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

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