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

Israel Has Survived Eight Years of Barack Obama’s False Friendship

Jan. 20 2017

In his speech justifying America’s decision to allow passage of the UN Security Council resolution declaring it a violation of international law for Jews to live in east Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “friends need to tell each other the hard truths.” John Podhoretz comments:

The decision in December by President Obama to abstain on the UN Security Council vote . . . marked the moment he crossed the finish line in the course he had charted from 2008 onward. The turn against Israel was complete. And, as he had when he began it, in farewell interview after farewell interview he characterized his assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in the Holy Land as an act of tough love. . . .

Which raises the key question: why [only] abstain [from the resolution]? If “hard truths” define friendship, then by all means they should have made the truths as hard as possible. If Barack Obama and John Kerry truly believe the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem is illicit, then they should have voted for the resolution. Instead, they took the coward’s way out. They opened the vault to the criminals and placed the jewels in their hands while wearing white gloves so there would be no residual trace of their fingerprints. The abstention was in some weird sense the mark of their bad conscience. They wanted something to happen while maintaining some historical deniability about their involvement in it.

In the eight years of the Obama presidency, war broke out twice between the Palestinians and the Israelis and nearly broke out a third time. In each case, the issue was not the West Bank, or east Jerusalem, or anything near. . . . The idea that the settlements and the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem are the main barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was proved to be a lie right before Obama’s eyes in 2009, and 2012, and 2014. And he didn’t care to see it, because he is blinded by an antipathy he wishes to ascribe to Israeli action when honesty would compel him to find it in his own misguided leftist ideology—or within his own soul.

Israel has survived the horrendous blessing of Barack Obama’s false friendship.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Barack Obama, Israel & Zionism, John Kerry, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations