On this day

On this day: Hizbollah publishes its manifesto

By Jennifer Lipman, February 16, 2011

Some 30 years after it was founded and 26 after it released an “Open Message” from Beirut, Hizbollah remains a constant threat to Israel and an obstacle to peace efforts in the Middle East.

The terrorist group, formed with the backing of the Iranian Islamist revolutionaries the 1980s, began with the aim of pushing Israel out of Lebanon. But its 1985 manifesto also called for a continuous jihad until Israel was destroyed and for the creation of an Islamic republic in Lebanon.

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On this day: The Dead Sea Scrolls

By Jennifer Lipman, February 15, 2011

It was the search for a stray goat that prompted one of the most remarkable findings in Jewish history.

Discovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1947, in caves in the Judean desert where they had been buried for 2,000 years, the Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to be the earliest example of biblical Jewish writings.

Dated back to the time of the Second Temple - during the Hasmonean and Herodian dynasties - the around 900 scrolls included apocryphal writings on fragments of parchment and leather. They were written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

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On this day: The Soviet Union cuts ties with Israel

By Jennifer Lipman, February 11, 2011

In 1947, The Soviet Union was one of 33 countries to vote in favour of the United Nation’s partition plan for Palestine. Almost immediately after Israel declared its independence on May 14 1948, the Soviet Union offered recognition, along with the United States and other Western powers.

It was not to last. The Soviet Union, as would almost all of its satellites, cut ties with Israel less than five years later.

For the next 35 years, the Soviets pursued largely pro-Arab policies and Israel was a pawn in a much wider game between the US and USSR.

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On this day: Israel goes to the polls

By Jennifer Lipman, February 10, 2011

Israel’s voting system is prone to inconclusive outcomes – unsurprising in a country brimming with different opinions and outlooks.

The 2009 vote was already beset by controversy, called as it was after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was forced to step down because of a criminal investigation.

The Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who took over from his as party leader after winning primary elections, but announced in October that she had been unable to form a coalition, prompting President Shimon Peres to call the election.

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On this day: Bishop Richard Williamson sacked

By Jennifer Lipman, February 9, 2011

In January 2009 it emerged that Pope Benedict had lifted the excommunication of a British bishop and known Holocaust denier.

The pope ordered Williamson to recant his views before the excommunication was lifted, but the issue provoked international outrage and threatened a rift in Jewish-Catholic relations.

The bishop, part of an extreme-traditionalist sect, had said: "I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against, is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler".

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On this day: Martin Buber is born

By Jennifer Lipman, February 8, 2011

The Austrian-born thinker began his spiritual journey as an observant Jew under the tutelage of his Talmudic scholar grandfather. He became a philosopher as a young man, but continued to write about and address Hassidic values throughout his life.

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On this day: Emile Zola on trial

By Jennifer Lipman, February 7, 2011

When Zola’s J’Accuse letter was published on the front page of a French newspaper in January 1898 it was a remarkable act of bravery on its author’s part.

Written in protest at the French government’s treatment of Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for treason, Zola was one of a group of intellectuals and artists who sought to secure his freedom.

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On this day: Facebook is founded

By Jennifer Lipman, February 4, 2011

Who can remember a time when a wall was just a wall, when photos were private not tagged for the world to see, and when events had to be organised with phone calls or paper invitations?

Mark Zuckerberg was a 19-year-old Jewish student working out of his Harvard dorm-room when he founded the social network that became Facebook.

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On this day: New Amsterdam becomes a city

By Jennifer Lipman, February 2, 2011

The city now known as the Big Apple began life as a Dutch colonial settlement, taking the name New York in 1664. Chosen as the capital of New Netherland and given municipal rights on February 2 1653, it had a population of just 5,000 by 1700 but by the time of American independence that had grown to about 25,000.

There are now near to 19 million people in New York State; it is estimated that more than 1.6 million of them are Jewish. It wasn’t always that way; the first Jewish community arrived in 1654.

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On this day: Islamic republic established in Iran

By Jennifer Lipman, February 1, 2011

The Iranian revolution, which ended more than 50 years of the rule of the US-baked Pahlavi dynasty, started in January 1978, when disparate groups of religious scholars, students, nationalists and communists began demonstrating against the Shah.

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