| Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Remembering Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” ~ www.350.org/mandela.


Dear friends,

The last great leader of the 20th century — and an inspiration for this new millennium — died here in South Africa yesterday.

Nelson Mandela touched all of us with his courage, his unyielding resistance, and his grace. He knew how to fight, and he knew when to make peace.

Inspired by Mandela’s vision, climate activists made a video last June during the Global Power Shift convergence coordinated by our 350.org crew.

Please do watch and share the video:


Along the way, Mandela and his colleagues helped pioneer the divestment tactic that many climate campaigners are now emulating.

As a South African, I am filled with an overwhelming appreciation for a man that gave my country so much — freedom, love, compassion, empathy, graciousness and of course, himself. His selfless determination is what we remember this great soul by, and we will continue to keep him very close to our hearts.

I think the tribute Nelson Mandela would like the most is the knowledge that people the world over are carrying on his work.


Lushendrie for the whole 350.org team

The Science of 350

CO2 Data

Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. Learn more about 350—what it means, where it came from, and how to get there. Read More »



| Jerusalem: Early Roman period mansion discovered by archaeologists!

Early Roman period mansion discovered by archaeologists ~ Heritage Daily.


Posted by:  , September 17, 2013

In excavating sites in a long-inhabited urban area like Jerusalem, archaeologists are accustomed to noting complexity in their finds — how various occupying civilizations layer over one another during the site’s continuous use over millennia.

But when an area has also been abandoned for intermittent periods, paradoxically there may be even richer finds uncovered, as some layers have been buried and remainundisturbed by development.

Such appears be the case at an archaeological dig on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, conducted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where the 2013 excavations have revealed the well-preserved lower levels of what the archaeological team believes is an Early Roman period mansion(first century CE), possibly belonging to a member of the Jewish ruling priestly caste.

If the mansion does prove to be an elite priestly residence, the dig team hopes the relatively undisturbed nature of the buried ruin may yield significant domestic details concerning the rulers of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus.

Particularly important in the season’s discoveries were a buried vaulted chamber that has proven to be an unusualfinished bathroom (with bathtub) adjacent to a large below-ground ritual cleansing pool (mikveh) — only the fourth bathroom to be found in Israel from the Second Temple period, with two of the others found in palaces of Herod the Great at Jericho and Masada.

Shimon Gibson, the British-born archaeologist co-directing the UNC Charlotte excavation, notes that the addition of the bathroom to the mikveh is a clear sign of the wealth and status of the resident.


Unusual for the period, a bath chamber with a bathtub was found buried at Mt. Zion first-century mansion site, connected to the structure’s mikveh. Credit: Shimon Gibson

The bathroom is very important because hitherto, except for Jerusalem, it is usually found within palace complexes, associated with the rulers of the country,” Gibson said.”We have examples of bathrooms of this kind mainly in palatial buildings.”

The other example of a contemporary mikveh with an attached bathroom is at a site excavated in Jerusalem in the nearby Jewish Quarter.”A bathroom that is almost a copy of ours was found in an excavation of a palatial mansion,” noted Gibson. “It is only a stone’s throw away and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the people who made that bathroom probably were the same ones who made this one. It’s almost identical, not only in the way it’s made, but also in the finishing touches, like the edge of the bath itself.”

“The building in the Jewish Quarter is similar in characteristics to our own with an inscription of a priestly family,” Gibson added. “The working theory is that we’re dealing also with a priestly family.”

Gibson notes that there are other details about the site that suggest that its first century residents may have been members of the ruling elite.”The building that we are excavating is in the shadow — immediately to the southeast — of the very, very large palace of Herod the Great, his compound and the later seat of the Roman governors (praetorium).”

The location is a strong indication of a high-status resident. “Whoever lived in this house would have been a neighbor and would have been able to pop into the palace,” he speculated.

While also cautious about reaching premature conclusions, dig co-director James Tabor, a UNC Charlotte scholar of early Christian history, believes there might be significant historical information uncovered, should the building turn out to be a priestly residence.

“If this turns out to be the priestly residence of a wealthy first century Jewish family, it immediately connects not just to the elite of Jerusalem — the aristocrats, the rich and famous of that day — but to Jesus himself,” Tabor said. “These are the families who had Jesus arrested and crucified, so for us to know more about them and their domestic life — and the level of wealth that they enjoyed — would really fill in for us some key history.”

Though the artifacts found this season are still being evaluated, one set of items in particular stand out as highly unusual: a large number of murex shells, the largest number ever found in the ruins of first-century Jerusalem. Species of murex (a genus of Mediterranean sea snail) were highly valued in Roman times because of a rich purple dye that could be extracted from the living creature.

“This color was highly desired,” Gibson said. “The dye industry seems to be something that was supervised by the priestly class for the priestly vestments and for other aspects of clothing which were vital for those who wished to officiate in the capital precincts.”

Why anyone in Jerusalem would be in possession of such “a very large quantity” of murex shells, however, remains a mystery to the excavation team, since the shells are not involved in the actual dye making process. Gibson hypothesizes that the shells may have been used to identify different grades of dye, since the quality of the product can vary from species to species. Some species are used to make a turquoise blue dye.

“It is significant that these are household activities which may have been undertaken by the priests,” Gibson said. “If so, it tells us a lot more about the priests than we knew before. We know from the writings of Josephus Flavius and later rabbinical texts about their activities in the area of the Jewish temple, but there is hardly any information about their priestly activities outside the holy precinct. This is new information, and that is quite exciting. We might find in future seasons further aspects of industries which were supervised by these priestly families.”

The domestic details of the first-century Jewish ruling class may yield insights into New Testament history, Tabor notes. “Jesus, in fact, criticizes the wealth of this class,” Tabor said. “He talks about their clothing and their long robes and their finery, and, in a sense, pokes fun at it. So for us to get closer to understanding that — to supplement the text — it could be really fascinating.”

Gibson also notes that historical legends from several centuries later point as well to the possibility that the building is a priestly residence.”Byzantine tradition places in our general area the mansion of the high priest Caiaphas or perhaps Annas, who was his father-in-law,” Gibson said. “In those days you had extended families who would have been using the same building complex, which might have had up to 20 rooms and several different floors.”

Further discoveries this season suggest still other details of history from first century Jerusalem. At the bottom of the residence’s large, 30-foot deep cistern, the excavators found cooking pots and the remains of an oven. While Gibson stresses that it is again too early to draw conclusions about these items, he and the other researchers are considering these items as a possible indication that the emptied cistern was used as a refuge by Jewish residents hiding from Roman soldiers during the siege of 70 CE.

“When we started clearing it we found a lot of debris inside, which included substantial numbers of animal bones and then right at the bottom we came across a number of vessels, which seemed to be sitting on the floor — cooking pots and bits of an oven as well,” Gibson said.”We still need to look at this material very carefully and be absolutely certain of our conclusions, but it might be that these are the remnants of a kitchen in use by Jews hiding from the Romans — their last resort was to go into these cisterns. It was a common practice, but this conclusion is theoretical. It makes for a very good story and it does look that way, but we’ve got to be certain.”

Gibson notes that the Roman-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus talks about such a scene in his description of the siege:

One John, a leader of the rebels, along with his brother Simon, who were found starved to death in the cisterns and water systems that ran under the city. Over 2000 bodies found in the various underground chambers, most dead from starvation. (Josephus, War 6:429-433)

Gibson credits the rich amount of detail and archaeological information present at the first century level of the dig with the accident of the site’s location in Jerusalem. Ruins in major urban areas are rarely preserved with parts of the structure buried intactbecause subsequent residents tend to cannibalize buildings for materials for their own structures. However, when theJerusalem of Jesus’s era was destroyed by the occupying Romans in 70 CE, it was deserted for 65 years, until the Roman Emperor Hadrian re-built a city (Aelia Capitolina) on the ruins in 135 CE. At that point however,the new development was on the other side of the present-day city and Mount Zion was left unoccupied.

“The ruined field of first-century houses in our area remained there intact up until the beginning of the Byzantine period (early 4th Century),” Gibson said. “When the Byzantine inhabitants built there, they leveled things off a bit but they used the same plan of the older houses, building their walls on top of the older walls.”

Subsequently, the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian contributed another layer of preservation when he completed the construction of a massive new cathedral, the Nea Ekklesia of the Theotokos, just to the north-east of the site on Mt. Zion. The construction involved the excavation of enormous underground reservoirs and the excavation fill was dumped downhill, burying the more recent Byzantine constructions.

“The area got submerged, ” Gibson said. “The early Byzantine reconstruction of these two-story Early Roman houses then got buried under rubble and soil fills. Then they established buildings above it. That’s why we found an unusually well-preserved set of stratigraphic levels.”

In addition to straight-forward archaeological research, the excavation is being used as a field school for the instruction of UNC Charlotte students in archaeology, especially since the site is remarkable in the way it exhibits the complexity of the urban history of Jerusalem. In addition to Roman-Jewish and Byzantine layers, there are also strata present reflecting a variety of the many Islamic cultures that have ruled the city between the Umayyad and Ottoman periods (seventh to twentieth centuries).

“One of the purposes of this dig is an educational one,” Gibson said. “One of the ways it can be used is to try to understand the different cultures that had possession of Jerusalem at different points in time. The Islamic part of this is not fully understood, at least not in terms of the domestic picture.

“Once again, we know about mosques and madrassas, but we know hardly anything about the daily life. Here, in this sitewe have three superimposed levels — belonging to the Umayyads (seventh to mid eighth centuries), Abbasids (mid-eighth to ninth centuries) and Fatimids (ninth to eleventh centuries)– which allow us to reconstruct the cultural life in the houses from these periods,” he said.

Though Gibson expects the site will eventually be open to visitors who wish to see the ruins, he notes that the site at present remains closed until the archaeological work can be completed in subsequent seasons and the fragile structures there have been stabilized through conservation procedures. The area remains too dangerous for tourists to enter.

Header Image : This image shows the archaeological site at Jerusalem’s Mt. Zion, beneath the city’s (Turkish) wall. The site reveals many layers of the city’s cultural history, including a first-century mansion, which was then in Jerusalem’s elite district. Credit: Shimon Gibson

Contributing Source : University of Calgary



| Nelson Mandela still hospitalised despite reports!

Nelson Mandela Still Hospitalized Despite Reports ~

PRETORIA, South Africa, Aug. 31, 2013,


South Africa awoke this morning to the unexpected and ultimately false news that iconic leader Nelson Mandela had been discharged from the hospital in Pretoria and returned to his home in a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg.

The news stunned the country and threw the international media into a frenzy, with a small army of media outlets scrambling to his home to confirm the news and perhaps catch a glimpse of the ailing 95-year-old Mandela, who has been hospitalized since June 8 for a lung infection.

However, the early morning reports turned out to be a false alarm and prompted South Africa President Jacob Zuma to issue a statement Saturday, denying the media reports and assuring the public Mandela is still hospitalized and responding well to treatment.

Nelson Mandela Through the Years: See the Photos

A Mandela relative had apparently misunderstood her communication with one of Mandela’s doctors and erroneously believed he had been released.

The relative informed other family members, who, in turn, relayed the faulty information to the media.

In his Saturday statement, Zuma reiterated that Mandela’s condition sometimes becomes unstable but that he remains resilient and is being made comfortable.

Read: Nelson Mandela’s Illness Puts Spotlight on Palliative Care

There is still lingering confusion about when or if Mandela will be released, but his family has said in recent months he would prefer to die at home rather than in the hospital.

Because of the false news reports and increased speculation about a possible release, activity buzzed outside Mandela’s hospital in Pretoria, where international media have been camped out since he was admitted 85 days ago.

Several media outlets are now lined up outside of Mandela’s home in Johannesburg, where a few family members were spotted Saturday but nothing that suggested his arrival there is imminent.

Mandela: Father of Modern South Africa

Mandela, who turned 95 in July, remains an almost mythical figure in South Africa.

Read: South Africa Celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 95th Birthday

After his anti-apartheid efforts landed him in jail for 27 years, he was released in February 1990 and four years later was elected the country’s first black president and the first one elected by a full, non-racial democracy after the demise of apartheid.

He is widely considered the father of modern South Africa and one of the great towering political figures of the 20th century.

Nelson Mandela Turns 95: See the Photos

The admiration for Mandela is clear on the gates outside the hospital, which for several weeks have been adorned with posters, pictures and flowers in his honor.

The public fanfare that ensued shortly after Mandela went into the hospital earlier this summer has largely faded, with the country now in the midst of a long goodbye for its iconic leader.




| Nelson Mandela ‘looking much better’, says Jacob Zuma!

Nelson Mandela ‘looking much better’, says Jacob Zuma ~ 

Erin Conway-Smith in Johannesburg, The Telegraph.


Nelson Mandela is “looking much better” and is in “good spirits”, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said yesterday after joining the former leader’s family on a Christmas Day visit to the 94-year-old’s bedside.



Fears grow over Nelson Mandela's health

Nelson Mandela Photo: EPA

Mr Mandela, who has spent 18 days in hospital since being airlifted from his village home in Qunu to Pretoria hospital for treatment, was also visited by wife Graca Machel.

“We found him in good spirits,” Mr Zuma said in a statement. “He was happy to have visitors on this special day and is looking much better. The doctors are happy with the progress that he is making.”

Mr Zuma’s office, which is responsible for issuing updates on the former president’s condition, has given no indication of when he might be discharged.

Mr Mandela was admitted to hospital December 8 for what was initially described as routine tests. He has since been treated for a recurrent lung infection, and underwent an endoscopic procedure to remove gallstones.

Eldest grandson Mandla Mandela, who is a chief of Mvezo village where the anti-apartheid icon was born, told a South African television network that the family was saddened by his absence from home this Christmas.

Mandla Mandela said: “We didn’t anticipate that he would be away for so long.”

South Africa’s first black president has been in frail health in recent years. He spends most of his time at home in the Eastern Cape countryside, receiving few visitors.

He was hospitalised for an acute respiratory infection in January 2011, and kept as an inpatient for two nights.

Mr Zuma admitted last week that the former president’s condition was serious when he was flown to hospital, for what has turned out to be his longest stay in more than a decade.

Mr Mandela became South African president after the country’s first fully democratic elections in 1994. He stepped down after serving one term.


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