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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

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC