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December 18, 2009

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PAGE 18A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 18, 2009 By Eric Fingerhut WASHINGTON (JTA)--A U.S. congressman is the latest to call for a Justice De- partment investigation into whether a pro-Palestinian group has been raising money on college campuses for Hamas. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) urged a probe into Viva Pal- estina USA, a humanitarian aid convoy led by British lawmaker George Galloway that brought medical sup- plies to Gaza last July. Both the Zionist Organi- zation of America and Anti- Defamation League in recent months have urged Holder to investigate reports about the convoy's links to Hamas. The groups made their requests after Galloway and other Viva Palestina USA members appeared and reportedly raised funds at some college campuses in the spring and summer. Vince Millett/Creative Commons British Parliament mem- ber George Galloway, speak- ing at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London earlier in 2009, leads the humanitarian aid group Viva Palestina USA, which has been accused of supporting Hamas. "Clearly, people and or- ganizations in the United States cannot be allowed to solicit funds for foreign terrorist organizations," Sherman wrote in his let- ter to Holder. "That such solicitation is occurring during the middle of the day at a public university is truly frightening," he said, referring to the University of California-Irvine. Sherman wrote similar letters expressing concern about the reports on Viva Palestina USA to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Uni- versity of California-Irvine chancellor Michael Drake and Internal Revenue Ser- vice commissioner Douglas Shulman. Viva Palestina USA was launched after the Viva Palestina group that Gal- loway set up in Britain sent a convoy to Gaza in March. It did not respond to request for comment. At a meeting in Gaza with Hamas officials during the March trip, according to a report from terrorism expert Steve Emerson, Galloway held up a bag of cash and said "This is not charity. This is politics" and "We are giving this money now to the gov- ernment of Palestine. And, if I could, I would give them 10 times, 100 times more." When the Viva Palestina USA convoy arrived in Gaza months later, there was no similar public event with Hamas, although the group reportedly did meet with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Giving humanitarian aid to Gaza is legal under U.S. law, but providing it to Hamas officials or the Hamas government in Gaza would likely be considered illegal because Hamas is on the list of foreign terrorist organizations. The most controversial appearance by Viva Pal- estina USA and Galloway in the United States came May 21 at the University of California-Irvine, a campus that has experienced ten- sions between Jewish and Muslim students and where a civil rights complaint was filed earlier this decade claiming a hostile environ- ment for Jewish students. (A federal investigation found that the university acted appropriately.) UC-Irvine has referred information about the event, which was sponsored by the Muslim Student Union, to the Federal Bureau of In- vestigation. ZOA leaders said they had obtained a video of the event and, at the bureau's request, passed it on to law enforcement officials. The university also says it is investigating whether the Muslim Student Union had violated university policy by raising money without the university's authorization. In a letter to the uni- versity's campus counsel, the Muslim Student Union acknowledged that it may have "unknowingly breached university policy (as un- doubtedly have every student organization on campus as well as university adminis- trators)." But the student group rejected ZOA's ac- cusations that it may have raised money for Hamas as "nothing short of libel." "ZOA seeks to smear MSU's reputation by maliciously ac- cusing MSU of breaking U.S. laws without providing any real evidentiary backing," the group said in its letter. The ZOA praised the uni- versity's decision to forward information on the Viva Palestina fund raising. "They've done the right thing," said Susan Tuch- man, director of the ZOA's Center for Law and Justice. "All groups should be held accountable." University spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said the campus police forwarded information on the Viva Palestina fund raising to the FBI because it felt"they were the best agency to handle it." She said outside counsel is examining whether the Mus- lim Student Union violated campus procedures. By Arieh O'Sullivan and Felice Friedson The Media Line Descending deep into the underground excavations in Jerusalem's Old City the air gets thick. It's humid. And it's dark. Besides heavy breathing, the only sounds are the buzzing of a sole 500-watt bulb and sticky footsteps on shadowy wooden stairs as we descend dozens of me- ters beneath the approaches to the ancient Jewish Tem- ple. Here, archaeologists have cleared away centu- ries of debris to reveal an enormous arch, called the "giant causeway," that once carried Jewish pilgrims to the Second Temple over two millennia ago. They also found ritual baths. The Romans destroyed that temple but spared the arch. Underneath it, sometime in the third or fourth century, they built smaller arches. Someone, perhaps a mer- chant or a potter, stored clay inside the arch for some future date. "Go ahead, feel it," says Miri Sak, of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. "It's as soft, wet and pliable as when they first put it here all those years ago." It has remained undis- turbed for 16 centuries. It is amazingly unsullied and ready to be thrown on a pot- ter's wheel or shaped into a cup or bowl as much now as it was 1,600 years ago. Working quietly for the past three years, archae- ologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority have excavated this site near the Western Wall, the only ma- jor remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple and Juda- ism's most sacred site. "When Jerusalem was destroyed as a Jewish city in the year 70 C.E. and became a Roman colony the use of the ritual baths became irrelevant because temple worship was no longer an as- pect of people's lives. Those spaces were used for other things," says Jon Seligman, Jerusalem Regional Archae- ologist for the IAA. "The clay has been levi- gated, or prepared for the production of ceramics. Are You Keeping Your Career Options Open? INDEPENDENT MARKETING ASSOCIATES NEEDED FOR PRE-PAID LEGAL Get the money you need when you need it! is the time to plan your strategy and consider advantages of running your own business ! Be Your Own Boss! Full-Time Part-Time Unlimited Income Potential CALL GORDEV INC., EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AT 407.678.3310 FOR Futt DETAItS It is an ancient store of clay from 1,600 years ago and just placed there as a building store and waiting to be used, and it has been waiting from then till now to be used," Seligman tells The Media Line. "So far, this is the only ancient clay hoard ever found in Israel." Any time you dig in the Old City of Jerusalem you never know what you will discover. The Media Line was offered one of the first visits to the clay room as well as to another dig nearby that revealed the main Roman- era roadway. The area sits next to the Western Wall that draws over eight mil- lion visitors a year. The digging was required before a new visitors' center could be built. Rabbi Shmuel Rabbinov- ich, Rabbi of the Western Wall, is glad to have the visitors. He would want to welcome more, but he bemoans the lack of basic facilities to handle the traf- fic of worshipers, pilgrims and tourists. "There are 8 million visitors a year and this is the most visited site in Israel. They don't have any facilities. They have no toilets," Rabbinovich says. "There are many things that have to be given to them." Together with the West- ern Wall Foundation, a plan was drawn up for a new visitors' center. The only problem was that even be- fore the corner stone could be laid, an archaeological excavation had to take place. "All the excavations that have been done in the past few years have com- pletely revolutionized our understanding of that pe- riod inside Jerusalem," says Seligman. Rabbinovich recalled that when they demolished a small building to begin the digs a bulldozer hit it and revealed it was teetering on top of an ancient arch. "It was hanging in mid air," Rabbinovich says. "Un- derneath there's a treasure, a Cardo, a street from the time of the Second Temple, Working quietly for the past three years, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority have excavated this site near the Western Wall, the only major remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple and Judaism's most sacred site. and maybe even things from the First Temple pe- riod. There were wonderful things." After the Romans de- stroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E. they tried to wipe out the memory of the Jewish nation. They even changed the name of the city to Alia Capotalina and rebuilt it, laying wide stone roads over the rubble of the city. In a large pit on the west- ern side of the plaza before the Western Wall, one can see these very same paving stones along with large pil- lars. Digging underneath parts of the road, archae- ologists also discovered remnants of homes from the First Temple period some 3,000 years ago, including some rare ancient Hebrew stamps used by officials in the court of King Solomon. "We found a bronze seal of an archer with fine details. It's no bigger than a shekel, or a penny. The name on it is Hagav. We find in our book of prophets b'nei Hagav writ- ten once- the sons of Hagav. Is this the same Hagav who was mentioned? He might have actually stood here. Lived here some 2,800 years ago," says Miri Sak. Archaeologists uncovered a total of some 6,000 ancient coins as well as tens of thousands of pottery shards spanning the city's history, from the First Temple, Ro- man and Byzantine, to the Persians, Umayyad, Crusad- ers, Mukluks and Ottomans. Now that digging is com- plete engineers are planning where to build the large visitors' center. American businessman Mort Zuck- erman is the financier of this project and building is scheduled to begin once permits are issued. The plans have drawn criticism, particularly from other archaeologists. "The cement and the concrete will go down, the iron poles will go down to the street into the excavation and I don't see any advantage in doing this," says Yoram Tzafrir, professor emeritus from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "This is a kind of cultural pearl that we are not permitted to cover with buildings." Officials believe the new building will actually pre- serve it better. "How will you be able to see it? It will fill up with water when it rains and no one will be able to reach it. In one moment you've ruined it all and nothing will remain. You need some kind of construction," says Rabbinovich. Archaeologist Seligma.x believes a compromise can be found. "The central aspect of the work of the Israel Antiqui- ties Authority in a sight like this is finding the balance," he says. "It is a matter of finding the balance between on the one hand living in the city of Jerusalem, develop- ing the city of Jerusalem and letting people live their lives here, and on the other hand preserving what is important to us, preserving the most important aspects of the ancient past."