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Prevalence of smoking increases substantially during compulsory military service, Israeli research shows

23/01/2017

Study of 30,000 soldiers from 1987 to 2011 found that during compulsory military service, smoking increased by almost 40%. Researchers: comprehensive military tobacco-control plans are needed.

In new research published in the peer-reviewed journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, researchers found that cigarette smoking increased by almost 40% during compulsory military service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In a systematic sample of nearly 30,000 soldiers from 1987 to 2011, the prevalence of smoking grew from 26.2% at recruitment to 36.5% at discharge, a 39.4% increase.

The researchers, from Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in cooperation with the IDF Medical Corps, say the increased smoking prevalence among military personnel, and the increase during military service, should act as a wake-up call to governments and health systems in countries lacking strong military tobacco control policies.

The research was conducted by Dr. Laura Rosen of the School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University; Dr. Hagai Levine from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public and Community Medicine; Dr. Salman Zarka from the University of Haifa; and Vladi Rozhavski, Tamar Sela, Dr. Yael Bar-Ze’ev, and Dr. Vered Molina-Hazan from the IDF Medical Corps. It was funded by the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research. 

Former smoking and combat profiles are risk factors for smoking initiation

Among nonsmokers at recruitment, 18% initiated smoking during service. Former smokers were at greatest risk:  56% began smoking during service. Men and women with combat profiles were also at an increased risk, after adjusting for personal, family, and military factors. Prevalence of smoking was greater among males at discharge (40.3%) than among females (32.4%), but the increase during service was similar. On the other hand, 12% of smokers at recruitment quit smoking during service. There were no clear trends over the decades regarding smoking prevalence at recruitment and discharge. There was a slight increase in smoking cessation during service among males.

A tobacco control plan in the army is desperately needed

Nearly a fifth of nonsmoking new recruits initiated smoking during service, and over half of former smokers relapsed to smoking. Because 50%– 65% of smokers die prematurely from smoking-related causes, the ongoing and future damage is enormous. The large increase in smoking during service, combined with high subsequent mortality of smokers, suggests that military tobacco control policy affects long-term survival of military personnel, and is an important contributor to population-wide mortality in countries such as Israel where a large percentage of individuals serve.

Dr. Laura Rosen, Chair of the Department of Health Promotion in the School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, said: "The use of tobacco harms IDF soldiers and security in general. The government and the Ministry of Health need to cooperate with the IDF, in order to reduce the number of soldiers who start smoking, to encourage soldiers to quit smoking, and to protect non-smokers from exposure to cigarette smoke. We should take an example from the United States, which conducted extensive changes to the smoking policy in its military, to protect its soldiers and to improve the readiness and performance of its combat units. "

Dr. Hagai Levine, Head of the Environmental Health Track at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, said: "The increase we found in the rate of smoking during compulsory military service is of great concern in light of the serious consequences for public health. We must concentrate our efforts in the war against smoking in order to protect the health of young men and women, and to coordinate civilian and military efforts in order to fight smoking throughout the life course. I hope that the IDF will adopt similar measures to those implemented successfully in other armies."

The investigators recommend the creation of a central tobacco control body with comprehensive tobacco control policy, similar to programs in the U.S. military. The following steps are recommended: enforcement of smoking bans in public areas; prevention of supply of free or reduced-cost cigarettes to soldiers; prevention and treatment of tobacco dependence tailored for the military environment; monitoring of personal and army-wide smoking status.

The investigators also recommend that commanders disseminate health messages and no-smoking messages through personal example, particularly in combat units and during combat operations. A special program should target former smokers, given the high chance of returning to smoking. Special attention should be paid to those who score higher in their recruitment profiles, who often end up serving in combat units where the smoking rate is higher. 

The dramatic increase in smoking during military service presents a window of opportunity for changes in health behaviors, and suggests a need for a multi-year war on tobacco among soldiers, in order to protect their health and military fitness. The study also showed that smoking is already problem prior to recruitment, which adds urgency to the call for national efforts to prevent smoking initiation, which could be coordinated with the Ministries of Education and Defense.

CITATION: Smoking Behavior Change During Compulsory Military Service in Israel, 1987–2011. Salman Zarka*, Hagai Levine*, Vladislav Rozhavski, Tamar Sela, Yael Bar-Ze’ev, Vered Molina-Hazan, Laura J. Rosen. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2016, 1–8 doi:10.1093/ntr/ntw285. *Equal contribution.

- Dov Smith

Prevalence of smoking increases substantially during compulsory military service, Israeli research shows
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Winemaking Degree: Hebrew University Launches Israel’s First Academic Degree Program in Viticulture and Enology

17/08/2016

Innovative, boutique winemaking program provides professional training in the growth, production and analysis of wine, as well as wineries management

In recent years Israel has experienced significant maturation in its wine industry and a surging local and international demand for its outstanding wines. In response to the growing need for skills and professionalism in the industry, the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has opened Israel’s first academic degree program in wine: the International MSc in Viticulture and Enology. The four-semester MSc program begins on March 2, 2017.

Students will gain knowledge and skills at an academic level, consistent with leading programs in other wine-producing countries such as France, the United States and Australia, with special emphasis on the Israeli industry. Upon completion, the students will earn a world-recognized MSc degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This is the first MSc level degree in viticulture and enology to be approved by the National Council for Higher Education (CHE) in Israel.

Program leader Prof. Zohar Kerem said: "Following the success of Israel’s wine industry, I’m excited to open a program that puts Israeli research and academia on the international map of winemaking. The program covers topics of a spectrum similar to programs around the world, and has been tailored to fit Israel's dry conditions. The program is innovative and unique, and the participants will receive training and guidance from leading academics and professionals.

"The program will provide students from around the world an opportunity to obtain a practical Master's of Science degree, in a fascinating industry that started here 5000 years ago, from one of the world's top 100 universities. This will be a great opportunity to meet people from around the world, to form an international network, and to taste and produce some delicious wines," added Prof. Kerem.

FACULTY: Heading the program, and chairman of its academic committee, is Prof. Zohar Kerem, an Associate Professor at the Robert H. Smith Faculty and a world-renowned researcher in food chemistry, wine quality and olive oil. The program's professional coordinator is Mr. Yotam Sharon, a postgraduate with honors in Enology from the University of Montpellier in France, an MSc graduate of the Smith Faculty, and a leading winemaker at one of Israel's premier wineries. Other distinguished members of the teaching staff are Prof. Ben-Ami Bravdo, Prof. Oded Shoseyov and Dr. Ron Shapira. Esteemed guest lecturers from abroad will teach various topics.

CURRICULUM: The MSc is an 18-month academic program that spans four semesters, with classes held two full days per week on Thursdays and Fridays. The program includes theory; practice in a wine-tasting room on the Smith Faculty campus; an internship in cooperation with Soreq Winery, one of Israel’s leading wine producers; and a workshop to be held in Italy or France. Study subjects include:

—The Vineyard: Planning and cultivating; design; grapevine stocks and types; plot preparation; propagation; planting; trellising; pruning; irrigation; fertilization; mechanization; grape quality treatments.

—Wine Production: Equipment and winery management; micro-vinification; chemistry and stability; microbiology; distillation technology; fermentation science.

—Analysis of grape juice and wine: Biosynthesis of taste and odor factors; sensory evaluation of types of wine and defects in wine; sensory evaluation of wines from Israel and the world.

—Additional Courses: Economics, management and marketing in the wine industry; wine workshop and reading seminar in grapevine and wine production (to be conducted abroad).

ELIGIBILITY: Candidates must have a full BSc degree from a recognized institution in a related field, such as biology, chemistry or agriculture. Candidates whose background is lacking in specific subjects will be required to complete an individualized Preparatory Program either before or in conjunction with the beginning of the Enology program.

REGISTRATION: Early registration until September 15, 2016. Last date to apply for the Rehovot preparatory studies is October 5, 2016. Beginning of Preparatory Program in Rehovot is November 3, 2016. The four-semester MSc program begins on March 2, 2017. The program will hold a Launch Event on Tuesday, September 20, 2016. For information and registration: Mrs. Rakefet Kalev, rakefetk [at] savion.huji.ac.il, +972-8-9489991.

About the Faculty of Agriculture

The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment is the only institute of higher education in Israel offering university degrees in agriculture, and is also home to the only School of Veterinary Medicine in the country. Established in 1942, the Faculty today has a student body of over 2,300 from Israel and around the world. Research at the Faculty has improved and increased yields of fruits, vegetables, grain crops, flowers and cotton; helped overcome problems of pest damage and soil contamination; led to the most efficient use of water for agriculture; produced groundbreaking innovations in irrigation technologies; helped develop Israel's annual flower export from almost nil in the 1960's, to its current status as one of the largest exporters of flowers in the world, and much more. For more information, visit http://intschool.agri.huji.ac.il.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Winemaking Degree: Hebrew University Launches Israel’s First Academic Degree Program in Viticulture and Enology
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Rare Frescoes from Roman Period Discovered at Zippori in the Galilee in Hebrew University Excavations

10/08/2016

New finds contribute significantly to research of Roman art in Israel: Provide first evidence of figurative images in wall paintings at the site, and precede earliest mosaics discovered at the site by a hundred years

A team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has discovered hundreds of fragments belonging to frescoes from the Roman period, in the Zippori National Park. The fragments, which contain figurative images, floral patterns and geometric motifs, shed light on Zippori (Sepphoris), which was an important urban center for the Jews of the Galilee during the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The discovery was made this summer in the excavations at Zippori, in memory of Ursula Johanna and Fritz Werner Blumenthal of Perth, Western Australia. The excavations are directed by Prof. Zeev Weiss, the Eleazar L. Sukenik Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology.

The frescoes decorated a monumental building that was erected in the early second century CE north of the decumanus, a colonnaded street that cut across the city from east to west and continued to the foot of the Acropolis. The building, whose function is not clear at this stage of excavation, spread over a wide area, and the nature of the artifacts discovered indicate that it was an important public building. In the center of the building was a stone-paved courtyard and side portico decorated with stucco. West and north of the courtyard, several underground vaults were discovered. Some of these were used as water cisterns and were of high quality construction. The monumental building was built on the slope and the vaults were designed to allow the construction of the superstructure located on the level of the decumanus.

The monumental building was dismantled in the third century CE for reasons that are unclear, and was replaced by another public building, larger than its predecessor, parts of which were uncovered during this season. The monumental building's walls were dismantled in antiquity and its building materials — stone and plaster, some colorful — were buried under the floors of a newly established Roman building on the same location. Hundreds of plaster fragments discovered during this excavation season were concentrated in one area, and it seems that they belong to one or several rooms from the previous building.

The patterns on the plaster fragments are varied and are decorated in many colors. Among them are geometric patterns (guilloche) and brightly colored wall panels. Other fragments contain floral motifs (light shaded paintings on red backgrounds or various colors on a white background).

Particularly important are the pieces which depict figures — the head of a lion, a horned animal (perhaps a bull?), a bird, a tiger's hindquarters and more — usually on a black background. At least one fragment contains a depiction of a man bearing a club. Research on these pieces is in its early stages but it is already clear that at least one room in the building was decorated with figurative images, possibly depicting exotic animals and birds in various positions.

The population of Zippori prior to the Great Revolt against the Romans was not very large, and archaeological finds dating to this period are particularly notable for the absence of figurative images – both humans and animals. The construction of the Roman city of Zippori after the Great Revolt, in the late first century and the second century CE, is indicative of a change in the attitude of Galilean Jews toward Rome and its culture. The city gained the status of a polis thanks to its loyalty to Rome during the Great Revolt, and constructed monumental public buildings, as befit a polis, that stood out in the urban landscape. This building boom also included the monumental building discovered north of the decumanus whose walls were decorated with frescoes, and whose remains were discovered during this season.

The new finds in Zippori contribute significantly to the research of Roman art in Israel. To date, excavators uncovered the walls of several public and private buildings from Roman Zippori (second and third centuries CE) which were decorated with colorful frescoes in geometric and floral patterns. This season’s finds are the first, only and earliest evidence of figurative images in wall paintings at the site. The finds date to the beginning of the second century CE. Parallels to these finds are virtually unknown at other Israeli sites of the same period. Some panels bearing depictions of figures were discovered a few years ago in Herod’s palace at Herodium, and according to Josephus (Life of Josephus 65-69) the walls of the palace of Herod Antipas in Tiberias were also decorated with wall paintings depicting animals; but beyond that, no murals with depictions of figures, dating to the first century and the beginning of the second century CE, have been discovered to date in the region.

The discovery in Zippori is unique and provides new information regarding murals in Roman Palestine.  Zippori is well known for its unique mosaics. The newly discovered frescos are now added to the city’s rich material culture. While the earliest mosaics discovered at the site date to around 200 CE, the ancient frescoes precede them by about a hundred years and are thus of great importance.

These finds raise questions relating to their socio-historic background. Who initiated the construction of the monumental building that was discovered north of the decumanus? Who is responsible for choosing the patterns that adorn the walls, and for whom were they intended? The various finds uncovered  throughout the site indicate that Zippori, the Jewish capital of the Galilee, was home to many Jewish inhabitants throughout the Roman period, but the city also had a significant pagan community for which the temple was built to the south of the decumanus, opposite the monumental building,  parts of which were discovered this season. It is difficult to determine who was responsible for the construction and decoration of this monumental building, at this stage of excavation. However the new finds clearly reflect the multi-cultural climate that characterizes Zippori in the years following the Great Revolt, in the late first century and the second century CE.

About the Excavations at Zippori

Most of the archaeological work conducted in Zippori since 1990 was led by the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This team worked both on the Upper Hill as well as in an area to the east.  The Hebrew University team revealed a well-planned city built around an impressive network of streets. Various buildings, public as well as private, were built in the city which existed throughout the Byzantine period. Among the public buildings uncovered are a Roman temple, bath houses, a theatre, two churches, and a synagogue. Over 60 mosaics dating from the 3rd to 5th centuries CE have been uncovered to date in Zippori, in both public and private buildings. The mosaics include numerous rich and varied iconographic depictions, ranking the city among the most important mosaic centers of the Roman and Byzantine east. The assortment of finds that have come to light in the course of the excavations provides a wealth of information about this multifaceted urban center, allowing one to draw significant conclusions about this Hellenized city’s demographic composition, architectural development, and everyday life, as well as the cultural relationships between the various communities residing in Zippori during the first centuries of the Common Era.

