miqva’ot all of which lack this feature.

The same happened when Keynan recently mis-identified a “miqveh” at Horvat Makhoz, in the Upper Galilee. He saw the collecting vat, identified it as a miqveh but failed to recognize the threshing floor right above it, and without any support from any archaeological evidence he dated it to the 1st century BC! He based this observation on what he called similarities to the miqveh at Keren Naftali. The Keren Naftali installation is indeed a real miqveh, characterized by one large step and one narrow step, typical of early miqva’ot, and of course no small cup in its floor. The pottery collected in the survey I conducted at Horvat Makhoz, was comprised of 70% Byzantine sherds, 29% Mamluk sherds and only 1% from the Roman period.

But the worst comes when Keynan states that he discovered a miqveh with a cross in Western Upper Galilee, without mentioning the site name or its location. Based on this “discovery” Keynan has compiled an imaginative theory about the site which was initially a Jewish village and following Christianization of its inhabitants, a cross was engraved on the wall of its miqveh….

This site was surveyed by me many years ago and was named by the neighboring Christian villagers from Fassutah, Bir Abu Faur. I identified there a small monastery (e.g., Aviam M. 1999. Christian Galilee in the Byzantine Period. In E. Meyrs (ed.) Galilee through the Centuries. Winona Lake. Pp. 281–300, map on page 282, Bir Faur is #26. A photo of this collecting vat with the cross was also published in Aviam M. 2004. Jews Pagan and Christians in the Galilee. Rochester. P. 172, photo 16.3). At the bottom of the collecting vat there is a small depression in the corner. Above it there clearly is a threshing floor with some large mosaic tesserae which once covered it. There were handsome pottery sherds dated to the Hellenistic period and all the rest are from the Byzantine period. Keynan concludes his article with these words: “Still, the entire area is unstudied and thus unexcavated…”, which is far from the truth.

It is not the first time that Keynan “Discovers fantastic and unique” discoveries, in areas which he believes were “never studied before.” Unfortunately, his research abilities are so poorly utilized that he is neither aware of – or ignores – published studies, nor consults archaeologists who have been working in the field for many years.

I believe that the editors of the Bibleinterp Web-site have access to sufficient resources for checking the facts before publishing articles like Keynan’s, as they have many thousands of readers and in this case, given non-scientific and wrong information.

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30 thoughts on “A Critical Respond to: “A Unique Miqveh in Upper Galilee” (by Eldad Keynan) – A Guest Post by Mordechai Aviam

  1. joezias 6 Oct 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Part of the BAR crowd… should one be surprised?

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    • Eldad Keynan 7 Oct 2015 at 7:24 am

      Dear Joe; as you are so superior comparing to the BAR crowd, would you be kind enough to explain one short riddle? How come 10 ossuaries bave been extracted from a tomb but only 9 of them are listed in the formal Rahmani Catalogue?

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      • joezias 7 Oct 2015 at 10:38 am

        Very simple, read the relevant literature and you will understand the not so mysterious ‘missing’ ossuary. With the BAR Crowd, everything is some kind of conspiracy, mystery, first of a kind, unique (you get my drift) so as to sell more books, more ‘docs’ or in the words of one of the Crowd when I asked, what will happen when colleague’s ‘diss’ you, he replied “I’ll laugh all the way to the bank”.

        I’m willing to save you a lot of time and effort, here’s the deal, they maintained that Mr. Josef Gat an honest man if there ever was one, whose wife received from the BAR Crowd, the Lifetime Achievement Award and took the secret to his grave, published many articles on biblical archaeology during the nearly three decades he worked with us. Show me ten articles, naw, make it five, he published, peer-reviewed, on biblical archaeology (Not including articles when colleagues added his name out of gratitude, or those half page notes in the IAA archaeological news) and I will reveal the whereabouts of the 10th ossuary. The answer to the ‘short riddle’ (your words) does not have a brother of Jesus inscription. While at it, take a look at the article by Charles Pellegrino, the co-author of the James Ossuary book which appears in the proceedings of that Princeton Conference here in Jerusalem you attended, as to the provenance of the James ossuary. I’m waiting…

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        • Eldad Keynan 7 Oct 2015 at 1:04 pm

          Joe – as long and elaborate your reply is, I guess I’ve asked a simple question. You didn’t reply to the point, but carefully repeat the “well-based” theories that brought you to court. As far as I know – the court found you guilty of libel. Meaning – your theories hardly impressed the court. I did not ask what name was on the missing ossuary, I didn’t even mention the Talpiot Tomb. My question was, and still is: an excavation team discovered and reported 10 ossuaries. Only 9 are listed on a formal state catalogue by Rahmani. I am not blaming anyone; I even don’t ask where is the 10th (thanks for offering its whereabouts). I only ask, again: how come 10 are discovered, and only 9 are registered?
          Leave the late Gat alone; he had nothing to do with my riddle.

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          • joezias 7 Oct 2015 at 1:39 pm

            I’m confused what tomb are you talking about where they found ten ossuaries….

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            • Eldad Keynan 8 Oct 2015 at 1:55 am

              How unfortunate that you are confused . . .let me help: it’s the Talpiot Tomb No. 1, discovered in March 1980. I wonder how can you be so confused? After all, you’ve just mentioned the late Y. Gat’s name – the man who actually excavated this tomb with S. Gibson as his assitant. Both Gat and Gibson reported 10 ossuaries. Gibson even wrote in his NEA article that you was the Curator in the IAA warehouse on that Friday.
              Now, again, to the riddle, Joe: 10 ossuaries have been found, only 9 are listed in the state formal catalogue. Can you tell us, humble, simple BAR crowd, how could that happen?

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  2. Eldad Keynan 7 Oct 2015 at 4:28 am

    Response to Aviam’s “https://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/a-critical-respond-to-a-unique-miqveh-in-upper-galilee-by-eldad-keynan-a-guest-post-by-mordechai-aviam/
    First: I am not an archaeologist; thus I’m not allowed to excavate. Still, taking into account possible mistakes on my side, I stick to written materials and relate to them directly and precisely. I wrote “Dozens has have been found in Israel” indeed. Well, not dozens, says Aviam, but hundreds. Dozens is a lot, hundreds are much more. Thanks for the correction.
    I admit I didn’t read Prof. Reich’s book, which was published 2013. Aviam criticizes me regarding the rectangular pit in Khurvat Amudim. Yet Aviam fails to tell us where the threshing floor of this “vat” is; there is no such floor close to this vat whatsoever. There is also no sign of any connecting tunnel between the non-existing threshing floor and the “vat”.
    Are water reservoirs typical next to wine vats or Mikvehs? Aviam skips this feature, so clearly visible near what he names “wine vat”, the focus of his critical response: it is there, about two meters south of the “wine vat”. To stress this point: wine vats, mikvehs and water reservoirs require rocky surface to be cut in. It’s possible that on a certain rocky surface people cut both a wine vat and a water reservoir, but the question is: is there any wine vat with a water reservoir almost adjacent to it?
    The Makhoz site: Aviam says (quote) “and without any support from any archaeological evidence he dated it to the 1st century BC!” I would expect a distinguished scholar to show precision, especially when he criticizes others. This is what I wrote: “the Makhoz mikveh could be dated 1st century BCE to 2nd -3 rd century CE” (my underline, EK). Still, following Aviam’s criticism, I will revisit Makhoz site to look for the threshing floor.
    What I believe is a unique mikveh has quite a large cavity, highly visible, on the top of its southern wall. Unfortunately, Aviam missed that feature as well in his so critical response. Once again we may ask: how typical to wine vats is this cavity? How many wine vats, Galilean or other, have this cavity on top of the wall which is almost adjacent to a water reservoir? I have visited a large wine vat excavated by Aviam in mid-town Carmiel – Khurvat Kav: there is no water reservoir adjacent to the vat and no any cavity on the top of any wall. There is, indeed, a huge threshing floor next to the vat, and a rock-cut tunnel connects both facilities to each other. No such tunnel, not even the remains of such tunnel, are visible in what I believe is a mikveh.
    Once again, unexpected precision problem; Aviam says: “Keynan has compiled an imaginative theory about the site which was initially a Jewish village and following Christianization of its inhabitants, a cross was engraved on the wall of its miqveh….” I did write this, but also that it’s possible that Jews left the village and Christians arrived instead. I wrote very clear: “There are two reasonable explanations”; it’s not my duty to explain how, or rather: why, Aviam missed that.
    Aviam says: (quote) “At the bottom of the collecting vat there is a small depression in the corner. Above it there clearly is a threshing floor with some large mosaic tesserae which once covered it.” There is rock-cut flat floor to the north of the “vat” indeed. Yet today there are no any remains of mosaic. Assuming there was when Aviam studied the site, we might accept that ever since Aviam’s excavation weather and human activity eliminated the mosaic. What this floor shows today are two small man-made square holes cut in the rock – are such holes typical to threshing floors? What this floor doesn’t show is a connecting tunnel to the vat.
    Aviam says regarding this site: (quote): “there were handsome pottery sherds dated to the Hellenistic period and all the rest are from the Byzantine period” (my underline, EK); if so, then my dating was not so far from what Aviam says.
    Archaeological data for this site: true, I couldn’t find any in Haifa University library; I didn’t even know the site is named “Bir Abu Faur”. I did not mark the site since I was, and still am, afraid that exposing it might result in further destruction. Indeed, as I saw the flat rock-cut floor, I thought it’s a threshing floor, as I marked in the photo: “wine press”. But after several visits to the site, during all I’ve found no connecting tunnel to the vat, this idea seems to be wrong. When we consider the two small square holes in the floor – which are not typical to threshing floors – the identification of this floor is still a riddle. This brings us to the main point Aviam skipped in his criticism: to what degree a cross incised on a wall is typical to wine vats? Do we have other such examples? As the cross is still there, its presence calls for explanation.
    Aviam says (quote): “It is not the first time that Keynan “Discovers fantastic and unique” discoveries”. I wonder whether Aviam can show a single time that I used the term “fantastic”. I believe in critical reading – it might open fruitful study and debate. I just don’t see what the benefit of such a personal negative attitude is. So far, as I’m not allowed to dig, and I do not dig, I’m not facing any criminal case, nor did I cause others to face such cases. On the other hand, I don’t think that missing this or that study is a crime. Now that I know this site was published before – I will get this publication.
    As for consulting others: I did consult an expert in a parallel field concerning the dating of this site. His conclusions are amazing and above all: convincing. These conclusions will be published soon, so I believe.

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    • Mordechai Aviam 8 Oct 2015 at 6:39 am

      As Keynan declares that he is not an archaeologist, now it is all known and settled and clear. I would like to suggest to Keynan and editors of web sites that he and others, while writing on professional aspects to clearly say if they are professionals or amateurs. When I read his piece I thought it was written by a professional archaeologist from Bar Ilan University!
      Now when I know that Keynan is an amateur, I do not find any reason to continue any professional discussion, as he is not reading professional bibliography (as he said concerning Reich’s book. Yes it is not a crime not to read this book or other – for an amateur, but it is non-professional for professionals! ) and I apologize if I was to hash on him, I don’t do it to amateurs, but they should identify themselves as such!
      If there are thousands of readers to these web-sites. they should know how professionals are the writers!

      Dr. Mordechai Aviam, archaeologist!
      Institute for Galilean Archaeology

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  3. Eldad Keynan 10 Oct 2015 at 8:39 am

    Thanks, Dr. Aviam, for being that kind and considerate. I guess you know and always knew very well that I’m not an archaeologist – you attended the symposium in Jerusalem (January 2008) on the Talpiot Tomb and among other papers you attended mine as well. I did not identify myself as “an archaeologist” then, not ever since. Speaking of amateurs and professionals, I wonder: how professional is to claim that an exposure of a find is new while it’s clear that it has already been published . . .14 years earlier by the same person? Here it is:

    I was lucky to find this: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4607337,00.html. This article is in Hebrew, and I will do the best I can to translate it correctly. In this publication, the next paragraph says, I quote:

    “ד”ר מוטי אביעם מהמכללה האקדמית “כנרת”, איתר מקווה טהרה שעל פי ההערכה שימש את החשמונאים בעת שהותם בגליל, לפני כ-2,100 שנה, ופרסום המחקר שנעשה בעקבות הגילוי מתפרסם בימים אלה לראשונה.”

    Trans.: Dr. Motti Aviam of the of the academic college “Kinneret” have located a ritual bath (Mikveh tahara) which seems to have served the Hasmoneans while they stayed in the Galilee, about 2100 years ago; the study which follows this discovery is being published these days for the first time”.

    I repeat: “the study which follows this discovery is being published these days for the first time”.

    This site and mikveh have been mentioned in Aviam’s article ‘First century Jewish Galilee: an archaeological perspective’, pp. 7-27, In Religion and Society in Roman Palestine, edited by Douglas R. Edwards, published by Routledge in 2004. The site has been excavated by Aviam and Green already in the year 2000, as we can learn from N. 3, p. 15 in the article mentioned above, while the Y-Net publication (cited above) says that the publication of the site by Y-Net is the first ever.
    When I wrote and sent my article to Bible and Interpretation I did not know this facility has already been surveyed by Aviam in 1999; it should also be noted that the sites name – Bir Abu Faur – does not occur on the best navigation map of Israel – Amud Annan. Thus I didn’t even know the sites name. I am sorry that I failed to look for info regarding a site the name of which I didn’t even know.

    I am not even an amateur archaeologist; I don’t even want to one. I just don’t think that distinguished scholars such as your self, Dr. Aviam, should recycle stuff they’ve already published as ” published these days for the first time”.

    As for this: “Yes it is not a crime not to read this book or other – for an amateur, but it is non-professional for professionals! )” – your colleague, and probably also friend, wrote he knows no other wine vat with a cross incised on it’s wall. That is – he didn’t read tour 1999 article. Does it make him “non-professional for professionals”, as you say?

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  4. Eldad Keynan 10 Oct 2015 at 8:43 am

    Sorry, a correction: by “your colleague, and probably also friend” I mean Dr. Rick Bonnie, a professional archaeologist

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  5. Eldad Keynan 10 Oct 2015 at 11:06 am

    Every person deserves credit, no matter what. Thus I’ve just revisited http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4607337,00.html to see whether there is any comment to the effect that it’s not the first time this mikveh is being published. Unfortunately – there is none to that effect.

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  6. Eldad Keynan 10 Oct 2015 at 11:15 am

    And another point: Dr. Aviam, archaeologist, states: “I do not find any reason to continue any professional discussion, as he is not reading professional bibliography”. Amazingly, Dr. Aviam, archaeologist, missed the simple fact that I have cited him in the article he so strogly criticizes. I guess ignoring simple facts is being professional. It is expected that now we will never know what Dr. Aviam has to say in reply to the few simple questions I humbly askes him in my main response above. So unfortunate!
    I am sorry that this has gone that far. I never menat that to take place.

    Eldad Keynan, historian!

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    • joe zias 10 Oct 2015 at 1:20 pm

      Eldad, one of the things which defines the BAR Crowd in my humble opinion is when biblical scholars try to pass themselves off as archaeologists as, face it, being an archaeologist in the western mind is ‘sexy’ whereas being just another biblical scholar is a bit of a yawner. One has to go on a dig where they pass themselves off as such, picking up a sherd from say the Roman period and telling students that its EB2, similar to pottery found god knows where. Students and those funding these digs are amazed at the knowledge of these wanna be archaeologists whereas in fact, they are the ridicule of those in the profession. We don’t ‘do’ theology however they have no shame passing themselves off as such, placing on their resumes, sites which they emptied buckets as having excavated there. One sees it from time to time and many are BAR crowd folks, hustling for funds here and there at the expense of people like Moti Aviam and other scholars struggling to get funding. A few yrs back I accidently discovered inscriptions atop the so- called Tomb of Absalom, one of which was the earliest NT inscription engraved in stone, one would think that money to continue the research would be pouring in, just the opposite here in Jerusalem, phase II in fact, was partially funded out of pocket. The BAR Crowd wanted the story, I refused for ethical reasons, they published it anyway after our article came out. One of the reasons we refused is that one never knows how one’s article will come out after BAR editing. They get the last word.

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  7. Mordechai Aviam 10 Oct 2015 at 11:42 am

    As stated earlier, I see no reasn in continuing discussion with Keynan, maybe just a short academic question directed to him: are you affiliated with Bar Ilan University? You sign your paper with the name of Bar Ilan. Usualy in our academic world it means that you are representing a department, a study group, a research group, an inner institute…So what are you if you are not an archaeologist? What are your academic background? I already had some scholars who read the comments asking me these questions about you…
    Dr. Mordechai Aviam

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  8. Dr. Danny Syon, Israel Antiquities Authority 10 Oct 2015 at 1:19 pm

    About two years ago I had a similar duel of words with Eldad Keynan in a local newspaper (we live close to each other), about an imagined proto-Christian presence in Lower Galilee. Though he did not present himself as an archaeologist, much of his article interpreted time-tested archaeological evidence in very strange ways. Just as Aviam, I was appalled by his ignorance of the relevant literature. Just as Aviam, I have no wish to argue with an amateur archaeologist (Keynan appeared already in 2010 as Dr. Eldad Keynan, doctor of Jewish history at Bar Ilan University, here: [http://www.lomdim.org.il/1016.html] though he is not on the university staff, and I don’t know if he actually received his PhD yet).
    I do, however, back Aviam’s request that websites and blogs check the qualifications of the writers to say what they say.

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  9. Eldad Keynan 10 Oct 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Dr. Aviam: before I answer, I guess I have left here enough questions to you to answer. We can start with the answer concerning the fact that you have published a find and defined the publication “first” in 2014 while you knew very well that it was not as you, yourself, published it already in 2000. And you are the “pro” here, the Dr. Archaeologist! Answer this first, then we will continue. This question is as academic as your question is.

    Dr. Sion: in this site, [http://www.lomdim.org.il/1016.html] this line appears indeed: בעקבות עניין שהתעורר באתר ושנלוותה אליו התכתבות עשירה במידע, עם ד”ר אלדד קינן. It makes me a Dr, which I’m not. As well as you know, this site belongs to the same college in which Dr, Aviam is a senior member. I have never saw this before. Moreover: why don’t you ask whoever wrote this line whay he did so or whether he ever asked me, or even if I told him\her thet I am a Dr.? I’m sure you know who to contact there. If not – ask Dr. Aviam. He knows for sure.
    As this became so personal, the question nof my degree (Jewish history MA) seems to lose importance. Or, instaed, why don’t you all prove that I have presented my self as a Dr or arcaeologist? After all – you know all, don’t you? The site you mention [http://www.lomdim.org.il/1016.html] says they had a rich correspondence with me. I hope they keep this rich stuff. Why don’t you check it up?
    My opinons regarding the presence of Judeo-Christians in the Galilee are based, in the first place, on written sources, rabbinic and church fathers. I know how so many scholars react when this topic is on the table. Only god knows why you run personal attacks instead of having the topic under discussion. Your reaction here is similar to the reaction by some of the attendants in the Jerusalem symposium on the Talpiot Tomb 2008. Instead of refuting the sources and the conclusions – they attacked me and others – personally. I’m glad you replied here, as it gives me the opportunity to ask you: do you really believe that any personal attack will take you any further? Do you lose your confidence that easy only because a “non-pro” said things you don’t agree with?

    And, Dr. Sion, as to your request: “I do, however, back Aviam’s request that websites and blogs check the qualifications of the writers to say what they say” – the topic of Judeo-Christian presence in the Galilee is a live and well, and will stay alive, no matter what difficulties it will have to overcome, and no matter how others will strive to silent it. It is there, whether you or others like it; whether the data will be published in one or another site.

    And to you, Mr. Zias: I don’t think archaeology is “sexy”, nor do I think that history or any other field is. Yet I do know that even when questions are not always “sexy” – I try to answer. You keep ignoring me simple question, just like Dr. Aviam, archaeologist (!) does. So let me try once more: how come two excavators report 10 ossuaries, but a formal catalogue of the state lists only 9? Joe – I really want an answer to this question. I’m sure many others want as well. This site might be among them.

    Dr. Aviam, Dr. Sion, and Mr. Zias: my part in the 2008 symposium is the reason that you all are charging now. The question I ask Mr. Zias, and the answer – or answers – to this question is what driving you. Mr. Zias was honest enough to reveal the other motive: financing study. You all would better relax: I promise not to apply for even one Shekel for field study, as I’m not an archaeologist.

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    • Mordechai Aviam 11 Oct 2015 at 1:59 am

      Eldad Keynan, it became personal not for any money for field work or “detective” questions about disappearing ossuary…! It became personal because it is about archaeological ETHICS which you do not understand! Academic life and research is much more than finding a “miqve” or a decoration in a tomb in the field and writing an article without learning about it, searching the scientific material and reading books and articles (in plural…).
      Concerning the un-answered questions, as I said, I don’t think it is worth answering them but I see that one of them leaves you unrest so I’ll answer it. The issue under discussion is one of the ways that archaeological research is done! Not like you, “discovering” a structure in the field and building stories upon it, a research takes time! Therefore I wrote my first article on the survey of Keren Naftali,in which the siege complex after some years, after learning more, I got back to the site, dug there in attempt to check the early hypothesis of mine, and the second article is the final report of the excavations which is a summary of both the survey and excavations. One is based on the other. This is the way archaeologist (!) are working when they are professionals.
      Now, you are invited to tell the readers how it came out that you are affiliated with Bar Ilan University!

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    • Mordechai Aviam 11 Oct 2015 at 8:30 am

      Ho Eldad, only now I understood your point on Keren Naftali…
      As your academic material based a lot in reading Ynet, you bring the not about Keren Naftali from this article… Unbelievable!
      OK, there is a simple explanation especially for you in this case too. If you was a serious scholar you would have probably read all the articles I wrote about Keren Naftali…
      When this “scientific” note in Ynet (for the readers, Ynet is a Web-site of the Hebrew daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot) was published it was when the new Hebrew book “ממגדל נוצרים עד עיר מבצר -מבצרים ומצודות בצפון הארץ, מהכנענים ועד צה”ל” was published under me as an editor. I wrote an article about Keren Naftali and as a matter of fact it was THE FIRST Time (Hebrew לראשונה) that it was published in Hebrew.
      So we still are waiting for explanation of your Bar Ilan affiliation…!

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  10. Dr. Danny Syon, Israel Antiquities Authority 11 Oct 2015 at 12:42 am

    Eldad,
    The tenth ossuary (IAA 80-509) is, in fact, mentioned on page 222 of Rahmani’s catalogue as “plain, broken”. See also:

    Amos Kloner and Shimon Gibson, 2013. The Talpiot Tomb Reconsidered; The Archaeological Facts, in James Charlesworth (ed.), The Tomb of Jesus and His Family? Exploring Ancient Jewish Tombs Near Jerusalem’s Walls. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Pp. 29-75.

    All ten ossuaries are documented here.
    This publication is available in both Haifa and Bar Ilan libraries. I can even send you a pdf offprint I have to your personal mail.
    As an avid follower of Jacobovici, how come you have not been aware of this publication?
    As for getting personal, I suggest you re-read your own responses to Joe Zias earlier on this page.

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  11. Rick Bonnie 11 Oct 2015 at 6:38 am

    Dear Eldad, Your ad hominem attack on me is fallacious and totally inappropriate! In the comment section of B&I, I wrote that “I’m not aware of such a cross engraving in any other wine collection tank” (see http://bibleinterp.com/articles/2015/09/key398024.shtml). Obviously meaning except for the one found at Bir Abu Faur that was described in your article. While the 1999 and 2004 publications by Mordechai Aviam make indeed a reference to the Bir Abu Faur installation, they do not provide any evidence for incised crosses appearing in other collection tanks. So, the impression you give to the reader of me being “non-professional” because you assume that I did not read Aviam’s 1999 and 2004 articles (which I did!) is fallacious. There is nothing in those articles that would lead me to revise my earlier statement.

    Moreover, by using such ad hominem attacks, you cloud the issues that are at stake in your discussion of the installation with incised cross. Both in comments at B&I and here on this website, you continue to see the incised cross as the unique feature supporting the argument of a miqveh and against that of a wine collection tank. First, you wrote as a reply to my comment that: “The cross on this mikveh wall makes it unique. The other wine tanks do not show crosses incised in them. The fact that this mikveh does show a cross, which is not the case even in the wine tanks around the Mediterranean, puts this facility in a different category.” Now, you reply to Mordechai Aviam’s response that: “to what degree a cross incised on a wall is typical to wine vats? Do we have other such examples? As the cross is still there, its presence calls for explanation.”

    Firstly, as you are the writer of the article, you should be the one trying to convince us that (1) the incised cross is “unique” and (2) it was part of a miqveh and not a wine collection tank. This means that it is up to you to demonstrate these two claims with supporting evidence. You have unfortunately not done so at present. Simply saying that it is “unique” or “one-of-a-kind” does not make it unique. As scholars, we would like to check your claims against the actual evidence and your used methodology. For instance, we need to see a much more thorough description of the installation and the surrounding context (e.g. on which grounds did you first identify a wine press nearby the installation with cross and why are you now apparently doubting your earlier identification), including detailed photos and drawings. Moreover, you have not given proof that you surveyed a sufficient number of reports of the numerous wine collection tanks found in the Roman world to backup your statement that incised crosses are not found in such collection tanks.

    Secondly, an incised cross is obviously in no way support for the identification of a miqveh either, so also here you need to clarify your reasoning more strongly. The theory you raise about the site first being occupied by Jews before it became inhabited by Christians is “imaginative”, as Mordechai Aviam calls it, simply because you have not given at present any proof for an earlier Jewish presence. You raise in your article and in your comments the assumption that there may have been a synagogue below the remains of the supposed church, but you don’t provide any evidence in support of it. The only “support” you provide is weak circumstantial evidence to which you referred to in one of your comments at B&I: “As you probably know, some ancient churches were built on older synagogues. This could be the case here as well.“ The problem with this “support” is, however, that you provide no actual example of a church built on top of an earlier synagogue. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but within Israel I cannot think of any Byzantine church that was built upon the remains of a former synagogue. Those examples I know of are all three found in the Diaspora: Gerasa, Apamea and Stobi (see http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Synagogue_as_Foe.pdf).

    In short, I do not see any reason to revise my earlier ideas that I wrote in the comment section of your B&I article. The wine collection tank with incised cross was found very near to a wine press on the site of what probably was a small Christian monastery or church. This Christian context of the find seems to me as sufficient an explanation for the presence of an incised cross, while the nearby wine press further supports (in addition to the depression at the bottom of the installation) the argument for identifying the installation as a wine collection tank.

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  12. Eldad Keynan 11 Oct 2015 at 11:18 am

    Dr. Bonnie – if quoting your comment sounds ad-hominem against you, I really and deeply aplogize.

    Dr. Aviam: “archaeological ETHICS”; let’s see: the Y-net publication says, very clearly, that it’s the first publication. It doesn’t say a single word as to the language of publication. Your correction here is really a nice words-play, but it can not conceal the simple fact: Y-net says it’s the first publication. Instead of commenting this on Y-net, you let Y-net readers to be mislead. Ethics at its best.

    I am sorry, Dr. Aviam, and I will do my best not to insult you, but the next quote is simply NOT TRUE; you say: “Ho Eldad, only now I understood your point on Keren Naftali…
    As your academic material based a lot in reading Ynet, you bring the not about Keren Naftali from this article… Unbelievable!” This is really Unbelievable, as you say, and NOT TRUE, which I say. The note on Keren Nafteli mikveh is from this article, which I believe you know very well:
    “M. Aviam, ‘First Century Jewish Galilee an Archaeological Perspective’, Religion and
    Society in Roman Palestine Old Questions, New approaches, Ed. D. R. Edward, 1st
    published: New York 2004, pp. 7-27”. I have just copied it from http://bibleinterp.com/PDFs/A%20unique%20Mikveh%20in%20Upper%20Galilee.pdf. It will take you only a few seconds to find out – every person can do it just as easy. Ethics, huh?

    Now can we test the term “ethics”? One of your first accusations against me was that ignoring bibliography is being non-professional. Then you wrote (quote) :”This site was surveyed by me many years ago and was named by the neighboring Christian villagers from Fassutah, Bir Abu Faur. I identified there a small monastery (e.g., Aviam M. 1999. Christian Galilee in the Byzantine Period. In E. Meyrs (ed.) Galilee through the Centuries. Winona Lake. Pp. 281–300, map on page 282, Bir Faur is #26.” Now I have this article. Bir Abu Faur is mentioned in the map indeed. Yet it’s the only time this site is mentioned in this article. The rest of the data from this site, and even the fact that there is what you call “collecting vat” which appear here, simply does not appear in the article that I am reading now. Ethics? How ethical is to argue “ignoring bibilography” while the info is simply not in the bibligraphy you marked? I have read this article carefully – but no collecting vat is mentioned in it as existing in Bir Abu Faur. I don’t think it superbly ethic to make the impression, as you do here, that the info is there in the article – while it is not.

    Maybe this is why we don’t have even a clue as to what the clear cavity on the top of this “wine vat” southern wall is; thus we don’t know whether or not such a cavity is typical to wine vats. I think you should have written more about this one; marking such a unique site (it does have a cross on the north-eastern wall, right?) only as a dot on a map seems not to be enough. You contend that this “wine vat” has a small depression on of its corners. Suppose it is the situation; how could any reader of the article mentioned above know this detail that is NOT in the article? Ethics?

    Ethics: “Based on this “discovery” Keynan has compiled an imaginative theory about the site which was initially a Jewish village and following Christianization of its inhabitants, a cross was engraved on the wall of its miqveh….” I also wrote that another possibility is that Christians took over a former Jewish village. Wrong in all accounts, right? Let’s see; I quote your own words, in this very article, p. 298: “It is even possible that in some cases Christian communities took over some of Jewish villages during the fifth and sixth centuries”. Am I, the amatuer, in such a good company as to suggest exactly what Dr. Aviam, archaeologist (!), professional, suggested? No doubt – I didn’t read this article before. Dismissing one’s suggestion as non-professional while suggesting (much long before, indeed) the same suggestion – that’s being professionally ethical?

    We are being told that wine vats are typical to monasteries (I don’t argue you said so in your comment). In pages 294-295 you describe Monasteries; the complexes include, as you say “a church, oil press, and a series of rooms I have identified as monasteries.” Then you count examples. None of them includes a wine vat!

    Now we move to your acute interest: I quit my Ph.D. plan under personal circumstances. It was not the situation when we met in the Jerusalem symposium 2008. You can ask one of your friend, who went right after the symposium to see whether or not I was registerd. Ask him what he discovered. I have an MA degree in Jewish History, focusing on the Galilee.

    This brings me to your main motive: my part in the symposium. Instaed of refuting my arguments on the spot, some of you prefered personal attacks. BTW, Dr. Aviam: I believe that when one express one’s negative opinion on someone in some very “nice” words, one must make sure the woman in the next row is not the other person’s wife, or do it quietly or use a different langauge. I mean: I don’t understand why you say : “Eldad Keynan, it became personal not for any money for field work or “detective” questions about disappearing ossuary”. Once again, a “mistake” on your side: I did say it is connected to budgets, but this is the second part; the first was, and very clear: my part in the 2008 symposium. I can’t believe you missed it. So: is it “mistaking” or misleading?

    Well – it looks like I have just given you the best weapon, right? I am not a Dr., I quit my Ph.D program, I’m not registered in Bar Ilan any longer, I’m not an archaeologist and I don’t think this field, or any other, is “sexy”. Yet after all I can see problems in a professional article, and even suggest some idaes that a pro like you did. Not bad, huh?

    To conclude, Dr. Aviam, archaeologist (!); you say: “It became personal because it is about archaeological ETHICS which you do not understand!” I believe I’ve just had the best lesson of archaeological ethics and ethics in general from the best master in the field. I guess the readers had as well.

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    • Mordechai Aviam 11 Oct 2015 at 12:54 pm

      As it is going too far with a complete misunderstanding of what science is… I’ll not waste more time on answering all this.
      I just want to sum up what was the main points which I wanted to show the readers and especially the managers of web-sites who are controlling web-sites dealing with “Biblical and archaeological” issues.
      1. Every person in the world is allowed to put his opinion in the web but the managers should ask them to explain who they are and what is their background in hope that they are telling the trouth…
      Being a scholar in the academic world in every field have some obligations of learning, reading, consulting, publishing and researching.
      2. The case of Eldad Keynan is a good example of nearly abusing the academic field of archaeology and I hear it from many archaeologists, mainly in Israel but not only.
      3. After a long discussion, we know now, according to what Eldad Keynan wrote here himself (as well as avoiding writing…) that he is NOT an archeologist, he DID NOT finish his PhD degree, he has MA in HISTORY, and he is NOT affiliated with Bar Ilan, although he wrote it in his article.
      4. All of this is serious misleading of the readers, some of which are Biblical or archaeological students who may use all of this non-scientific material.
      5. Very sad, but this is the situation, we should all learn a lesson from, an important hazard!

      Like

      • Eldad Keynan 11 Oct 2015 at 2:48 pm

        At least we agree on something, Dr. Aviam, archaeologist (!) – it’s time to end this mess. As usual – you ignore some questions; I would be interestd to know the motives to ignore some questions and answer others, at least partially. I’m sure the readers would like that as well.
        “in hope that they are telling the trouth…” – we’ve just seen in my last reply to you that not telling the truth might well be a widely held occupation, including professionals.
        Out of respect to your students and other people who know you, I will not play the dirty game of “many say you are . . . “. I leave this to you, Dr. Aviam, archaeologist (!). I’m sure your part here added a lot of prestige to you.
        Asw for misleading the readers: as long as you ignore answers and problematic points in your replies and the article you’ve marked, I guess you are misleading the readers here and in some libraries. Pretending to have info on a certain site and sending others to read this info while knowing the info is NOT there is, Dr. Aviam, misleading, as “not telling the truth” has already been discussed.
        I’m glad Dr. Syon joined this “party”; he saved me a lot of work and efforts I would have “invest” in exposing one major problem with the so called “missing ossuary”. My connection to this affair is the main reason for your personal attack in the first place. I know you’ll not reply, but still, honestly: what do you think about my reply to Dr. Syon with the Rahmani catalogue?
        And speaking of truth and ethics: I wonder whether anyone can explain how come X, an innocent person is found guilty since another man, Y, exploited a find in X’s own backyard.

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  13. Eldad Keynan 11 Oct 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Dr. Syon. You really deserve a special treatment. To do so, and with your permission, I will quote your entire comment:
    “Eldad,
    The tenth ossuary (IAA 80-509) is, in fact, mentioned on page 222 of Rahmani’s catalogue as “plain, broken”. See also:

    Amos Kloner and Shimon Gibson, 2013. The Talpiot Tomb Reconsidered; The Archaeological Facts, in James Charlesworth (ed.), The Tomb of Jesus and His Family? Exploring Ancient Jewish Tombs Near Jerusalem’s Walls. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Pp. 29-75.

    All ten ossuaries are documented here.
    This publication is available in both Haifa and Bar Ilan libraries. I can even send you a pdf offprint I have to your personal mail.
    As an avid follower of Jacobovici, how come you have not been aware of this publication?
    As for getting personal, I suggest you re-read your own responses to Joe Zias earlier on this page.”

    I am sorry to disappoint you, Dr. Syon, and break your well-informed theories to the ground. I have a copy of this catalogue, so I am aware of this publication. I copy the data rigth from the catalogue:

    707
    [80.506] 67 x 31.5 x 38.5 cm. Chip carved.
    Prov. East Talpiyot, Jerusalem.
    Descr. Broken and reconstructed. Low feet.
    Ornam. F Two metopes in zigzag frames; `triglyph’
    containing palm-trunk motif. In each metope, a
    six-petalled rosette inside a zigzag circle; between
    petals and in corners of metopes, small discs.
    Lid Flat. Fragmentary.
    Bibl. HA 76, 1981:24-25.
    Comm. See Comm. 701:1.

    708 Pl. 101
    [80.507] 51 x 27 x 31.5 cm. Chip carved.
    Prov. East Talpiyot, Jerusalem.
    Descr. Broken and reconstructed. Low feet.
    Ornam. F Two metopes in zigzag frames; in each,
    a six-petalled rosette inside a zigzag circle.
    Bibl. HA 76, 1981:24-25.
    Comm. See Comm. 701:1.

    709
    [80.508] 61 x 26.5 x 31.5 cm. Chip carved and
    incised.
    Prov. East Talpiyot, Jerusalem.
    Descr. Broken and reconstructed. Low feet.
    Ornam. F Two metopes in a zigzag frames,
    doubled at top; broadened ‘triglyph’ containing
    large, incised ‘lattice’ pattern with zigzag border at
    top and sides. In each metope, a six-petalled rosette
    inside concentric line and zigzag circles.
    Lid Flat. Broken.
    Bibl. HA 76, 1981:24-25.
    Comm. See Comm. 701:1.

    710
    [80.510] 38 x 18 x 25 cm. Finely incised.
    Prov. Unknown.
    Descr. Low feet.
    Ornam. F Two metopes in a zigzag frame, each
    containing a six-petalled rosette inside a zigzag
    circle. Zigzags overlay petals and link circles to
    corners of metopes.
    Lid Flat.
    Comm. Locally purchased.

    The fact that all these are in page 224 and not in page 222, as you say, could be considered only a slight mistake. Yet, please correct me if I’m wrong: as clearly as any body can see, there is NO OSSUARY you relate to as “The tenth ossuary (IAA 80-509) is, in fact, mentioned . . .”. I am sorry, Dr. Syon, archaeologist (!): the ossuary which, according to your own words, exists, and numbered IAA 80-509 DOES NOT REALLY EXIST IN THE PAGE TOU’VE MENTIONED OR IN ANY OTHER PAGE, as the running numbers, in the catalogue, reach IAA 80.508 and the next one is IAA 80.510. Or do we have any doubts now, Dr. Syon?

    I do have the catalogue since I need it not only to trap others – but since I am studying ossuaries. I don’t need you to send me any copy, thanks. Of course not when you can not even mark the correct page.

    Kloner and Gibson’s article? I know this one – I have the volume, as I have two chapters in it, remember? I respect both very much. I have learned a lot from their works – especially Kloner. But as we can see in Rahmani, page 224, and assuming you have read their article, I think you still can not explain the missing ossuary. Not in this way. As we are neighbors – how about a cup of coffee plus a discussion? I might surprise you with some documents. Find me in the regional phone book.

    Yes, Dr. Syon, some might know more than you think they do. Zias? I guess you know the court’s decision regarding his case. When you live in a glass house – do not throw rocks.

    BTW: Simcha Jacobovici is a very good friend of mine indeed. I even think following him sounds better than following page 222 in Rahmani catalogue . . .or 224.

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  14. Danny Syon 12 Oct 2015 at 2:36 am

    Eldad,
    Look again:
    Page 222, right column, Comm. 1: “The Department retained nine ossuaries (Nos. 701-709) recovered from a double-chambered loculi and arcosolia tomb in 1980; ***a plain, broken specimen was also found*** ” (emphasis with asterisks mine, as there is no other way here).

    Now look in Kloner’s article in ‘Atiqot 29 (1996), page 21, No. 10:
    “IAA 80.509: 60 x 26 30 cm. Plain.”

    My gross mistake in my earlier post was that I did not make it clear enough that the characters “IAA 80-509” do not appear in Rahmani’s catalogue, but the whole story is explained in Kloner and Gibson’s 2013 article, page 43 under No. 10. I apologize for assuming that you would actually read it and make the connection:

    10. IAA accession no. 80-509 (Kloner no. 10); 60 × 26 × 30 cm.
    This ossuary was described by Rahmani as “a plain, broken specimen,” but
    was not included in his catalogue. Since only nine of the ten ossuaries from
    the tomb are at present to be found in the IAA storerooms at Beth Shemesh,
    this raised questions about its appearance and present location.

    It’s true that this fragmentary ossuary apparently did not make it to the Bet Shemesh stores when these were opened, so if you still prefer the conspiracy theory, then that’s fine with me.

    Like

    • Eldad Keynan 12 Oct 2015 at 11:55 am

      OK, Dr, Syon.wan I understand you want me to copy the entire comment. Here it is: ” Comm. 1. The Department retained nine ossuaries (Nos. 701-709) recovered from a double-chambered loculi and arcosolia tomb in 1980; a plain, broken specimen was also found. Thanks are due to the late J. Gath, the excavator, for granting permission to publish these ossuaries.”
      I’m sure you Noticed the fact that IAA 80.509 does not exist in the catalogue. Before we deal with Kloner’s article I ask you: how many ossuaries the late J. Gat teported in his initial report? I guess this report is our first formal report so we must not ignore it. To the best of my memory, he reprted 10 and one broken.
      Further: Gibson, in his article in NEA 69 stated, loud and clear, that from the morning when they started to work, until noon, they have extracted (he really use this word here!) 10 ossuaries from the tomb. I repeat: 10!
      Now we already have 10 in two reports.

      Kloner’s article: I know this article very well, you know. I also know that IAA 80.509 is mentioned in this article as ““IAA 80.509: 60 x 26 30 cm. Plain.” As this one does NOT occur in Rahmani by the identification IAA 80.509 – there is still something that others should explain, not me. I believe that the legendary IAA 80.509 must be considered the only ossuary in the world to perform a sort
      of resurrection.

      You really think I don’t know the “Bet Shemesh warehouse” ergument? Let me ask you: when did the IAA transfered all it’s treasures from the Rockefeller , Jerusalem, to Bet Shemesh? Don’t bother, I have it: http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=762532. As the info is ih Hebrew, let’s make it short: this report tells us that the State of Israel has completed the building of the new warehouse for archaeological treasures. We are even told the the cost was 3 M Shekels! Oh yes, the tiny detail that really matters: the date. I copy: 18/01/2004, that is: January 18, 2004.

      That is, Dr. Syon: there is no way to rely on the transfer to Bet Shemesh BEFORE January 18, 2004. Thus when you write (quote): “It’s true that this fragmentary ossuary apparently did not make it to the Bet Shemesh stores when these were opened etc.” we can’t see how can this explain any problem of mis-transfer in 1996, when Kloner wrote the article you’ve mentioned.

      Now we can go back to p. 222, N.1 (right column) (partial quote) “The Department retained nine ossuaries (Nos. 701-709) recovered from a double-chambered loculi and arcosolia tomb in 1980; a plain, broken specimen was also found.” the deprtment states it retained nine ossuaries and one, broken. You could almost convince me, but Gath REPORTED 10 AND ONE BROKEN. Let me remind you: the department also states, in the comment: “Thanks are due to the late J. Gath, the excavator, for granting permission to publish these ossuaries.” Can you believe they “missed” his report? It’s nice they thank the late Gath; but it could be nicer, should they publish ALL “these ossuaries” – that is all the ossuaries in Gath’s report.

      Conspiracy? What so many see, ever since 2007, are great efforts ro explain things, all of which contrast the intial report. Can we discuss conspiracy now?

      Like

      • joe zias 12 Oct 2015 at 2:33 pm

        Dr Syon, don’t be so nice,let them have their conspiracy theories that it was the James ossuary. I told him yrs ago what needed to be done and he failed to comply with my request so there it stands.

        Like

        • Danny Syon 12 Oct 2015 at 11:42 pm

          Well Joe,
          Conspiracy theories cannot die, by definition. Every counterargument will fuel a new argument. It’s only the fools who try to battle conspiracy theories die or give up. So this fool (meaning myself) is closing the argument now. It was a good fight.

          Like

  15. Eldad Keynan 13 Oct 2015 at 10:08 am

    Mr. Zias and Dr. Syon: conspiracies never die. It sounds true. This argument is one of the best people can use in order to avoid hard questions and ignore the consequences of answering these questions.
    Conspiracy, huh? Even you, Dr. Syon, couldn’t dismiss a fact, not a conspircay: IAA 80.509 does not occur in the formal ossuaries catalogue of the State of Israel, by Rahmani. Is this fact a conspiracy? Yes, you cite the catalogue by “Page 222, right column, Comm. 1: “The Department retained nine ossuaries (Nos. 701-709)”. It only proves that IAA 80.509 is NOT there. Now you use the “conspiracy theory” argument to escape. Go ahead – it’s legal.
    Joe: to the best of my knowledge, while the libel charge against you underwent a hard test in court, we’ve all heard one of the most fantastic theories, which indluded holocaust survivers and life achievement award. Unfortunately, you failed to persuade the court.
    Indeed, years ago you advised me etc., but I refused. You know why? Read the court decision in your case. The answer is there.

    No, Dr. Syon – nothing is over before truth is ecposed. If you want to see a good copy of Gath’s initial report – call me. I have one.

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  16. Eldad Keynan 13 Oct 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Just for the information of the readers; some might get the impression others strived to make here that I’m not telling the truth, and that I am “riding” a conspiracy theory. On top of my replies above, I wish to expose those who base their cases on conspiracy theories. Here we go: http://www.simchajtv.com/israeli-court-finds-joseph-zias-guilty-of-libel/.
    Some passages will clear the point.
    1. “He (Mr. Zias, EK) accused me, among other things, of “forgery”, “planting archaeology”, “pimping the Bible” and “inventing Holocaust stories”. He also accused me of being in intimate contact with various criminal elements around the world. All these are horrible, made up lies that he circulated on the Internet and sent to various universities, publishers and broadcasters. Incredibly, he found some people to support him, especially those with a theological axe to grind.”

    2. ” I only called 4 witnesses to make my case. For his part, Zias argued that he had spoken the truth and called 25 witnesses in his defense. But the strategy backfired as most of his witnesses testified against his position!”

    3. “Today, the judge threw the book at Zias. He quoted Israeli law stating that freedom of speech has to be balanced with protecting a man’s “good name”. He found that Zias did not prove a single allegation. By the end of his 38 page ruling, the judge found Zias guilty on 10 counts of libel – 6 of them “pre-meditated libel with an intention to cause harm”. To underline the seriousness of Zias’ wrongdoings, the judge fined him a total of 800,000 NIS.

    I waited a long time for this moment. Justice has been served and a clear message has been sent to those who use bullying and defamation as a tactic to silence free debate.”

    Here I rest my case.

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