New take on the elephant and the Jewish question


In the days when lots of elephants roamed the Middle East, it didn’t take much skill to bring home dinner. But when the elephants became scarce, about 400,000 years ago, hunters had to become swifter (and longer-limbed) and develop social and technological skills to bag smaller and more elusive game. Thus the stage was set for the disappearance of Homo erectus and the emergence of Modern humans.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University offer this explanation for the recent discovery of Modern humans’ teeth in Qesem Cave, near Tel Aviv. These humans preceded by 200,000 years Homo sapiens in Africa, where the elephants disappeared 150,000 later than they did in the Middle East.

Prof. Avi Gopher, Dr. Ran Barkai and their co-researchers challenge previous assumptions about ancient human diet and the circumstances that lead to biological and cultural changes in human evolution.

If you wonder how archaeologists and anthropologists know these things, consider that they are true garbage-ologists. They painstakingly classify and count the animal bones in prehistoric garbage pits.

We are what we eat.


Forget Iran. Forget planned terror attacks in Thailand. The real threat to Jewish Israelis is ice cream. According to a recent news item on Ynet, senior Chief Rabbinate officials say Häagen-Dazs ice cream should be pulled from supermarkets because it is made with “pagan” milk (milk produced without Jewish supervision) and therefore not kosher.

According to the officials, by selling the disputed ice cream two supermarket chains are in violation of the rabbinate-granted certificates attesting that all the products they sell are kosher. General Mills Israel, which markets Häagen-Dazs in Israel, insists the ice cream is indeed strictly kosher.

The SuperSol chain has reportedly pulled Häagen-Dazs products from its freezers.

If Häagen-Dazs goes, what next?


A Bank of Israel commemorative coin featuring Jonah “in the belly of the fish” has won the Coin of the Year award in the annual competition by Krause Publications, a US publisher of books and periodicals devoted, inter alia, to hobbies and numismatics.

The silver coin was chosen from among 95 finalists from around the world. In the first round, it won in the most artistic coin category, and in the second round it was chosen as the coin of the year from among the winning coins in ten categories.

It is the sixteenth commemorative coin in the Bank of Israel’s Biblical Art series. The designers are Gideon Keich and Aharon Shevo. The competition organizers reportedly said that the design’s “simplicity speaks volumes and invokes a little bit of wonder.”

Text copyright 2012 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.


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16 Responses to “New take on the elephant and the Jewish question”

  1. Judy Labenson Says:

    Welcome back, Esther. Can you show us a thumbnail of that coin?

  2. Ira Says:

    Ynet’s English news did indeed mistranslate halav akum as “pagan milk.” But you should have known better.

    Akum is a term imposed upon us by the censors. For example, wherever the gemara had “goy,” (non-Jew) the censors changed it to “akum,” which as you know, is an abbreviation for idol worshipers — that is, “ovdei kokhavim umazalot.”

    Halav akum simply means milk that was milked by a non-Jew.

    In Israel we are more fussy about that than we were abroad.

    By the way, you may be using “smart quotes,” which would explain why some of your punctuation comes over as a combination of strange characters, such as “design’s “simplicity speaks ” You may want to look into this.

    • estherhecht Says:

      Thank you for your comments and clarifications, but it’s not clear to me who the “censors” are that you mention. And where do I need to change the setting for the smart quotes?

      • Ira Says:

        OK. In discussing the mentions of Jesus in the Talmud, one of the items most severely censored, says:

        “The Talmudic version is hardly known because it has been subjected to one of the biggest programs of suppression in history. Censorship in the Middle Ages was so extensive that twenty four thousand volumes of the Talmud were collected from all over Europe and burned in the Louvre. Thence forth, a Gemara that did not bear the censor’s stamp was forbidden.

        “Every part of the Talmud that contained any reference to Jesus, Christianity or the Gospel was censored by the Christian authorities. Apparently, the censored parts were kept in the Vatican for centuries, until a person connected with the Steinzaltz Talmud project visited the Vatican and, with the aid of a photographic memory, retrieved them.

        “This incredible restraint and suppression of information tends to make one think that perhaps the suppressed information was true.

        “Even today, when the suppressed passages have been retrieved, they are still not included in many versions of the Talmud, including the popular Artscroll, and they are not studied in most of the world’s Yeshivas.

        “The censored pieces have been collected in one book, but there is a reluctance to tamper with the censored version of the Talmud, and restore them there. ”

        As he noted though, the wonderful series of gemarot put out by HaRav Adin Steinsaltz, has restored the items that were censored.

      • estherhecht Says:

        Thank you very much.

      • Ira Says:

        Regarding the “smart quotes,” you must change a setting in your word processor.

        On the other hand, if the problem is caused by the encoding you are using, you probably should change from UTF encoding to Windows encoding, most likely in your browser.

      • estherhecht Says:

        Indeed, I have the smart quotes set on my word processor, because I need them for my work. I don’t have a clue as to how to change the encoding, but I’m also afraid to make that change because of my work. On the few occasions that I use quotation marks in the blog, I can try entering them manually, instead of cutting and pasting them along with the text from the Word file.

  3. David Bennett Says:

    Oh Häagen-Dazs – so sad. But my heart is lost to Ben & Jerry.

    My father collected the stamps of Israel and I recall the stamps with the two men carrying the huge grapes.

    The lines of Jonah and the fish in the medal reminds me of this style.

    I notice that the fish looks very ‘whale-ish’ 🙂

  4. David Bennett Says:

    Esther, If you are pasting from WORD, you might want to take a look at this guide in WordPress about how to clean up hidden text coding

    • estherhecht Says:

      Hmmmm. Very interesting. I’ll have to try that. I always look at a preview of the posts, and I subscribed to my own blog so I could see what the posts actually look like when people receive them. I never see junk symbols. But I’m certainly willing to try this.

      • David Bennett Says:

        Nor I, – everything looks OK to me in Safari browser.

        I ran your post through NetRenderer to see what it looks like in Internet Explorer, and that looks OK too.

        I have noticed that pasting from WORD can cause unseen bits to be introduced. The most annoying being an unwanted line space that I can’t get rid of.

        Now, with any text I copy from a document, I first copy it into TextEdit (a little utility program that comes with Macs).

        I have TextEdit set to strip out all coding.

        Then I paste from that into the admin page in the browser.

      • estherhecht Says:

        In that case, I don’t know what the problem is. Thanks for checking.

  5. Ira Says:

    The problem is not necessarily in viewing with a browser,but rather when using an email client. I use Eudora. Try that and see what you get.

    Good week.

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