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Crazy Chanukah Doughnuts: Melon Vodka, Halvah and Pistachio


Don't look at the Chanukah doughnuts (sufganiyot) but rather what is inside them.

The Chanukah tradition of eating fried doughnuts is more popular than ever, but the traditional jelly inside the doughnut is often replaced by more exotic ingredients, ranging from pistachio to melon vodka.

Sderot Makes Menorah of Terror Rockets


Jewish residents of a rocket-battered city outside the Gaza Strip every day this week lit a Chanukah menorah fashioned out of hollowed Palestinian Qassam rockets that had been shot at their town.

"This is a symbol to our enemies that despite thousands of rockets fired at Sderot, our spirit has not broken. We are here to stay," said Josh Hasten, spokesman for Yeshiva Hesder Sderot, a Jewish school that combines Torah study with army service.

Sderot, a city of almost 20,000 residents, is less then a mile from the Gaza Strip. More than 10,000 rockets have been fired at Jewish population centers there during the last eight years.

The rocketing increased exponentially after Hamas seized control of Gaza following Israel's retreat from the territory in 2005.Since the start of Chanukah last Friday, the Yeshiva has been lighting a menorah on the roof of its building made of Qassam rockets obtained from a local police station that had collected the fallen projectiles. The menorah is visible from most of Sderot.

Temple-Era DNA Reveals Oldest Case of Leprosy


The DNA of a man buried near Jerusalem's Old City in the first century Common Era reveals the earliest identifiable case of leprosy, according to researchers from Israel and North America. The burial shroud may also disprove the claim that the Shroud of Turin is from first-century Jerusalem.

The burial cave in which the remains were found, which is known as the Tomb of the Shroud, is located in the lower Hinnom Valley and is part of a first-century C.E. cemetery. The shrouded man, whose bones were dated by radiocarbon methods to 1-50 C.E., did not receive the customary secondary burial in an ossuary (small stone container for bones) common at the time. The entrance to the part of the tomb where this individual was buried was completely sealed with plaster.

The Hebrew University's Prof. Mark Spigelman, one of the leading researchers who studied the molecular evidence from the tomb, believes the isolation was due to the fact that the shrouded man suffered from leprosy and died of tuberculosis. The DNA of both diseases was found in his bones.

The excavation also found a clump of the shrouded man's hair, which had been ritually cut prior to his burial. These are both unique discoveries, as explained by Hebrew University spokespeople, because organic remains are hardly ever preserved in the Jerusalem area owing to high humidity levels in the ground.

The evidence revealed by the remains indicates that tuberculosis and leprosy may have crossed social boundaries in the first-century C.E. Jerusalem. A number of clues - the size of the tomb, its location alongside a High Priest, the type of textiles used as shroud wrappings, and the clean state of the man's hair - suggest that the shrouded individual was a fairly affluent member of society in Jerusalem or a priest himself. Furthermore, according to Prof. Shimon Gibson of Hebrew University, the tomb would have faced directly toward the Jewish Temple of the time.

This is also the first time fragments of a burial shroud have been found from the time Jesus was alleged to have been active in Jerusalem. The shroud is very different from that of the Shroud of Turin, hitherto claimed to be the one used to wrap the body of Jesus. Unlike the complex weave of the Turin Shroud, the recently discovered shroud is made up of a simple two-way weave, as the textiles historian Dr. Orit Shamir was able to show.

Based on the assumption that this is representative of a typical burial shroud widely used at the time of Jesus, researchers concluded that the Turin Shroud did not originate from Second Temple-era Jerusalem.

Further details of the discovery are published in the December 16, 2009, issue of PloS ONE Journal for peer-reviewed scientific and medical research.

Why Make Aliyah?

By Yoel Meltzer,

Roughly 15 years ago I made a personal decision to leave the comfortable lifestyle and familiar surroundings of America in order to settle down and build my life in Israel.

As important as this decision was, it had nothing to do with any negative feelings that I had towards the US. In fact, just the opposite is true and most of my memories of life in America are very positive. I can honestly say that the United States is really one incredible, beautiful country. Furthermore, the variety of quality choices and lifestyles that are available in an enormous country of nearly 300 million residents truly makes settling down in America such an attractive option.

Nonetheless, despite all the wonderful things that can be said about America, I would not trade for a second the life that I have built in Israel. Moreover, I am 100% convinced that there is no place in the world that is potentially more suitable for a Jew to live than in the Land of Israel. To someone living outside of Israel this may sound like quite a bombastic declaration, but nonetheless this does not detract from the veracity of the statement.

The problem is the chicken and the egg factor. Only by living here and experiencing the reality of life in Israel can one honestly come to such an internal realization. Thus, to a Jew who still lives outside of Israel, it is only natural that such a statement will be somewhat incomprehensible or perhaps even irritating.

Nonetheless, I would like to present a short list of positive reasons for a Jew to consider building a life in Israel.

Percentage-wise the best chance to find a Jewish spouse is in Israel; statistically the lowest rate of intermarriage is in Israel; within a few short hours one can hike in the desert, swim in the Mediterranean, ski on the Hermon or float in the Dead Sea.

Jewish holidays are a natural part of the lifecycle here; there is no Christmas shopping season in Israel; the cost of Jewish education in Israel is a fraction of the cost in the US.

In Israel there is a feeling of "home" for the Jewish people; Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. There are no others; In Israel a Jew does not have to integrate into a non-Jewish society; Although like any country there are many problems and issues, at least they are our problems and issues; Mitzvah observance and their significance take on a whole different meaning in the Land of Israel.

There is only one Jerusalem in the whole world and it is here, in the Land of Israel; after a few thousand years, Hebrew, the language of the Prophets, is once again heard throughout the Land of Israel; Israel boasts the fastest growing Jewish population in the world; after a long respite of nearly 2,000 years, Israel is once again the physical and spiritual center of the Jewish people.

History is literally unfolding here in front of our eyes. All that has transpired here during such a relatively short time period is nothing short of mind-boggling. As such, there is an incredible and unique opportunity available to any Jew throughout the world to come to Israel and to actually have an impact on the shaping of history.

In summary, the greatest potential for a Jew to be in tune with his real self, to live his life according to his true inner voice, is here in the Land of Israel. In this respect there is absolutely no comparison to anywhere else in the world. As great as America might be, and I say this as a former American who has nothing but fond memories of the US, the best home for a Jew is in the Land of Israel. It's really that simple.

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