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

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.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Ami Magazine

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

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy