Egypt Seizes a Collection of Odd Jewish Artifacts

Aug. 22 2017

Working in cooperation with Israeli authorities, Egyptian police interdicted at least one smuggler trying to transport six antique objects via Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Amanda Borschel-Dan describes some of these unusual items, most of which were dated to the 18th century:

Included in the trove was a cane with a handle carved in stone which depicts a bearded man wearing a yarmulke. . . . An additional find in the seized collection was a 29-page Hebrew book described by Egyptian authorities as “the commandments of Judas Iscariot.” . . .

Two images of pages from the book released by the [Egyptian] Ministry of Antiquities include esoteric “Hebrew” text, which appears to be a poor translation from some other language. The pages are black and white and decorated with what could be either scorpions or lobsters. In the center of each page is a poster-like block of text written in disjointed Hebrew.

One page is titled “To the level of” and uses modern Hebrew words, including matkon (recipe), which would date the page to within the past 100 years.

The second page, which is illustrated by a Greek goddess-like woman holding a menorah triton, roughly reads, “Learn how to rise above things, and this can be done if I weren’t strong,” in a Hebrew one might suspect was written through Google Translate.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Archaeology, Hebrew, History & Ideas, Manuscripts

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey