An Ancient Underwater Inscription and a Heretofore Unknown Ruler of Judea

Exploring the Mediterranean coast just south of Haifa, Israeli divers and archaeologists have discovered a rock bearing an inscription from the 2nd-century CE, which mentions a previously unknown Roman governor of Judea named Gargilius Antiquus. The Times of Israel reports:

The archaeologists were able to determine that Antiquus ruled over Judea just prior to a major revolt against the Roman empire, which lasted from 132 to 136 CE. The uprising was eventually crushed, resulting in the exile of Jews, and Emperor Hadrian’s renaming Jerusalem “Aelia Capitolina” and Judea “Syria Palaestina.”

The artifact, believed to be the base of a statue, was found in January 2016 as part of a maritime excavation at the Tel Dor archaeological site. The city had been an important port in Roman times and was active at least until the fourth century. The rock itself, measuring 70 by 65 centimeters and weighing over 600 kilograms, was covered in sea creatures when it was discovered.

“Not only were we able for the first time to identify with certainty the name of the ruler who oversaw Judea in the critical years of the Bar Kokhba revolt; this is also just the second time that the mention of Judea has been discovered in inscriptions traced back to the Roman era,” said Assaf Yasur-Landau of Haifa University, who was in charge of deciphering the text.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Simon bar Kokhba

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East