Good News weekend from Israel.

Since I’m in celebratory mood after the birth of our grandson this week, my first item is very relevant.

Recently Israeli scientists got to partying with 5,000 year old beer! (That’s some aging!):

Beer cruse from Tel Tzafit and Gath archaeological digs, from which Philistine beer was produced. / Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The pottery used to produce beer in antiquity served as the basis for the new research, led by Dr. Ronen Hazan and Dr. Michael Klutstein, microbiologists from the School of Dental Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI), and Dr Yitzhak Paz from the Israel Antiquities Authority.  The team examined the colonies of yeast that formed and settled in the pottery’s nano-pores. Ultimately, they were able to resurrect this yeast to create a high-quality beer that’s approximately 5,000 years old. No fooling.

Many cooks were invited into this brewery to isolate the yeast specimens from the ancient debris and to create with it an actual beer.  First, the scientists reached out to vintners at Kadma Winery, which still produces wine in clay vessels, proving that yeast may be safely removed from pottery, even if it had lain dormant in the sun for years.

The yeast was then photographed by Dr. Tziona Ben-Gedalya at the Judaea Region Research and Development Center.  Following her initial examination, the team reached out to archaeologists Dr. Yitzhak Paz from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAI), Professor Aren Maeir at Bar Ilan University and Professors Yuval Gadot and Oded Lipschits from Tel Aviv University.

The archaeologists provided shards of pottery that had been used as beer and mead (honey wine) jugs back in ancient times, and, quite miraculously, still contained yeast specimens.  Mind you, these jugs date back to the reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Narmer (roughly 3000 BCE), the Aramean King Hazael (800 BCE), and to Nehemiah (400 BCE) who governed Judea under Persian rule.

The researchers, with the help of HUJI student Tzemach Aouizerat, cleaned and sequenced the full genome of each yeast specimen and turned them over to Dr. Amir Szitenberg at the Dead Sea-Arava Science Center for analysis.  Szitenberg found that these 5,000-year-old yeast cultures are similar to those used in traditional African brews, such as the Ethiopian honey wine tej, as well as modern beer yeast.

Now it was time to recreate the ancient delight.  Local Israeli beer expert Itai Gutman helped the scientists brew the beer, which was sampled by Ariel University’s Dr. Elyashiv Drori, as well as by certified tasters from the International Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), under the direction of brewer and Biratenu owner Shmuel Nakai.  The testers gave the beer a thumbs up, deeming it high-quality and (even more important, possibly) safe for consumption.

The team testing a sample of their own ancient brew at the lab of the Hadassah Medical Center and Hebrew University of Jerusalem School of Dental Medicine.


Dr. Ronen Hazan from the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine had this to say (Hold my beer?):

“The greatest wonder here is that the yeast colonies survived within the vessel for thousands of years—just waiting to be excavated and grown.  This ancient yeast allowed us to create beer that lets us know what ancient Philistine and Egyptian beer tasted like.

By the way, the beer isn’t bad.  Aside from the gimmick of drinking beer from the time of the Pharaoh, this research is extremely important to the field of experimental archaeology—a field that seeks to reconstruct the past.  Our research offers new tools to examine ancient methods, and enables us to taste the flavors of the past.”

Dr. Yitzchak Paz of Israel Antiquities Authority said:

“We are talking about a real breakthrough here.  This is the first time we succeeded in producing ancient alcohol from ancient yeast. In other words, from the original substances from which alcohol was produced.  This has never been done before.”

Prof. Yuval Gadot, Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures said:

“We dug at Ramat Rachel, the largest Persian site in the Judaean kingdom, and found a large concentration of jugs with the letters J, H, D – Yahud – written on them.  In a royal site like Ramat Rachel it makes sense that alcohol would be consumed at the home of the Persian governor.”

Prof. Aren Maeir, of Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology said:

“These findings paint a portrait that supports the biblical image of drunken Philistines.”

Oh, don’t be so judgmental…

I’ll drink L’chaim to that!

Kol hakavod to all these intrepid researchers and archaeologists who set out to discover how beer was made in those early days.  What an amazing achievement to recreate 5,000 year old beer!

Another reason to celebrate was provided by the Israeli team which attended the Asian Physics Olympiad – and won the gold, silver and bronze medals!

The Israeli team won three medals in the Asian Physics Olympiad – gold, silver and bronze – as well as an honorable mention in the May 5-13 event held in Australia.

Aviv Tillinger won the Gold medal and 4’th absolute place, the highest award given to an Israeli yet in this competition.

Eyal Walach won the silver medal, Eran Man won a bronze medal and Omri Ravad won an honorable mention. The other teammates were Liad Ronick, Ziv Kohn, Teddy Klaytman and Yonatan Hassoun.  All are high school students currently in school.

The competition includes two five-hour-long university-level exams, one in theory and the other in how to run an experiment.  The topics students are asked on include X-ray jets from massive black holes, the properties of magnetic fluids and an investigation of the components used for a quantum-computer.

Not every moment in the event was spent on science, as youth from around the world were encouraged to meet their fellows and to get to know their culture, to travel together and even attend a few parties.

Israel is meant to host the International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) in July 2019, the event will include members from roughly 80 countries.

What a fantastic victory for the Israeli team!  Kol hakavod to all these brilliant young people who did us so proud – and of course gave great nachat to their families as well as being a huge boost for themselves.

With all this nachat and celebrations I shall sign off for Shabbat as we are off to celebrate the birth of our new grandson.  The excitement is in the air as we look forward please G-d to the brit on Monday.

Wishing you all a quiet, safe, cool Shabbat. Shabbat Shalom everyone!

First published at Anne’s Opinions as Good News Friday


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