Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Update: 2000 Year Old Palm Tree Seed Growing In Jerusalem

Here's an update to a story that appeared in the New York Times back last June. I've reprinted the NYT story below the recent Arutz-7 one.

Arutz-7's Ezra HaLevi reports:

2,000-Year-Old Judean Date Seed Growing Successfully
Monday, January 30, 2006 / 1 Shevat 5766

A 2,000 year old date seed planted last Tu B’Shvat has sprouted and is over a foot tall. Being grown at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava, it is the oldest seed to ever produce a viable young sapling.

The Judean date seed was found, together with a large number of other seeds, during archaeological excavations carried out close to Massada near the southern end of the Dead Sea, the last Jewish stronghold following the Roman destruction of the Holy Temple. The age of the seeds was determined using carbon dating, but has a margin of error of 50 years – placing them either right before or right after the Massada revolt.

The seeds sat in storage for thirty years until Elain Solowey of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies was asked to attempt to cultivate three of them. Solowey spoke with Israel National Radio's Yishai Fleisher and Alex Traiman about reviving the ancient date palm.

Solowey, who raised the plant, has grown over one hundred rare and almost extinct species of plants. Together with Hadassah Hospital’s Natural Medicine Center, she seeks to use the plants listed in ancient remedies to seek effective uses for modern medical conditions. The Judean date has been credited with helping fight cancer, malaria and toothaches. Solowey was skeptical about the chances of success at first, but gave it a try. “I treated it in warm water and used growth hormones and an enzymatic fertilizer extracted from seaweed in order to supplement the food normally present in a seed,” she said.

As this year’s Tu B’Shvat (The 15th of the Jewish month of Shvat, the Jewish new year for trees) approaches, the young tree that sprouted from one of the three seeds now has five leaves (one was removed for scientific testing) and is 14 inches tall. Solowey has named it Metushelah (Methusaleh), after the 969-year-old grandfather of Noah, the oldest human being recorded in the Torah.

Solowey said that although the plant’s leaves were pale at first, the young tree now looks “perfectly normal.”

The Judean palms once grew throughout the Jordan Valley, from Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) to the Dead Sea. Those from Jericho, at the northern end of the Dead Sea, were of particularly notable quality. Though dates are still grown widely in the Jordan Valley, the trees come mostly from California.

The Judean date palm trees are referred to in Psalm 92 (“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree…”). The tree was also depicted on the ancient Jewish shekel and now appears on the modern Israeli 10-shekel coin.

It is too early to tell the sex of the tree, but if it is female, it is supposed to bear fruit by 2010, after which it can be propagated to revive the Judean date palm species altogether. “It is a long road to our being able to eat the Judean date once again,” Solowey said, “but there is the possibility of restoring the date to the modern world.”

Here's the story that ran in the The New York Times in June:

After a 2,000-Year Rest, a Seed Sprouts in Jerusalem
June 12, 2005

JERUSALEM, June 11 - Israeli doctors and scientists have succeeded in germinating a date seed nearly 2,000 years old.

The seed, nicknamed Methuselah, was taken from an excavation at Masada, the cliff fortress where, in A.D. 73, 960 Jewish zealots died by their own hand, rather than surrender to a Roman assault. The point is to find out what was so exceptional about the original date palm of Judea, much praised in the Bible and the Koran for its shade, food, beauty and medicinal qualities, but long ago destroyed by the crusaders.

"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree," says Psalm 92. "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age. They shall be fat and flourishing."

Well, we'll see. Dr. Sarah Sallon, who runs a project on medicinal plants of the Middle East, notes that the date palm in ancient times symbolized the tree of life. But Dr. Elaine Solowey, who germinated the seed and is growing it in quarantine, says plants grown from ancient seeds "usually keel over and die soon," having used most of their nutrients in remaining alive.

The plant is now 11.8 inches tall and has produced seven leaves, one of which was removed for DNA testing. Radiocarbon dating in Switzerland on a snip of the seed showed it to be 1,990 years old, plus or minus 50 years. So the date seed dates from 35 B.C. to A.D. 65, just before the famed Roman siege.

Three date seeds were taken from Level 34 of the Masada dig. They were found in a storeroom, and are presumably from dates eaten by the defenders, Dr. Sallon says.

Mordechai Kislef, director of botanical archeology at Bar-Ilan University, had some date seeds from Ehud Netzer, who excavated Masada in the 1970's. "They were sitting in a drawer, and when I asked for one, he said, 'You're mad,' but finally gave me three," Dr. Sallon said. "Then I gave them to Elaine, who's an expert on arid agriculture and dates." Dr. Solowey said: "Well, I didn't have much hope that any would come up, but you know how Sarah is."

Dr. Sallon, who is a pediatric gastroenterologist trained at University College, London, came to Israel 20 years ago. She is the director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center at Hadassah Medical Organization, which she set up 10 years ago to study natural products and therapies, from Tibetan and Chinese medicine to the indigenous medicinal plants of the Middle East. The idea is to preserve these plants and their oral histories in a modernizing region, but also to domesticate them, evaluate them scientifically and then try to integrate them into conventional medicine.

Dr. Solowey, who teaches agriculture and sustainable farming at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, based at Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Negev, works on finding new crops for arid and saline areas like Jordan, Gaza and Morocco. She also works with Dr. Sallon to domesticate indigenous plants that appear to have medicinal uses.

Dr. Solowey grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in California and studied horticulture, then turned away from commercial agriculture in disgust, coming here in 1971. "I don't come to organic agriculture from the hippie side, but as a frustrated agricultural scientist," she said.

"We've bred for yield and taste, but not hardiness, so we have a lot of plants as hardy as French poodles, so we have to spray to protect them, and then we pay the price," she said. "There isn't a cubic centimeter of water in the San Joaquin Valley that isn't polluted with something."

She planted the date seeds at the end of January after trying to draw them out of their deep dormancy. She first soaked the seeds in hot water to soften the coat, then in an acid rich in hormones, then in an enzymatic fertilizer made of seaweed and other nutrients.

"I've done other recalcitrant seeds," she said. "It wasn't a project with a high priority. I had no idea if the food in the seed was still good, but I put them in new pots in new potting soil and plugged them into drip irrigation and kind of forgot about them."

About six weeks later, she said, "I saw the earth cracked in a pot and much to my astonishment, one of these came up."

The first two leaves looked odd, she said, very flat and pale. "But the third looked like a date leaf with lines, and every one since has looked more and more normal - like it had a hard time getting out of the seed."

Lotus seeds of about 1,200 years of age have been sprouted in China, and after the Nazis bombed London's Natural History Museum in World War II and a lot of water was used to put out the fire, seeds of 500 years of age also germinated.

"But no one had done it from 2,000 years old," Dr. Sallon said.

In the time of Pliny, forests of date palms covered the area from Lake Galilee to the Dead Sea and made Jericho famous; a date palm features on ancient coinage, as it does on the current Israeli 10-shekel coin.

The date palm symbolized ancient Israel; the honey of "the land of milk and honey" came from the date. It is praised as a tonic to increase longevity, as a laxative, as a cure for infections and as an aphrodisiac, Dr. Sallon said. But the dates of Judea were destroyed before the Middle Ages, and what dates Israel grows now were imported in the 1950's and 60's from California and originated elsewhere in the Middle East.

The Prophet Muhammad considered the date of great importance for medicine, food, construction and income, and it is described in the Koran as a "symbol of goodness" associated with heaven.

Dates need to grow 30 years to reach maturity and can live as long as 200 years.

But it is the female date that is considered holy, and that bears fruit. "Men are rather superfluous in the date industry," Dr. Sallon said.

"O.K, I have a date plant," Dr. Solowey said. "If it lives, it will be years before we eat any dates. And that's if it's female. There's a 50-50 chance. And if it's a male, it will just be a curiosity."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Photo of the Day: Try This On The Subway...

"Dudu, you're late for school!"

"Don't worry Mom, I'll Daven on the #8 Bus."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri Passes Away in Jerusalem at 108

Arutz-7's Ezra HaLevireports:

Elder Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri passed away Saturday night at Jerusalem's Bikur Cholim Hospital. His funeral will take place Sunday at noon.

Rav Kaduri, born in 1898, was 108 years old. He was hospitalized for 13 days prior to his death.

Rabbi Kaduri's funeral will set out at 12 PM Sunday from Jerusalem's Nahalat Yitzchak Yeshiva, which he headed. The Yeshiva is located in 19 David Street in the capital's Bucharian neighborhood. The procession will continue until Har HaMenuchot.

Arutz-7 Hebrew Radio show host Yehoshua Meiri, a student of Rabbi Kaduri, visited Rabbi Kaduri at his hospital bedside two weeks ago with the Kabbalist's grandson, Rabbi Yossi Kaduri. Meiri reported that the elder Rabbi Kaduri told them, "The time of Redemption has come."

Rabbi Kaduri made Aliyah (moved to Israel) in 1908. He then returned to Iraq to study with the famed Ben Ish Chai, and later returned to the Holy Land in 1916. He studied in Yeshivat Porat Yosef in the Old City of Jerusalem, and later in Yeshivat Nachlat Yitzchak in Jerusalem's Bucharian neighborhood. The Rabbi quickly gained a reputation for his profound study of Torah law and Kabbalah, piercing insights, and great piety.

Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the Council of Sages of the Shas Party said, "We are mourning the passing of the elder kabbalist, the remnant of the Great Assembly, Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri."

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said, "All of Israel is one family in mourning today he who all his life prayed on behalf of the Nation of Israel and rose in a tempest heavenward."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Globes: Fischer: Use good years to cut government debt

What a concept for Israelis? You mean we should think long term?

This is a very bitter pill for most Israelis, known for not having an ouce of "Savlanut" to swallow. But how could lowering taxes end a recession? But we need more money now not later! Why worry about tomorrow.

Stanley Fischer is the best thing to happen to Israel as he tries to break the country out of the Socialistic mold that has plagued this country for years.

Israel - the time has come to embrace capitalism.

Globes' Zeev Klein reports [bold mine]:
Fischer: Use good years to cut government debt

The governor of the Bank of Israel gave an optimistic survey of Israel's economy at the Herzliya Conference.

In his speech at the Sixth Herzliya Conference on the Balance of Israel's National Security today, Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer raised his GDP growth forecast for the Israeli economy in 2006 to 4.3%. Fischer estimates that business product will grow by 5.4% this year.

In December, Fischer estimated that the economy would grow by more than 4%, and that business product would grow by more than 5%. According to the Ministry of Finance's official forecast, the economy is expected to grow by 3.9% this year.

"The picture that emerges from the initial estimates of the National Accounts published by the Central Bureau of Statistics is one of an economy growing nicely, with GDP increasing by 5.2%, with business-sector product leading the way with a fine 6.6% rise…

"Against this background, and assuming that the next government will follow the same macro-economic policy, an assumption which appears eminently reasonable, the Bank of Israel's forecasts for 2006 are of a 4.3% increase in GDP, and 5.4% increase in business-sector product."

Fischer referred indirectly to yesterday's 0.25% interest rate hike by the Bank of Israel, saying "The Bank of Israel is making its contribution mainly by following a monetary policy, i.e., an interest-rate policy, that acts to strengthen price stability, in line with the government's target, to help economic growth and employment in the long run, and to bolster the stability of the financial system."

Fischer said the world economy had greatly helped economic recovery in Israel and the country's growth momentum. "It is therefore important to bear in mind that Israel's future growth will be affected also by future global growth. The latter is expected to be about 4% in 2006."

The central bank governor warned however that "we must be alert to the risks to global growth and see whether they will really affect it. I mean the possibility that energy prices, particularly oil prices, will continue to rise, the effects of the rise in interest rates world wide, and the possibility that the US economy will grow more slowly than originally estimated."

On the security situation, Fischer said it would have an important impact on economic growth. "It is clear that a state of calm, and specifically expectations of a peace process, have a positive influence on Israel's economy and thus constitute a very important factor. This is expressed in particular via tourism and domestic and foreign investors' willingness to invest in Israel," he said.

Fischer added that we were currently experiencing some of the best years the Israeli economy had known, and that this should be exploited to reduce the debt burden as a proportion of GDP. "In 2003 we reached a ratio of 104%, and it seems that for 2005 the ratio will be slightly below 100%. This reduction is due to the low deficit, the rapid growth rate, and the proceeds of privatization. The burden of servicing the government debt is about 6% of GDP and amounts to a huge NIS 33 billion a year," he pointed out.

"To put this in perspective," Fischer continued, "let me say that if the debt/GDP ratio were to fall to about 50%, a reasonable ratio by international standards, interest payments would fall to less than 3% of GDP and less than 8% of the budget, because the interest rates would fall, and about NIS 17 billion a year would be available for other economic uses."

Fischer gave two further reasons for placing emphasis on reducing the debt to GDP ratio: the sensitivity of the economy to changes in global interest rates, and the restriction on the government's freedom of maneuver during periods of recession, that high government debt causes.

"Reducing the debt/GDP ratio would enable the government to implement a counter-cyclical budget policy. In other words, at times of recession in economic activity, the government could adopt a policy of tax cuts and perhaps increase its expenditure to encourage a rise in demand and thereby contribute to quicker recovery. That is what the US did in 2002 when the recession started there. And that is what Israel, Germany and France were unable to do at that time. Why not? Because a counter-cyclical policy in a recession increases the budget deficit, and hence the debt, too quickly. And if the debt/GDP ratio is already too high, as in our case, a counter-cyclical policy is dangerous as it is likely to cause a financial crisis, and that just in the midst of a recession."

On social policy, Fischer stressed two points. "First, it is important to continue focusing on a policy that serves to create sustained growth, which is vital for the enhancement of the economy's ability to cope with the social problems especially the reduction of poverty.

"Second, it is important to focus on education and health for the entire population, including its weak groups. The accessibility of better education and health to the weaker groups is very important, to provide them with equal opportunities to realize their potential and to progress in the labor market."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on January 24, 2006

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Rabbi Kaduri´s Most Recent Words

From Arutz-7:
(IsraelNN.com) Famed Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, who has been in serious condition in the hospital for 1.5 weeks, revived and spoke with his close associates for an hour and forty minutes after the end of the Sabbath, this past Saturday night. One of those people, Arutz-7 Hebrew radio showhost Yehoshua Meiri, related to Arutz-7 the rabbi’s words. The rabbi spoke in Hebrew; what follows is an approximate translation:

“The Kabbalists will investigate my words over the recent months about the Redemption and Moshiach [The Annointed Leader of the Jews during that period] and will reveal the secret name of Moshiach which was revealed to me on Cheshvan 9, 5764 (November 11, 2003).” The rabbi said he actually met the person who will be Moshiach, on that date.

The rabbi said of the Moshiach, “He won’t come and say ‘I am the Moshiach. Give over the rule to me.’ Rather the Kabbalists would discover the secret name [of Moshiach] among my ‘hidden’ [Kabbalistic] words and the nation will push him to lead it.”

Meiri also described a “ceremony” that took place during the brief period the rabbi was awake and alert. With only four people in the room, the rabbi “whispered Tzofanim Kabbalisti’im [Kabalistic esoteric codes] to one of the four persons present, whose name we are not revealing.”

Well-wishers can visit the Kaduri.net website. It is a Hebrew language site.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Couple Israeli Bus Driver Stories

Okay now that things are coming together – especially with the apartment (we even just got a washing machine!) I hope to once again start blogging more. So here are two wonderful Israeli Bus Driver stories that happened to me last week.

Well first of all one thing is clear: Israeli Hi-Tech is no longer “al hapanim” (face down). I had job interviews last Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and this Sunday – of course a job interview is a long way from a job but it’s a very good start and certainly if this pace keeps up I should find something nice pretty soon b’ezrat Hasham – always and only b’ezrat Hashem!

So last Thursday I’m on my way to Kfar Saba, a nice little town near Rananna and I completely blow it. I was totally confused and got off the bus at the wrong stop all the way on the wrong side of town. While I never ever take cabs when you are about to be late for a job interview it’s a good time to start. But Kfar Saba is not exactly Tel Aviv and there weren’t any cabs around. So I started walking.

I asked someone for directions and he pointed me in the right direction and told me not to worry. He was English and he said Israel is not like England where if you come late to the interview it’s all over. Here you could come an hour late and it’s no problem.

Still I ran.

Anyway I was getting a little nervous as I kept walking further and further and still haven't arrived at the intersection I needed. Then I passed a bus stop and bus pulled up. I decided this was my lucky day. I promptly hopped on the bus. The driver must have seen my face; the face of a desperate guy who is late for a job interview. I told him exactly where I need to go and asked him if this bus goes there. He told me “sure it does – it’s that corner right over there, four or five blocks down.” I reached in to my pocket to get my wallet out “Kamma zeh oleh?” (How much does this cost?) “Nah, put that away!” he said. “I’ll bring you right there.” And he did – and pointed out exactly where to go from there. I know any New York City bus driver would have charged me the full fare for that.

So I arrived at the interview – not too late. Well within the “margin of error” anyway. And the interview actually goes very well. Then I ask about what’s the best way to commute to Yerushalayim and they say “only by car and we of course give you a car.” Which is nice. But when I left the building I see a bus stop right down the block and right there in black and yellow is printed “474 – Jerusalem.” Perfect! Why did he say there was no good way to commute?

Well then I looked a little closer at the fine print on the next line “via Ariel.” Okay, so what? It’ll get me home and it’s one bus and I don’t have to shlep to Raanana or Tel Aviv first. So after a half hour the bus shows up and I get on it. “Yerushalayim?” I ask the driver for confirmation. Oh boy! I don’t know if I said something wrong but he goes off on a huge rant and I couldn’t make out much of what he said except that no one really ever takes this bus from Kfar Saba to Yerushalayim. There didn’t even seem to be a price listed for it. He sort of just made it up on the spot – “17 Shekel – how’s that?” he asked me. Wow – “a metziyah!” It cost me around 28 NIS to get there to begin with.

Folks, if you ever have a few hours to spare and would like a great cheap tour of the Shomron and Judea I highly recommend the 474. What a ride! First this bus driver was quite a character. He was talking to the passengers the whole time on just about every topic imaginable (though he seemed to enjoy ranting about “the Ashkanazim” a lot.) He also seemed to know every passenger by name. As we got to each Yishuv (we stopped at around ten of them) he called out the passengers by name to wake them up and tell them this was their stop and wish them a “Shabbat Shalom!”

At one stop he called out “Hillel, this is your stop!” An old man got up and slowly made his way down the exit door. The bus driver then got up walked around the bus to the compartment underneath the bus and pulled out a walking stick – or more specifically a blind man’s walking stick and handed it to Hillel. “You’re okay Hillel? Okay. Shabbat Shalom!”


17 Shekel and I got to see Ariel, Immanuel, Ofrah and host of smaller Yishuvim and we did eventually arrive at Jerusalem…with the bus driver wishing everyone a “Lalaya Tov, Shabbat Shalom, v’Chag Samayach!” What Chag it was I don’t know…but for some people everyday is a Chag.

17 Shekel and I got to meet the greatest bus driver and ride on the greatest bus line with the greatest passengers in the greatest country in the world!

“Chag Samayach!”

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Israel Perspectives: From Israel with love...

My friend Ze'ev from Kumah wrote up this wonderful post on the Kumah blog as well has his own Israel Perspectives blog. It's so wonderful I know he won't mind if I repost it here. Hmm... and people still have the Chutzpah to say it's NOT a Jewish State.

Above is a picture I added to the post. It's the newest 39 cent stamp issued by the USPS.

Now here's Ze'ev's post featuring the lastest stamp issued by Israel:

It is all too easy, living in Israel, to get caught up in all of the challenges that are facing the Jewish People in State; to get caught up in all of the negativity and cynicism, and in the process forget how truly special a place the Jewish State of Israel is, and how fortunate one is to be able to live here today - challenges and all.

Yesterday, a colleague of mine at work went to the post office to pick up some stamps. When she returned from the post office, she took a look at the sheet of stamps that she had purchased and was pleasantly surprised by what she saw (Hint: Scroll up).

It's the little things that make living here so special. There's nowhere else in the world where one can learn Torah from a stamp; there's no other place in the world where it is just feels so natural to see a stamp like this being sold in the post office and affixed to letters that you get in the mail (this stamp is only one set of a larger series).

Only in Israel...

That's where Ze'ev's post ends. Now Jacob Richman actually posted pictures of stamps from the whole series along with a whole bunch of other wonderful stamps. Check them all out right here on his amazing site and make Aliyah!

Israel's Jewish Population Surpasses United States

From Arutz-7:

For the first time, Israel has more Jews than the US, according to Hebrew University Prof. Sergio Della Pergola. Tel Aviv has also overtaken New York as the city with the largest Jewish population.