About The Institute of Archaeology

The Institute of archaeology, the birthplace of Israeli archaeology, is a research and teaching unit within the Hebrew University's Faculty of Humanities. Academic programs include studies for B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in prehistoric, biblical, and classical archaeology, Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, and Computerized Archaeology. In addition to its role as a teaching and training institution, the Institute is involved in major archaeological endeavors and interdisciplinary research programs. Its excavations at major prehistoric and historic sites have shaped many of the current paradigms in Israeli archaeology and contributed to a better understanding of past human behavior. For more information, visit http://archaeology.huji.ac.il.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Rare Frescoes from Roman Period Discovered at Zippori in the Galilee in Hebrew University Excavations
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12,000-Year-Old Funeral Feast Brings Ancient Burial Rituals to Life

06/07/2016

One of the earliest funeral banquets ever to be discovered reveals a preplanned, carefully constructed event that reflects social changes at the beginning of the transition to agriculture in the Natufian period

The woman was laid on a bed of specially selected materials, including gazelle horn cores, fragments of chalk, fresh clay, limestone blocks and sediment. Tortoise shells were placed under and around her body, 86 in total. Sea shells, an eagle's wing, a leopard's pelvis, a forearm of a wild boar and even a human foot were placed on the body of the mysterious 1.5 meter-tall woman. Atop her body, a large stone was laid to seal the burial space.

It was not an ordinary funeral, said the Hebrew University archaeologist who discovered the grave in a cave site on the bank of the Hilazon river in the western Galilee region of northern Israel back in 2008 (LINK). Three other grave pits have been found at the site of Hilazon Tachtit since 1995, and most contained bones of several humans. Nevertheless, the unusual objects found inside the grave, measuring approximately 0.70 m x 1.00 m x 0.45 m, point to the uniqueness of the event and the woman at its center.

Eight years after the discovery, Prof. Leore Grosman from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Natalie Munro from the University of Connecticut, have identified the sequence of events of the mysterious funeral ritual that took place 12,000 years ago.

"We've assigned the event to stages based on field notes, digitized maps, stones, architecture and artifact frequency distributions and concentrations," said Prof. Grosman, adding that, "The high quality of preservation and recovery of a well-preserved grave of an unusual woman, probably a shaman, enabled the identification of six stages of a funerary ritual."

The research, published in the journal Current Anthropology (LINK), details the order of the six-step sequence and its ritual and ideological importance for the people who enacted it.

It began with the excavation of an oval grave pit in the cave floor. Next, a layer of objects was cached between large stones, including seashells, a broken basalt palette, red ochre, chalk, and several complete tortoise shells. These were covered by a layer of sediment containing ashes, and garbage composed of flint and animal bones. About halfway through the ritual, the woman was laid inside the pit in a child-bearing position, and special items including many more tortoise shells were placed on top of and around her. This was followed by another layer of filling and limestones of various sizes that were placed directly on the body. The ritual concluded with the sealing of the grave with a large, heavy stone.  

A wide range of activities took place in preparation for the funerary event. This included the collection of materials required for grave construction, and the capture and preparation of animals for the feast, particularly the 86 tortoises, which must have been time-consuming.

"The significant pre-planning implies that there was a defined 'to do' list, and a working plan of ritual actions and their order," said Prof. Grosman.

The study of funerary ritual in the archaeological record becomes possible only after humans began to routinely bury their dead in archaeologically visible locations. The Natufian period (15,000-11,500 years ago) in the southern Levant marks an increase in the frequency and concentration of human burials.

"The remnants of a ritual event at this site provide a rare opportunity to reconstruct the dynamics of ritual performance at a time when funerary ritual was becoming an increasingly important social mediator at a crucial juncture deep in human history," the researchers said.

This unusual Late Natufian funerary event in Hilazon Tachtit Cave in northern Israel provides strong evidence for community engagement in ritual practice, and its analysis contributes to the growing picture of social complexity in the Natufian period as a predecessor for increasingly public ritual and social transformations in the early Neolithic period that follows.

The unprecedented scale and extent of social change in the Natufian, especially in terms of ritual activities, make this period central to current debates regarding the origin and significance of social and ritual processes in the agricultural transition.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Citation: Leore Grosman and Natalie D. Munro, "A Natufian Ritual Event," Current Anthropology57, no. 3 (June 2016); DOI: 10.1086/686563. Link to Current Anthropology: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/686563.

12,000-Year-Old Funeral Feast Brings Ancient Burial Rituals to Life
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