Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav


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Will Trump lead to the downfall of the USA?

His presidency will certainly set the stage for what the 21st century will ultimately look like.

If you look back at history, you will see that the definitive character of any given decade is established only in the third year or so into it—as though people need time to assimilate that a new decade has been ushered in: the Fifties only began after the Korean War and the death of Stalin (1953); the Sixties only got swinging with the assassination of Kennedy in Nov 1953 and the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show three months later; the Seventies with the Yom Kippur War (1973) and the oil boycott that followed—etc. etc.

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Are Palestinians descendants of formerly Jewish/Israelite populations who converted to Islam and Christianity?

This is indeed one of the conclusions that Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, a historian and ethnographer who would later become Israel’s first President, reached from studies of the names and traditions of many Palestinian villages and Bedouin communities.

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What do Israelis think of the Jewish general, Josephus Flavius?

Most Israelis know Josephus as the author of The Wars of the Jews (מלחמות היהודים, often mistranslated as The Jewish Wars)—a history of the Judeans’ revolts against foreign rule from the time of Seleucid to the beginning of the revolt against the Romans in the late 60s CE. As such, we’re grateful to him for the detailed information (which is sometimes the only source we have for some events), although there is suspicion that he was biased.

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Why didn’t the Russians discover the new world even though they were geographically so close to America?

(My answer to this question at Quora.com)

They did. They weren’t “Russians”, as such (a term and a nation that has only existed for around a thousand years), but ancient Siberian inhabitants who crossed into North America, via the Bering Straits and Alaska, and whom we now know as “Native Americans” (in the US), “First Nations” (in Canada), or just “Amerindians”.

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Is there sound evidence that the Hebrew exodus from Egypt occurred in Biblical times?

 

(My answer to this question at Quora.com)

As Ricardo Almeida points out, the story of the Exodus bears much resemblance to the historical explusion, around 1550 BCE, of the “Asiatics” (Canaanites) who had settled and eventually took over and ruled northern Egypt for well over four hundred years.

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From the exercise book of a not very good Dead Sea apprentice scribe

Here’s a job you don’t get every day.

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Dr. Paul G. Chamberlain, a historical geographer at the University of Victoria, B.C., approached me two days ago to see if I could help him decipher and transcribe a copy of a Dead Sea Scroll that he had seen at the Jordan Archaeological Museum in Amman, Jordan in 2005. 

He suspected that it was displayed upside down, and I confirmed that it was—which is surprising, because you would think that the museum staff would know better, and failing that, visiting Israelis or scholars might have pointed it out.

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