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Can Archaeology Provide Evidence of the Reality of the Exodus?

Sept. 12 2017

Shortly before Passover 2013, the magazine Reform Judaism headlined an article with the title “We Were Not Slaves in Egypt.” The Bible scholar Richard Elliott Friedman writes that, upon seeing it, he “was troubled that this was informing an audience of about a million Reform Jews that the exodus was not real.” Furthermore, writes Friedman, although by now a wide range of archaeologists had agreed that little evidence existed to support the exodus story, or even that it was highly unlikely to have happened, there were also prominent dissenters; more importantly, there were problems with the arguments of those who claimed the event was unhistorical:

Some archaeologists had said, “We’ve combed the Sinai and didn’t find [any evidence of the Israelites’ wanderings].” But [they had conducted] a survey, not an excavation of the whole Sinai Peninsula. Moreover, even if they had excavated the whole Sinai, what could they find that people traveling from Egypt to Israel around 3,300 years ago would have left that they would dig up now? A piece of petrified wood with “Moses loves Zipporah” carved in it? An Israeli archaeologist told me that a vehicle that was lost in Sinai in the 1973 war was found recently under sixteen meters of sand. Sixteen meters down in 40 years! Finding objects 3,300 years down presents a rather harder challenge.

And, above all, our archaeological work did not turn up evidence to show that an exodus did not happen. What it turned up was nothing, an absence of evidence. And some archaeologists then interpreted this nothing to be proof that the event did not happen. On the other side, people who challenged such interpretations were fond of quoting the old principle: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

In his forthcoming book, excerpted here, Friedman attempts to explain what historical, archaeological, and textual scholarship can say about the exodus.

Read more at Bible and Interpretation

More about: Archaeology, Exodus, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas

The EU Violates International Law, Steals Palestinian Land, and Then Demands Compensation from Israel

Nov. 17 2017

Last month, the eight European countries that make up the West Bank Protection Consortium sent a formal letter demanding €30,000 in compensation for two classrooms with solar panels that Israel dismantled in August. The letter, as Ruthie Blum explains, ignores the fact that the structures, located in part of the West Bank called Area C, were built in violation of international law:

[The 1995 agreement known as] Oslo II, which created the Palestinian Authority (PA), divides the West Bank into three geographical sections—Areas A, B, and C—and specifies which government controls each. Area C is under the military and civil jurisdiction of Israel alone. . . . Yet, for years, there has been non-stop building in Area C, . . . in a transparent effort to populate Area C with Palestinians. . . .

[The] Middle East analyst Bassam Tawil [has] noted massive “behind-the-scenes” Palestinian construction, the goal of which is “to create irreversible facts on the ground” and completely encircle Jerusalem. He points out that while Israel is condemned for any and every attempt to build housing in the West Bank and Jerusalem [which it never does in Area A, assigned by Oslo to the sole jurisdiction of the Ramallah], the Palestinian Authority has been undertaking, with impunity, a “colossal” construction project that is “illegal in every respect.” . . .

On a recent tour of the area, [another] Arab affairs expert, Khaled Abu Toameh, explained that this ongoing construction, funded mainly by the EU and Qatar, is made possible through the “confiscation” of privately owned tracts of Palestinian land by unlicensed contractors whose interest is solely financial. . . All they want, he said, is to line their pockets at the expense of helpless landowners, who are told that they must sacrifice their property to help the Palestinian Authority populate the area for political gain against Israel. . . .

It takes particular gall for European Union representatives to express “humanitarian” outrage at Israel for razing illegal structures in the West Bank—while the EU is in league with Palestinian criminals who have been brazenly stealing Arab-owned land.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, West Bank