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After the Maccabean Revolt, Jerusalem Entered an Era of Growth and Prosperity

Dec. 30 2016

The city of Jerusalem, once liberated from Seleucid rule by the triumphant Hasmoneans, experienced rapid population growth and expanded westward, while the rulers of the newly sovereign Jewish state enlarged and renovated the Temple complex. Lawrence Schiffman describes what the city looked like in the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE, setting the stage by relating the little-known epilogue to the Hanukkah story:

Contrary to what many think, the miraculous conquest and purification of the Temple on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in 164 BCE was not the end of the Hanukkah story. . . . Through clever diplomacy and playing on the inner politics of the Jewish people, which still included some pro-Hellenistic elements, . . . the Seleucids managed to dislodge Judah the Maccabee and his supporters from the Temple. Then they installed Yakim (Alcimus), a Hellenist, as high priest. Judah and his men were left again to fight a war of resistance from fortresses in the Judean Hills.

After Judah’s death on the battlefield, he was succeeded by his brother Jonathan who was the commander of about 10,000 troops. When an internal conflict developed in Syria over who would rule, Jonathan wisely sided with the successful of the two pretenders to the throne and in return was granted official recognition as the ruler of Judea. He was then accepted by the people as ruler and high priest. It is he who effectively established the Hasmonean dynasty that lasted from 152 BCE through the Roman conquest of the land of Israel in 63 BCE. . . .

Soon after the accession of Jonathan, the city of Jerusalem began to grow. Over the course of the Hasmonean period it went from not much more than 5,000 residents to over 30,000. [Even] before the Maccabean revolt, the population had begun to expand westward from the area of the City of David, which had constituted the entire city during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Tremendous impetus was given to this process by the Hasmoneans when they began to rebuild the city walls that had surrounded the city in the time of the First Temple. . . .

The expansion of the city at this time took place on the Western Hill, more or less today’s Jewish Quarter in the Old City. This area had been settled during the time of the first Temple, but for the most part remained abandoned since [its] destruction.

Read more at Ami Magazine

More about: Ancient Israel, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Maccabees

 

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy