Newsletter : 20fx0922.txt
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US-Brokered Israel-Lebanon Talks on Land & Sea Border Disputes off to a Good
President Donald Trump's election campaign is giving new impetus to talks on the
Israel-Lebanon controversies over their maritime and land borders another
deep-rooted Mid East dispute attacked by Trump's diplomats after he achieved the coup of
UAE-Bahrain ties with Israel.
How to finally demarcate the overlapping Israeli and Lebanese Exclusive Economic Zones has
defeated previous mediators. An agreement would allow Lebanon to start exploiting its
offshore gas and oil reserves and help haul that country out of deep economic hole
with timely kudos for Trump diplomacy.
DEBKAfile's sources report that the talks underway at the UN camp in Naqura on the
Lebanon-Israeli border are focusing on the two border issues between the two countries.
The land border marked by the Blue Line Since 2011 is more or less accepted, excepting for
the small pocket of Shabaa Farms. It is based on the 1949 armistice agreement and the
British-French agreement which demarcated the boundary between Mandatory Palestine and
Mandatory Syria and Lebanon.
The maritime dispute is trickier: it is over an 856-sq km elongated triangle of
energy-rich east Mediterranean Sea. In earlier negotiations, Israel agreed to assign 58%
of the disputed piece of ocean to Lebanon and retain 42% for itself.
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker has been shuttling
between Beirut and Jerusalem in recent days to try and go forward on this basis. He found
Lebanese officials he met, instead of the usual foot-dragging, raring for a deal, as the
key to drawing investments and lifting its bankrupt finances out of the pit. The French
Total has been given permission to start explorations in "Block 9" the disputed
area which partly overlaps Israel's EEZ
Israel has meanwhile established a new energy company Alon D after the American Chevron
giant purchased the Texan Noble Energy's share of the Leviathan offshore gas field,
including plans to build a pipeline to Europe. Recent tests have found between 3 and 4 new
gas fields larger than Leviathan in the same patch of sea.
While Israel is charging ahead with its energy bonanza, Schenker has run into a major
hitch in Beirut. The politicians there have not been able to put a government in place.
Hizbullah is demanding the key Finance and Health portfolios, against strong resistance
from other factions, and the Christian President Michel Aoun has broken off his ties with
the Shiite leaders, including Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and the Parliament Speaker
Nabih Beri. None of them, it must be said, have made any objections to a maritime deal
With the White House pressing for quick results, Schenker, who is a seasoned diplomat and
knowledgeable on Mid East corridors of power, may be expected to find the right buttons to
push in Beirut for bringing the Trump administration another coup and arresting Lebanon's
Tens of Thousands of Israelis Fly Abroad to Skirt Lockdown
By i24 News & Israel Hayom
Tens of thousands of Israelis are seizing the opportunity to avoid the new national
lockdown, flying abroad to enjoy a more relaxed vacation period in another country,
Israeli media reported. Despite a re-imposed lockdown which began on Friday and is
expected to last for at least three weeks the government ruled earlier this week
that all previously scheduled flights for the coming weeks would proceed as planned.
According to Channel 12 News, some 22,000 people have flown in the past few. At the same
time, another 40,000 people are expected to leave over the next two weeks, according to
The choice of holidaymakers remains limited, however. Apart from the US, there are two
countries where Israelis can currently travel without being forced into a mandatory
quarantine upon arrival or return: Greece and Bulgaria. In addition, anyone who takes a
plane to those European countries could be asked to provide negative results after having
been tested, in accordance with the requirements of their destination country.
Israeli Startup's Synthetic Cornea could Restore Sight to Millions Worldwide
By Israel Hayom
The Israeli startup CorNeat Vision has received approval to conduct clinical trials of a
synthetic cornea that bio-integrates with the human eye. The Health Ministry-approved
trial of the CorNeat KPro will be run at Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva on 10 patients
suffering from corneal blindness who are either not candidates for or have experienced one
or more failed cornea transplants, the company announced.
The CorNeat KPro implant is designed to replace deformed, scarred or opacified corneas and
restore the vision of corneal blind patients immediately following implantation. The lens
of the device is designed to integrate with ocular tissue using a patented synthetic
non-degradable nanofabric skirt, which is placed under the conjunctiva.
Dr. Gilad Litvin, chief medical officer at CorNeat Vision and the inventor of the KPro
device, said the implantation procedure is "relatively simple" and takes less than an
hour. "We expect it will enable millions of blind patients around the world, even in areas
where there is no corneal practice nor culture of organ donation, to regain their sight,"
The first in-human implant of the CorNeat KPro will be led by head of Beilinson's
Ophthalmology Department, Professor Irit Bahar, who called the technology behind the KPro
"key to turning the tide on global blindness."
Reading Modern Science into Genesis
By Matt Plen (MyJewishLearning.com)
According to modern physics, the universe sprang into existence 15 billion years ago in
the Big Bang. During the first fragment of a second, the universe expanded from a
singularityan infinitely small, dense pointinto a primeval fireball, a chaotic
storm of energy out of which the first fundamental particles began to form.
After three minutes, protons and neutrons began sticking together, forming hydrogen and
helium nuclei, but only after another 300,000 years had the universe cooled enough to
allow these nuclei to bind with electrons, creating the first atoms. As the atoms formed,
photons were released and electromagnetic radiation was able to travel for the first time,
flooding the previously opaque universe with light.
As a result of gravity, atoms began falling together and forming clumps. It took 300
million years for this process to give birth to the first stars and galaxies, and another
nine billion years before our solar system came into existence. The earth was formed
around 4.5 billion years ago, and the earliest fossil evidence of life on our planet is
dated to a billion years (one aeon) later.
The Bible presents a radically different account of the beginning of the world. The first
chapter of Genesis describes what seems to be a flat earth, geocentric story in which God
takes six days to createin the following orderlight and darkness, the sky,
land and sea, plants, the sun, moon and stars, marine life, birds, land animals and,
finally, the first human beings. Calculations based on later biblical genealogies indicate
that this process took place less than six thousand years ago.
For modern Jews, this discrepancy poses a problem. The Torah, traditionally held to be an
accurate record of divine revelation, flat out denies the best of contemporary scientific
research. Does this necessitate making a choice between tradition and science, or is it
possible to negotiate the contradiction?
Many modern Jews either dismiss the traditional creation story, interpreting the opening
chapter of Genesis as myth or metaphor, or reject the scientific account as incompatible
with the incontestable truth of Torah. Others prefer to compartmentalize, utilizing a kind
of doublethink to apply scientific narratives in some areas of their lives and religious
ones in others. Making the effort to synthesize Genesis and science is only one option
among many, and far from the simplest.
In one way, modern physics has made the challenge easier. Medieval thinkers were forced to
grapple with the tension between the Torah's creation story and Aristotle's notion that
rather than having been created in time, the world had always existed. Today there is no
dispute that the universe came into being at some point in the past. This apparent
commonality has provided motivation for some writers to take up the challenge of proving
that modern physics merely points to the timeless truths which are clearly described in
the book of Genesis.
One such writer is Nathan Aviezer, professor of physics at Israel's modern-Orthodox Bar
Ilan University. The thesis of Aviezer's book, In the Beginning
and Science, is that contrary to common misconceptions, cutting edge scientific
developments have actually brought physics into closer harmony with Genesis than ever
Aviezer analyzes the biblical days of creation one at a time, matching up the events
described with elements of the scientific theory of the universe's origins. But first he
makes one proviso upon which the rest of his hypothesis depends: the "days" referred to in
Genesis should not be understood as 24 hour periods but as important stages in the
development of the world. This interpretation is drawn from many traditional Bible
commentaries, based on the fact that before the creation of the sun on the fourth day, the
terms day and night could not possibly have carried their commonplace meanings.
Aviezer's premise is that the Big Bang theory confirms the first verse of the Bible, but
that in contrast to modern physics, which by its own admission is unable to discern what
happened before the Big Bang, Genesis clearly describes the cause: "In the beginning, God
created the heavens and the earth."
God's command "let there be light" refers to the appearance of the primeval fireball,
containing all the matter and energy of the present-day universe, and the chaostohu
va-vohudescribed in the Bible matches the random and chaotic condition of the
universe in its initial state. Finally, "God separated the light from the darkness" refers
to the formation of atoms, the consequent freeing of photons and the flooding of the
universe with electromagnetic radiation.
Aviezer analyzes the subsequent days of creation along the same lines, generally
interpreting the Bible in line with scientific knowledge, sometimes having to depart from
the plain meaning of the text in order to deal with problems such as the fact that
according to Genesis, the sun was created on day four, after the emergence of plant life
The argument of In the Beginning is less straightforwardly scientific than it seems.
Aviezer is at pains to emphasize the statistical improbability of those details of the
universe's development which laid the groundwork for the appearance of life and the
ultimate evolution of human beings, arguing that these processes could not have taken
place in the absence of purposeful (divine) intervention. But this is, of course, a
theological argument, not a scientific one.
Although many physicists agree that scientific knowledge cannot explain everything, being
limited to the period beginning a split second after the Big Bang, evolutionary biology is
affected by no such sense of modesty. In his book The Blind Watchmaker, for example, well
known atheist biologist Richard Dawkins robustly dispenses with Aviezer's claims as to the
improbability of life and advances the argument that the theory of evolution can explain
the origin of life with no need for recourse to supernatural interference.
If Aviezer begins by suggesting that the Bible can be read in such a way as to bring it
into line with scientific knowledge, a statement at the end of his book implies that in
the event of a clash between the two systems, religious faith must take priority: "If I
were to find that traditional Judaism appeared to be inconsistent with certain aspects of
modern science, this would in no way weaken my [religious] commitment."
The case carefully advanced by Aviezer hit the headlines with the publication of Gerald
Schroeder's bestselling Genesis and the Big Bang, a more radical book in terms of both
style and content. Since Schroeder advances essentially the same ideas as Aviezer, I'll
focus on two key differences between the writers' arguments.
First: Aviezer was content to interpret the "days" of creation figuratively. Not so
Schroeder. For him, Genesis is a literal account of the scientifically established process
of creation. He resolves the contradiction between six days and 15 billion years by
invoking Einstein's theory of relativity, which asserts that rather than being an absolute
value, the flow of time is influenced by motion and gravitational force.
Time being relative, six days in one frame of reference could well be equivalent to 15
billion years in another. Since there was no possibility of objectively measuring the time
involved in the creation process, Schroeder draws the audacious conclusion that six days
represented the elapsed time from none other than God's perspective.
This claim raises difficult religious questions. Since relativistic time dilation is a
function of motion and gravity, are we to understand that these forces operate on God, in
other words that God is part of the physical universe? It seems that in an attempt to
extricate himself from an annoying textual problem (the discrepancy between the age of the
universe according to Genesis and the Big Bang theory), Schroeder has opened the door on a
much more significant theological one.
Second: Schroeder claims that people who think that Genesis clashes with modern physics
have not read the Bible carefully enoughthe Torah must be understood through study
of the canonical commentaries: Onkelos, Rashi, Maimonides and Nahmanides. On the face of
it, for example, the Bible contains no hint that the creation of the universe was a
process of expansion from an initial singularity.
However, Nahmanides' comment on Genesis 1:1 implies exactly that: "At the briefest instant
following creation, all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place,
no larger than a grain of mustard
. From the initial concentration of this intangible
substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did
so." In Schroeder's view, this kind of in-depth reading of the Torah will always tend to
reveal the consonance between two sources of truthrevelation and science.
Schroeder's argument that physics and biblical scholarship are methodologically compatible
is weakened, however, by his approach to Jewish texts. He reads the Bible through the lens
of the rabbis, medieval commentators and kabbalah, assuming that their homiletical and
midrashic perspectives are identical to the plain meaning of the original text.
However, it is difficult to characterize this approach as scientific when it ignores
academic bible critics' linguistic and archaeological contributions. In other words,
Schroeder's commitment to scientific methodology has a clear limit: he does not apply it
to the study of Torah.
Schroeder's attitude to religion itself is no less ambiguous. One of his arguments is
that whereas once the facts about the universe's origins could only be accessed via
revelation, modern physics has given us the tools to confirm these facts. While medieval
thinkers like Nahmanides reached their insights by means of faith, modern Jews are only
able to grasp the truth of the Torah through recourse to science. If so, the true Genesis
narrative has only been available to us since the Big Bang theory was substantiated in the
By implying that the Torah's deep insights cannot be accessed unless we have already
discovered them by scientific means, Schroeder may, ironically, undermine his own
position, making the Torah redundant as an independent source of truth.
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