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A Leading Archaeologist Discusses Ancient Israel and the Historicity of the Bible

The veteran archaeologist Gabi Barkay has been behind some of the most important discoveries concerning biblical Israel. In an interview, he speaks about his career, his most celebrated findings, and his attitudes toward reconciling the Bible with material evidence about ancient history. (Interview by Nadav Shragai.)

As an archaeologist, I’m not trying to prove anything. I want to find out what was. If my findings contradict what the Bible says—fine. If my findings match what the Bible says—that’s also fine. I have no intention of proving or disproving anything. My approach is detached from any ideology. I’ll accept anything that is discovered. . . .

I’m Jewish—very Jewish, a believer, a member of the community, who goes to synagogue. I’m like a chest of drawers. When I’m busy with archaeology, I open the scientific drawer. When I go to synagogue, I close it and open the religious drawer, and the contents of one don’t mix with that of the other.

I know that what the book of Joshua says about Joshua’s “leaps” [i.e., instances where a conquest in northern Israel is followed with improbable rapidity by a conquest in the south and vice-versa] and about the extermination of the Canaanites at sword’s point isn’t an accurate historical account. Things didn’t necessarily happen that way. I [also] know that every historical source contains the writer’s bias, and that the historical truth is much more complicated.

[On the other hand, in] the book of Joshua, which is not historical, the twelfth chapter contains a list of 31 kings that Joshua defeated, and we know that in the late Bronze Age there were about 30 Canaanite city-states in the land of Israel, so therefore this is a report that conforms to history. It’s written in Joshua 11:10 that “Hatzor formerly was the head of all these kingdoms.” We know from archaeology that Hatzor was in fact the largest of the Canaanite cities. This means that in the book that contains absolutely unhistorical stories, there are also true accounts that pass archaeological tests.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Book of Joshua, Canaanites, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen