B or b (pronounced , bee) is the 2nd letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet. In English, it represents the voiced bilabial stop, although it sometimes represents other bilabial sounds when used in other languages.
Old English was originally written in runes, whose equivalent letter was beorc , meaning “birch”. Beorc dates to at least the 2nd-century Elder Futhark, which is now thought to have derived from the Old Italic alphabets’ either directly or via Latin .
The uncial and half-uncial introduced by the Gregorian and Irish missions gradually developed into the Insular scripts’ . These Old English Latin alphabets supplanted the earlier runes, whose use was fully banned under King Canute in the early 11th century. The Norman Conquest popularized the Carolingian half-uncial forms which latter developed into blackletter . Around 1300, letter case was increasingly distinguished, with upper- and lower-case B taking separate meanings. Following the advent of printing in the 15th century, Germany and Scandinavia continued to use forms of blackletter (particularly Fraktur), while England eventually adopted the humanist and antiqua scripts developed in Renaissance Italy from a combination of Roman inscriptions and Carolingian texts. The present forms of the English cursive B were developed by the 17th century.
The Roman B derived from the Greek capital beta via its Etruscan and Cumaean variants. The Greek letter was an adaptation of the Phoenician letter bt . The Egyptian hieroglyph for the consonant /b/ had been an image of a foot and calf , but bt (Phoenician for “house”) was a modified form of a Proto-Sinaitic glyph probably adapted from the separate hieroglyph Pr meaning “house”.[n 1] The Hebrew letter beth is a separate development of the Phoenician letter.
By Byzantine times, the Greek letter came to be pronounced /v/, so that it is known in modern Greek as vta (still written ). The Cyrillic letter ve represents the same sound, so a modified form known as be was developed to represent the Slavic languages’ /b/. (Modern Greek continues to lack a letter for the voiced bilabial plosive and transliterates such sounds from other languages using the consonant cluster , mp.)
In English, most other languages that use the Latin alphabet, and the International Phonetic Alphabet, b denotes the voiced bilabial plosive /b/, as in ‘bib’. In English, it is sometimes silent. Most instances are derived from old monosyllablic words where a terminal b is immediately preceded by an m, such as ‘lamb’ and ‘bomb’, but a few are etymological spellings intended to make a word more like its Latin original, such as ‘debt’ or ‘doubt’. As /b/ is one of the sounds subject to Grimm’s Law, English words may find their cognates in other Indo-European languages appearing with bh, p, or f instead.
In Estonian, Icelandic, and Chinese Pinyin, b does not denote a voiced consonant. Instead, it represents a voiceless /p/ that contrasts with either a geminated /p:/ (in Estonian) or an aspirated /p/ (in Pinyin, Danish and Icelandic), which are all represented by p. In Fijian b represents a prenasalized /mb/ whereas, in Zulu and Xhosa, it represents an implosive //, in contrast to the digraph bh which represents /b/. Finnish only uses b in loanwords.
B is also a musical note. In English-speaking countries, it represents Si, the 12th note of a chromatic scale built on C. In Central Europe and Scandinavia, “B” is used to denote B-flat and the 12th note of the chromatic scale is denoted “H”. Archaic forms of ‘b’, the b quadratum (square b, ) and b rotundum (round b, ) are used in musical notation as the symbols for natural and flat, respectively.
In Contracted (grade 2) English braille, ‘b’ stands for “but” when in isolation.
Documents unearthed in Mesopotamia, dating back to 2000- 1500 BCE, corroborate aspects of their nomadic way of life as described in the Bible. The Book of Genesis relates how Abraham was summoned from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan to bring about the formation of a people with belief in the One God. When a famine spread through Canaan, Jacob (Israel), his twelve sons and their families settled in Egypt, where their descendants were reduced to slavery and pressed into forced labor.
C. 13th Century BCE
Moses was chosen by God to take his people out of Egypt and back to the Land of Israel promised to their forefathers. They wandered for 40 years in the Sinai desert, where they were forged into a nation and received the Torah (Pentateuch), which included the Ten Commandments and gave form and content to their monotheistic faith.
During the next two centuries, the Israelites conquered most of the Land of Israel and relinquished their nomadic ways to become farmers and craftsmen; a degree of economic and social consolidation followed. Periods of relative peace alternated with times of war during which the people rallied behind leaders known as ‘judges,’ chosen for their political and military skills as well as for their leadership qualities.
C. 13th – 12th Centuries BCE
The Israelites settle the Land of Israel.
The first king, Saul (c. 1020 BCE), bridged the period between loose tribal organization and the setting up of a full monarchy under his successor, David. King David (c.1004-965 BCE) established Israel as a major power in the region by successful military expeditions, including the final defeat of the Philistines, as well as by constructing a network of friendly alliances with nearby kingdoms. David was succeeded by his son Solomon (c.965-930 BCE) who further strengthened the kingdom. Crowning his achievements was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, which became the center of the Jewish people’s national and religious life.
First Temple, the national and spiritual center of the Jewish people, built in Jerusalem by King Solomon.
After Solomon’s death (930 BCE), open insurrection led to the breaking away of the ten northern tribes and division of the country into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah, on the territory of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
The Kingdom of Israel, with its capital Samaria, lasted more than 200 years under 19 kings, while the Kingdom of Judah was ruled from Jerusalem for 350 years by an equal number of kings of the lineage of David. The expansion of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires brought first Israel and later Judah under foreign control.
722 – 720
The Babylonian conquest brought an end to the First Jewish Commonwealth (First Temple period) but did not sever the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel. The exile to Babylonia, which followed the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE), marked the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora. There, Judaism began to develop a religious framework and way of life outside the Land, ultimately ensuring the people’s national survival and spiritual identity and imbuing it with sufficient vitality to safeguard its future as a nation.
Following a decree by the Persian King Cyrus, conqueror of the Babylonian empire (538 BCE), some 50,000 Jews set out on the First Return to the Land of Israel, led by Zerubabel, a descendant of the House of David. Less than a century later, the Second Return was led by Ezra the Scribe.
The repatriation of the Jews under Ezra’s inspired leadership, construction of the Second Temple on the site of the First Temple, refortification of Jerusalem’s walls and establishment of the Knesset Hagedolah (Great Assembly) as the supreme religious and judicial body of the Jewish people marked the beginning of the Second Jewish Commonwealth (Second Temple period).
As part of the ancient world conquered by Alexander the Great of Greece (332 BCE), the Land remained a Jewish theocracy under Syrian-based Seleucid rulers.
When the Jews were prohibited from practicing Judaism and their Temple was desecrated as part of an effort to impose Greek-oriented culture and customs on the entire population, the Jews rose in revolt (166 BCE). First led by Mattathias of the priestly Hasmonean family and then by his son Judah the Maccabee, the Jews subsequently entered Jerusalem and purified the Temple (164 BCE).
Following further Hasmonean victories (147 BCE), the Seleucids restored autonomy to Judea, as the Land of Israel was now called, and, with the collapse of the Seleucid kingdom (129 BCE), Jewish independence was again achieved.
Under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted about 80 years, the kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm, political consolidation under Jewish rule was attained and Jewish life flourished.
63 BCE-313 CE
37BCE – 4CE
By the end of the 4th century, following Emperor Constantine’s adoption of Christianity (313) and the founding of the Byzantine Empire, the Land of Israel had become a predominantly Christian country. Churches were built on Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee, and monasteries were established in many parts of the country. The Jews were deprived of their former relative autonomy, as well as of their right to hold public positions, and were forbidden to enter Jerusalem except on one day of the year (Tisha b’Av – ninth of Av)to mourn the destruction of the Temple.
The Persian invasion of 614 was welcomed and aided by the Jews, who were inspired by messianic hopes of deliverance. In gratitude for their help, they were granted the administration of Jerusalem, an interlude which lasted about three years. Subsequently, the Byzantine army regained the city (629) and again expelled its Jewish population.
The Arab conquest of the Land came four years after the death of Muhammad (632) and lasted more than four centuries, with caliphs ruling first from Damascus, then from Baghdad and Egypt. At the outset of Islamic rule, Jewish settlement in Jerusalem was resumed, and the Jewish community was granted permission to live under “protection,” the customary status of non-Muslims under Islamic rule, which safeguarded their lives, property and freedom of worship in return for payment of special poll and land taxes.
However, the subsequent introduction of restrictions against non-Muslims (717) affected the Jews’ public conduct as well as their religious observances and legal status. The imposition of heavy taxes on agricultural land compelled many to move from rural areas to towns, where their circumstances hardly improved, while increasing social and economic discrimination forced many Jews to leave the country. By the end of the 11th century, the Jewish community in the Land had diminished considerably and had lost some of its organizational and religious cohesiveness.
For the next 200 years, the country was dominated by the Crusaders, who, following an appeal by Pope Urban II, came from Europe to recover the Holy Land from the infidels. In July 1099, after a five-week siege, the knights of the First Crusade and their rabble army captured Jerusalem, massacring most of the city’s non-Christian inhabitants. Barricaded in their synagogues, the Jews defended their quarter, only to be burnt to death or sold into slavery. During the next few decades, the Crusaders extended their power over the rest of the country, through treaties and agreements, but mostly by bloody military victories. The Latin Kingdom of the Crusaders was that of a conquering minority confined mainly to fortified cities and castles.
When the Crusaders opened up transportation routes from Europe, pilgrimages to the Holy Land became popular and, at the same time, increasing numbers of Jews sought to return to their homeland. Documents of the period indicate that 300 rabbis from France and England arrived in a group, with some settling in Acro (Akko), others in Jerusalem.
Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a persons social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another.
Racism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one person by another — or the belief that another person is less than human — because of skin color, language, customs, place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations, and legal codes.
During the past 500-1000 years, racism on the part of Western powers toward non-Westerners has had a far more significant impact on history than any other form of racism (such as racism among Western groups or among Easterners, such as Asians, Africans, and others). The most notorious example of racism by the West has been slavery, particularly the enslavement of Africans in the New World (slavery itself dates back thousands of years). This enslavement was accomplished because of the racist belief that Black Africans were less fully human than white Europeans and their descendants.
This belief was not “automatic”: that is, Africans were not originally considered inferior. When Portuguese sailors first explored Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries, they came upon empires and cities as advanced as their own, and they considered Africans to be serious rivals. Over time, though, as African civilizations failed to match the technological advances of Europe, and the major European powers began to plunder the continent and forcibly remove its inhabitants to work as slave laborers in new colonies across the Atlantic, Africans came to be seen as a deficient “species,” as “savages.” To an important extent, this view was necessary to justify the slave trade at a time when Western culture had begun to promote individual rights and human equality. The willingness of some Africans to sell other Africans to European slave traders also led to claims of savagery, based on the false belief that the “dark people” were all kinsmen, all part of one society – as opposed to many different, sometimes warring nations.
One important feature of racism, especially toward Blacks and immigrant groups, is clear in attitudes regarding slaves and slavery. Jews are usually seen by anti-Semites as subhuman but also superhuman: devilishly cunning, skilled, and powerful. Blacks and others are seen by racists as merely subhuman, more like beasts than men. If the focus of anti-Semitism is evil, the focus of racism is inferiority — directed toward those who have sometimes been considered to lack even the ability to be evil (though in the 20th century, especially, victims of racism are often considered morally degraded).
In the second half of the 19th century, Darwinism, the decline of Christian belief, and growing immigration were all perceived by many white Westerners as a threat to their cultural control. European and, to a lesser degree, American scientists and philosophers devised a false racial “science” to “prove” the supremacy of non-Jewish whites. While the Nazi annihilation of Jews discredited most of these supposedly scientific efforts to elevate one race over another, small numbers of scientists and social scientists have continued throughout the 20th century to argue the inborn shortcomings of certain races, especially Blacks. At the same time, some public figures in the American Black community have championed the supremacy of their own race and the inferiority of whites – using nearly the identical language of white racists.
All of these arguments are based on a false understanding of race; in fact, contemporary scientists are not agreed on whether race is a valid way to classify people. What may seem to be significant “racial” differences to some people – skin color, hair, facial shape – are not of much scientific significance. In fact, genetic differences within a so-called race may be greater than those between races. One philosopher writes: “There are few genetic characteristics to be found in the population of England that are not found in similar proportions in Zaire or in China.those differences that most deeply affect us in our dealings with each other are not to any significant degree biologically determined.”
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