Dr. Della Pergola, who released the statistics at a conference in Jerusalem this week, said that the new figures are partly the result of the increase in Israel's Jews, but greatly due to the shrinking Diaspora. The percentage of Jews, within the global populations, has decreased by one third since 1970 due to intermarriage and assimilation.

According to Della Pergola, the Jewish people now comprise .21% of the world's population – whereas they comprised .35% in 1970.

In 1970, there were about 10 million Jews living outside Israel. Only 7.75 million remain. The slight increase in the number of Jews in the world – from 12.65 million in 1970 to nearly 13 million now, is only due to the growth of Jews living in the Jewish state, Della Pergola said.

The demographer said that the only thing that has kept the number of American Jews stable is the hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews that have moved there. He says there is no reason that the size of the Diaspora communities will not continue to shrink.

A previous study done by Hebrew University's Institute of Contemporary Jewry concluded that, barring mass immigration to the Jewish State, by 2030, the majority of the Jewish people will live in Israel due to demographic trends alone. Such a situation would have far-reaching implications according to Jewish law. Click here for an in-depth analysis of the matter.

Monday, January 09, 2006

JA launches new Aliyah information service

From The Jerusalem Post:

Jewish Agency launches new information service
by Jonathan Schneider

The Jewish Agency launched on Sunday a new online information site, the first of its kind, that will provide a more accessible and convenient service for Jews abroad to find out information about developments and programs happening in Israel, including up-to-date advice on issues ranging from employment possibilities to buying an apartment.

The "Global Center for Israel" project will operate 24 hours a day, six days a week, and will be staffed by experts in various fields who will provide reliable answers on visiting Israel and making aliyah.

Friday, January 06, 2006

US Christian broadcaster says Sharon's stroke divine retribution

An Israeli soldier prays at the Western Wall, Judaism holiest site, in Jerusalem Thursday Jan. 5, 2006. Rabbis called Israelis to flock to synagogues and say special prayers for 77-year-old Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who fought for his life Thursday following seven hours of emergency surgery to stop widespread bleeding in his brain. The massive stroke made it unlikely that he would return to power, and plunged the region into uncertainty.(AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

From :

US Christian broadcaster says Sharon's stroke divine retribution

US evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for "dividing God's land" of Israel, igniting his latest trademark controversy.

As the Israeli prime minister battled for life, Robertson seemed to suggest to viewers on his "700 Club" television show that Sharon was being punished for his policies in Gaza and the West Bank.

"The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, 'divide my land.' God considers this land to be his.

"You read the Bible, he says, 'This is my land.' And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he's going carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No. This is mine.'"

Robertson, who frequently provokes outrage with his remarks, said he was "sad" to see Sharon fall sick, and that he was a "very likeable person."

"I prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or the United States of America."

"God said, 'This land belongs to me, you better leave it alone.'"

Robertson also appeared to suggest former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, murdered in 1995, had also paid the ultimate price for talking peace.

"He was tragically assassinated, and it was terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless, he was dead."

Robertson's latest blast drew immediate condemnation from Israel's ambassador to the United States.

"Such things are very outrageous. I would expect this only from people like (President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad in Iran ... I wouldn't expect it from any of our friends," ambassador Danny Ayalon told CNN.

The US Anti-Defamation League also piled on Robertson's "outrageous and shocking" comments.

"His remarks are un-Christian and a perversion of religion. We would hope that good Christian leaders would distance themselves from Pat Robertson's remarks," the ADL said in a statement.

"It is pure arrogance for Robertson to suggest that he has divine knowledge of God's intent and purpose based on his interpretation of scripture."

Robertson, who ran for president as a conservative in 1988, and often urges supporters on his show to support President George W. Bush, frequently unleashes rhetorical hand grenades.

In October, he said a recent spate of natural disasters pointed to the end of the world and the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.

In August, Robertson said the United States should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but later apologized for the remark.

He also suggested voters in a Pennsylvania town should not expect God's help should they face a natural disaster after they ousted a school board which had mandated the teaching of creationism.

Last year, he suggested that the threat to the United States from liberal "activist judges" was "probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," a reference to the September 11 attacks.

He has also lambasted Disneyland and the United Nations.