What Two Teens Did On Summer Vacation: Discover Gold

What Two Teens Did On Summer Vacation: Discover Gold

Two Israeli teens helping an archaeological team during their summer break made a find that’s the envy of their professional counterparts: a clay pot containing 425 meticulously preserved 24-carat gold coins that date back to the 9th century.

“It was amazing,” said Oz Cohen, one of the teens who volunteered at the excavation site in central Israel before entering military service after the summer holidays. “I dug in the ground and when I excavated the soil, saw what looked like very thin leaves. When I looked again, I saw they were gold coins. It was really exciting to find such a special and ancient treasure.”

The dig took place at a site being prepped for a housing development. The two archaeologists in charge of the excavation, the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Liat Nadav-Ziv and Elie Haddad, said in a statement obtained by Zenger News that the treasure appeared to be deliberately buried at the site, because the pot containing the coins had been secured with a nail.

A man holds the cache as found at the site. (Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority/Real Press)


The cache as found at the site. (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority/Real Press)


A man counts the cache as found at the site. (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority/Real Press)

“The person who buried this treasure 1,100 years ago must have expected to retrieve it,” they said. “We can only guess what prevented him from returning to collect his treasure.”

The discovery is rare, indeed, as gold coins were traditionally melted and re-used over time, rather than preserved in their original form. Moreover, the coins provide a glimpse into trade relations in the Mediterranean region more than a millennium ago, according to the authority.


Most of the coins, which weighed a total of 845 grams (almost 2 pounds), were minted in the Islamic world. But some are from the Byzantine empire, which indicates that there was trade between Christian lands and the so-called Abbasid Caliphate, which controlled an empire that stretched from Persia to Baghdad in today’s Iraq.

The hoard consists of full gold dinars, an early Islamic currency, but also about 270 small gold cuttings that were used as small change. The rarest piece is a fragment of a gold solidus of the Byzantine emperor Theophilos, minted in the Byzantine empire’s capital of Constantinople. This fragment, according to Robert Kool, a coin expert at the authority, is rare material evidence of the continuous connections—war and trade—between the two rival empires during this period.

Israel Antiquities Authority excavations in the centre of the country. (Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority/Real Press)


Liat Nadav-Ziv, director of the excavation, with the cache. (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority/ Real Press)

“This rare treasure will certainly be a major contribution to research, as finds from the Abbasid period in Israel are relatively few,” Kool said. “Hopefully, the study of the hoard will tell us more about a period of which we still know very little.”

And the value of the gold coins? Though considered priceless today, Kool said 1,100 years ago, the entire hoard would have been enough to buy a luxurious house in one of the best neighborhoods in Fustat, then the wealthy capital of Egypt.

(Edited by Stephen Gugliociello and Matthew Hall.)

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Iranian gasoline shipments to Venezuela seized

Iranian gasoline shipments to Venezuela seized

When the United States intercepted and seized illegal shipments of Iranian fuel bound for Venezuela, the siege of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro tightened.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, four tankers carrying just over 1.1 million barrels of fuel from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, known as the IRGC, were stopped and comandeered. The foreign-flagged ships were identified as Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna, which were brought to Houston, Texas. Last year, the U.S. Department of State designated the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization.

The cargo of the four seized ships valued at $50 million, was seized by order U.S. District Court Judge Jeb Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The U.S. has accused Iran of using foreign-owned and flagged ships to violate sanctions on both Venezuela and Iran.

The M/T Bering, one of the vessels that had its oil seized is pictured in an undated photograph in an unknown location. (U.S. DOJ)


The M/T Bella, one of the vessels that had its oil seized is pictured in an undated photograph in an unknown location. (U.S. DOJ)


The M/T Pandi, one of the vessels that had its oil seized is pictured in an undated photograph in an unknown location. (U.S. DOJ)

In May, the Iranian government sent five oil tankers to Venezuela with 1.5 million barrels of gasoline.

U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Craig S. Fuller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said that the Maduro regime and its allies continue to pose a serious threat to freedom and democracies for neighboring countries of Latin America.


“The drastic growth of drug trafficking that comes from Venezuela is a serious threat to North and South America,” he said.

For Lila Urdaneta, an ordinary citizen in exile in Miami, the seizure of fuel affects “everyone, but the guiltiest is the regime, which did not maintain the plants so that they would collapse and there would be no production. They thought about having gasoline from abroad and managing it to maintain control,” she said.

Venezuela, one of the largest oil reserves in the world, has run out of gasoline due to the deterioration of Petróleos de Venezuela. The state oil company suffers from years of mismanagement, underinvestment, and corruption. The Trump administration has ratcheted up sanctions on the Maduro regime.

Following the seizure order, the Iranian ambassador in Caracas, Hojat Soltani, denied that his country had anything to do with the ships. “The ships are not Iranian, and neither the owner nor its flag has anything to do with Iran,” the diplomat said on Twitter.

Petróleos de Venezuela SA, a state company, began operations on January 1, 1976, and was nationalized by President Carlos Andrés Pérez. The company appeared in the Global 500 list of the “Fortune” Magazine in position 39 among the largest companies in the world.

The oil firm has the largest oil reserves on the planet, reaching at the end of 2013 a total certified sum of 298,353 million barrels, which represent 20% of the world reserves.

The company had 140,626 employees until 2019, and a workforce hired in the same year of 16,168 employees. Citgo is one of its subsidiaries in the United States.

In 2019, Petróleos de Venezuela SA reported a decline in crude oil production from 1.1 million to 768,000 barrels per day.

(Edited by Rafael Prieto and Bryan Wilkes.)

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Female window-washer sets sky-high example

Female window-washer sets sky-high example

A female Israeli window cleaner who dances to music while doing her job on the sides of Tel Aviv skyscrapers has become rising star on social media wants to encourage other women to take on male-dominated roles. Noa Toledo, 22, has quickly seen her TikTok following swell to 60,000 with over 1 million “likes” in a short period.

“People are surprised when they see me behind the window because I’m a woman and it’s unusual,” said Toledo, who was a champion pole-vaulter and also competed on TV’s “Ninja Israel” sports competition. “Who knows, maybe more women will be inspired to do it when they see that I can do it as well.”

Revital Friedman, who has seen Toledo at work, said “she is really inspirational, and unlike other male window cleaners, she’s the only one ever to asked me if she was doing a good job.”

Toledo told Zenger News that says posting her work on TikTok is designed “to show the world that you can do both — you can have fun while you do your job. I also want the world to be aware of this unique job. I want to show everyone that women can do physical jobs, too, that they don’t need to be afraid to try just because of social norms.”

She added that the work also has some personal benefits. “When I’m up there dancing and cleaning, I feel free, I feel like that’s the right place for me to be. I feel no fear and nothing bothers me.”

Noa Toledo, window washer and social media star. (@noatoledo1/Newsflash)


Noa Toledo, window washer and social media star. (@noatoledo1/Newsflash)


Noa Toledo, window washer and social media star. (@noatoledo1/Newsflash)

Statistics on the number of female window washers like Toledo are hard to come by. But data from the Occupational Safety and Health Association show 21 accidents involving window washers in the U.S. from 2015, with nine people killed.

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Stephen Gugliociello)

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Historic UAE-Israel deal boosts Trump, hurts Iran and Russia

Historic UAE-Israel deal boosts Trump, hurts Iran and Russia

The announcement of the third peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state came as a complete surprise to the international community Thursday. No dialogue leaked, no statements floated to the press ahead of time, no countermeasures deployed to interfere, and no traditional diplomacy—only President Donald Trump’s blackjack-like brinksmanship and his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s calm.

But the sound of throats clearing Friday in Abu Dhabi was followed by cautious gloating, and efforts to point out how the Israelis will no longer be “annexing” the West Bank.

“The UAE has long been a champion of the Palestinian cause, their dignity and right to self-determination and peaceful coexistence,” said Hend Al Otaiba, the director of strategic communications at the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We cannot act on behalf of the Palestinians or the Israelis, but we hope this agreement gives them space and support in which to negotiate a lasting peace treaty that will secure broader regional peace and stability.”

“We believed the two-state solution was existentially threatened by annexation and we had an opportunity to put a stop to it,” she told Zenger News.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out in a Jerusalem address after a signing ceremony that the text of the agreement called for Israel to “suspend” its annexation, not cancel its plans.

“There is no change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank by its Biblical names,” in full coordination with the United States.”

Otaiba said her government made the right deal even knowing some would disagree with it. She said achieving peace in the Middle East must involve Israel, Palestine, the UAE and the U.S. if it is to provide stability and prosperity to the region.

“There will always be those who prefer violence to peace, but overall this deal makes the region safer and more stable,” said Otaiba. “It is an achievement centered around diplomacy and dialogue, an opportunity to move forward on numerous fronts: political, economic, and cultural.”

Hamas, the Islamic Jihad movement, and other entities that antagonize Israel describe the deal as a betrayal to the Palestinians.

And other, more subtle pessimists who tried to sabotage Thursday’s agreement expressed suspicion that Israel would never commit to halting its plans to annex parts of the West Bank. That assumption was rejected by the Mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi—who had been in talks with representatives from the U.S. administration about the deal. Efrat is a Jewish settlement in the Judean Mountains of the West Bank.

Revivi said postponing the application of the Israeli law which declared sovereignty over the West Bank is a fair price to pay for a peace agreement with the UAE.

In an exclusive interview with Zenger, Reviv said: “Netanyahu has agreed to postpone the application of Israeli sovereignty in order to formalize Israel’s relationship with the Emiratis and hopefully other Gulf States. With Netanyahu saying that, and the Administration indicating that it would not recognize the move right now, it is hard to see how credible an argument that Israel would do so anyway at this time.”

The Efrat mayor stressed that new developments allow Israel the opportunity to present the reality of life in Israel without the filter of a corrupt and repressive Palestinian Authority.

“In due time I would expect the Emiratis and others to recognize the huge distinction between Palestinian people and the corrupt PA extends even to the controversial issue concerning Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.”

Reviv said he has high hopes that Thursday’s deal will start a new era in the region. “I certainly hope it is the beginning of a peaceful era, and a recognition that there are bigger priorities in the Middle East than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said, adding that terrorist organizations that reject any kind of normalization with Israel have found themselves humiliated by more practical and cooperative Arab Middle East states.

Saudi writer Ahmad al-Farraj emphasized on importance of the Israeli commitment to the Arab world, stressing that this historic deal would pave the way for a new dialogue to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Farraj described the general sentiment in the counties of the Gulf Cooperation Council as overwhelmingly positive, pointing out that the Saudi Arabian people are beginning to shed their old, habitual frame of the Middle East. “The Saudis are changing their perspective of who their real enemy is. It is not Israel anymore,” he said.

The Saudi political analyst said Iran and Turkey are now the threats in the region.

“Iran has been trying to seize control of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen while the Muslim Brotherhood via Turkey is expanding its influence in Syria, Lebanon and Libya. These are the real enemies, especially for the people of Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Bahrain,” Farraj said.

He said the people who oppose the deal are watching Qatar closely because it was the first Gulf country to normalize its relations with Israel—and also watching Turkey and the Muslim brotherhood for negative reactions designed to inflame tensions again.

The historic Abraham Accords also put Russia on its back feet: Its negotiations to form trade alliances across the Arab world have largely failed. Some of the Trump administration’s have succeeded.

(Edited by David Martosko and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)

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Israel set to send natural gas to Europe

Israel set to send natural gas to Europe

Israel and Europe will proceed with a natural gas pipeline that will carry Israeli gas to European customers, after the Israeli government ratified the agreement. Partner countries Greece and Cyprus have already approved the project. The Eastern Mediterranean, or EastMed, pipeline project will allow Israel to become a major energy exporter, while reducing European reliance on Russian energy supplies.

Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz hailed the agreement, calling it in a news release, “another historic milestone in our efforts to transform the State of Israel into an exporter of energy – a process which will bring in tens of billions in revenues for the benefit of Israel and its citizens in the coming years.”

The project has been somewhat controversial in recent years, with Italy initially opposing it, but later signing on. Turkey and Libya, which are not part of the project, formed a separate economic agreement that the U.S. opposed, leading to U.S. spending on a regional framework to facilitate cooperation on energy issues between the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.

The pipeline is expected to stretch approximately 1,200 miles over land and under water at a cost of roughly $6.8 billion, according to reports. The EastMed pipeline project won’t be the first time Israel will export natural gas. Earlier this year, the energy ministers from Israel and Egypt announced Israeli natural gas exports to Egypt.

IGI Poseidon, a joint venture between Italian and Greek energy companies, is managing and designing the project along with support from Bulgaria, which will get a pipeline spur, according to the organization’s website. IGI Poseidon is conducting underwater surveys to map the best route, as well as economic and commercial feasibility studies.

The European Union is also investing in the project through its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Earlier this year the EU included the EastMed project on its list of Projects of Common Interest, signifying the pipeline will have significant benefits for EU member nations.

The pipeline is expected to be completed by 2025, and will run from the Levantine Basin gas field in Israel and the Aphrodite gas field in Cyprus through Crete and Greece, with the main terminus in Italy. It is expected to carry 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year, with a planned increase to 20 billion cubic meters per year, according to IGI Poseidon.

While all countries involved in the announcement are U.S. allies, another U.S. ally is firmly opposed. Complicating U.S. diplomacy in the region, Turkey has expressed serious concerns and made territorial claims that include areas the EastMed pipeline will use. In a move many saw as a way to counter the EastMed pipeline, Turkey signed a memorandum with Libya that would create an exclusive economic zone between the two nations.

(Randam via Wikimedia)

In addition to opposition from the EU, the memorandum drew a rebuke from U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt at the Delphi Economic Forum in Greece in June, who said the memorandum is “inconsistent with the American understanding of international maritime law… .”

“It is unhelpful and provocative in any terms, but most importantly it can take away no right from Greece. Whether this document is posted to the United Nations or not, it does not detract from the rights that Greece possesses still under international maritime law,” Pyatt said.

Energy ministers from Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority also joined the Egyptian-Israeli meeting earlier this year. It concluded with participants planning future meetings as the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. France has asked to join that organization, while the U.S. has requested permanent observer status.

Both the EastMed pipeline and the East Mediterranean Gas Forum have bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, which last year passed the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 in its annual spending bill. The bill created a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate cooperation on energy issues between the U.S., Israel, Greece and Cyprus. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law as part of an overall budget package. Among other provisions, the act requires the Trump administration to provide a written strategy to Congress on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to provide Congress with a list of malign activities by Russia and other countries in the region.

Russia, which sends natural gas both to Turkey and through Turkey to Europe, has not weighed in on the EastMed pipeline project.

(Edited by Jeff Epstein and Sally Benford.)

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Love can blossom in the bleakest of places

Love can blossom in the bleakest of places

Engagement photos typically take place in such serene settings as a park or pedestrian plaza. But for a Palestinian couple, the perfect setting for their pre-wedding pix turned out to be the refugee camp where the bride-to-be grew up.


The newly engaged couple are Samih Mazien Mahmoud, 23, and Rayan Sokkar, 24. They decided to pose for their engagement snaps at the Shatila refugee camp, also known as the Chatila refugee camp, in the Lebanese capital Beirut. The camp was originally set up for Palestinian refugees in 1949 and is home to more than 10,000 people.

Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud pose for a photo at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
(Omar Ahmad/Newsflash)


Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud pose for a photo at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
(Omar Ahmad/Newsflash)

Sokkar was born and raised in Shatila, while her fiancee moved there after leaving Al Yarmouk Camp in Syria in 2013. The Palestinian couple, who both live in Lebanon, have worked as journalists on the Campji online platform since 2016.

Sokkar told Zenger News that she left the camp three years ago, but it still remains in her heart. “I lived the most beautiful childhood there and it makes me sad when people speak negatively about it.”

Adds Mahmoud: “We wanted to do something new and different than most couples, who [typically] take photos in front of cityscapes or next to famous buildings.”

Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud pose for a photo at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
(Omar Ahmad/Newsflash)


Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud pose for a photo at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
(Omar Ahmad/Newsflash)

The memorable engagement snaps were taken by the couple’s friend, Omar Ahmad, who wanted to show the camp’s hidden attributes. “Despite the hardship [that takes place there], I see the camp as a beautiful place, a place that illuminates beauty all the time through the spirit of the people in it,” Ahmad said.

When the bride-to-be shared the photos on Facebook for her family and friends, she never imagined that they would have been liked and reposted by thousands around the world.

Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud pose for a photo at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
(Omar Ahmad/Newsflash)


Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud pose for a photo at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
(Omar Ahmad/Newsflash)


Rayan Sokkar and Samih Mazien Mahmoud pose for a photo at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
(Omar Ahmad/Newsflash)

“We are so shocked about the interest because it doesn’t make sense to us why people would want to share someone else’s engagement photos,” said Sokkaar. “It’s something very personal, but we’re very happy that so many people loved the images.”

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)

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