New Evidence of Hezekiah’s Anti-Idolatry Campaign

Jan. 10 2017

One of the few ancient Israelite monarchs to receive nearly undiluted praise in the Bible, King Hezekiah (who reigned from 715 to 686 BCE) was a religious reformer who cracked down on idolatry. He also successfully resisted an Assyrian onslaught by building a new wall around Jerusalem and a high-tech (for its time) tunnel to divert water into the city—both of which have been excavated and can be visited today. More recently, writes Joshua Gelernter, archaeologists have discovered an additional monument to his career:

Hezekiah’s Tunnel, also known as the Siloam Tunnel, is perhaps what [the king] is best known for today. It’s a remarkable thing. It winds its way deep under Jerusalem; it’s 1,500 feet long, and despite an altitude difference of less than a foot between the source spring and the reservoir to which the water is being moved, water is able to flow smoothly from one end to the other.

But what really makes the tunnel remarkable is the way in which it was built. Hezekiah needed his tunnel pronto—so his engineers began carving it out of solid rock at both ends, simultaneously. Where the two teams of tunnel-men met in the middle, an inscription was carved; it’s 2,700 years old, but can still be read (mostly); it lives in a museum in Turkey. . . .

During the years leading up to Hezekiah’s reign, some of the old tribal religions were making a comeback in Israel and Judea, and Hezekiah would have none of it. One of the local pagan gods was Baal. . . . The Bible refers to the despoiling of a shrine to Baal: the king (not Hezekiah but Jehu, a slightly earlier king of Israel) “broke down the house of Baal, and made it a draught-house”—i.e., a bathroom.

This was assumed by many to have been a metaphor. But a few weeks ago, excavations at Lachish found remnants of a pagan altar room, and inside it, a smashed altar, and beside that, seals of Hezekiah, and beside those, in perfect condition, an unmistakable stone-hewn privy. Soil samples taken beneath it suggest it was never used. Hezekiah put it there for the symbolism, evidently. Or maybe as a remark on his esteem of paganism.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, Hezekiah, History & Ideas, Idolatry, Jerusalem

Hamas Won’t Compromise with the Palestinian Authority, and Gazans Won’t Overthrow Hamas

July 24 2017

Since the terrorist organization Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, much of Israeli strategy toward it has stemmed from the belief that, if sufficient pressure is applied, the territory’s residents will rise up against it. Yaakov Amidror argues this is unlikely to happen, and he also doubts that improved living conditions for ordinary Gazans would deter Hamas from terrorism or war:

The hardships experienced by the Strip’s residents, no matter how terrible, will not drive them to stage a coup to topple Hamas. The organization is entrenched in Gaza and is notorious for its brutality toward any sign of dissidence, and the Palestinians know there is no viable alternative waiting for an opportunity to [take over].

[Therefore], it is time everyone got used to the idea that Hamas is not about to relinquish its dominant position in the Gaza Strip, let alone concede to the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas. . . . [Yet the] assumption is also baseless that if Gaza experiences economic stability and prosperity, Hamas would refrain from provoking hostilities. This misconception is based on the theory that Hamas operates by governmental norms and prioritizes the needs and welfare of its citizens. This logic does not apply to Hamas. . . .

[Hamas’s] priorities are to bolster its military power and cement its iron grip. This is why all the supplies Israel allows into Gaza on a daily basis to facilitate normal life have little chance of reaching the people. Hamas first and foremost takes care of its leaders and makes sure it has what it needs to sustain its terror-tunnel-digging enterprise and its weapon-production efforts. It then sees to the needs of its members, and then—and only then—what little is left is diverted to rehabilitation efforts that benefit the population.

This is why the argument that Israel is responsible for Gaza’s inability to recover from its plight is baseless. Hamas is the one that determines the priorities by which to allocate resources in the enclave, and the more construction materials that enter Gaza, the easier and faster it is for Hamas to restore its military capabilities. Should Israel sacrifice its own security on the altar of Gazans’ living conditions? I don’t think so.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security