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.

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

 

The U.S. Must Maintain the Kurdish Enclave in Eastern Syria

Aug. 16 2018

Presently only two rebel enclaves remain in Syria, and both are dependent on outside powers: one in the northwest, under Turkish control, and an area in the east controlled by the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Only by continuing its support for the latter can America prevent Iranian domination of Syria, writes Jonathan Spyer. Officials in Washington have made various statements suggesting that the White House has no intention of ceding the country to Iran, but haven’t clarified what this means in practice:

Actions . . . are a better guide than sentiments. And it appears that the SDF leaders remain skeptical regarding America’s long-term plans. Last week, the first direct negotiations took place between their representatives and those of the Assad regime, in Damascus.

It is not quite clear where things are heading. But Israel’s interest in this is clear. Maintenance of the east Syrian enclave and the [U.S.] base in Tanf means keeping a substantial physical obstacle to the Iranian hope for a contiguous corridor [connecting it to Lebanon via Syria and Iraq]. It would also prevent an overall Iranian triumph in the war and give the West a place at the table in any substantive political negotiation over Syria’s future. . . .

Specifically, efforts should be made to ensure a formal U.S. declaration of a no-fly zone for regime and regime-allied aircraft east of the Euphrates. This move, reminiscent of the no-fly zone declared over Iraqi Kurdistan after the Gulf War of 1991, would with one stroke ensure the continued viability of the SDF-controlled area. There should also be a formal recognition of the SDF zone, or the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria,” as it is formally known. This entity is not seeking independence from Damascus, so Western concerns regarding the formal breakup of Syria need not be raised by such a move.

As the strategic contest between Iran and its allies and the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East moves into high gear, it is essential that the West maintain its alliances and investments and behaves, and is seen to behave, as a credible and loyal patron and ally.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Kurds, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy