Donate

Third-Century Inscriptions May Connect a Galilean Village to Talmudic Legends

March 1 2017

Recent renovations of a 19th-century synagogue in Pek’in have uncovered evidence supporting the tradition linking it to the city known in talmudic times as Beka. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

The inscriptions, [in Hebrew, were] etched into a limestone block buried beneath a courtyard. . . . The village of Peki’in, in the northern Galilee, is believed to have been the site of a Jewish community since the Roman era, and Jewish tradition associates the modern village with a town mentioned in Josephus’ Jewish War and the Talmud. According to the latter, the town was a center of Jewish scholarship during the Roman period, and the sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai hid in a cave there for thirteen years.

The association of the modern village of Peki’in with the ancient town mentioned in the Talmud has been challenged by scholars in recent years. . . . [H]owever, earlier excavations at the Peki’in synagogue in the early 20th century turned up several ancient decorated stones believed to have been part of an ancient synagogue. The reliefs date to the late 2nd or early 3rd century, around the same time as the newfound [inscription]. They include a menorah flanked by a lulav and shofar, a common motif in the post-Temple period, and a Torah ark with closed doors.

They were both incorporated into the new synagogue built in 1873.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Galilee, History & Ideas, Synagogues, Talmud

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy