Clay Seals Provide Evidence of 8th-Century Israelite Refugees Coming to Jerusalem

Sept. 7 2017

Historians have long believed that, after the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 720 BCE, many of its residents fled to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and settled there. The recent discovery of clay seals (technically known as bullae) in Jerusalem—then the Judaean capital—provides evidence of this migration, as Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

A new cache of First Temple bullae discovered in an excavation at Jerusalem’s City of David shows a mixture of names from the kingdoms of Israel and Judah used on official bureaucratic correspondence. . . The dozens of clay imprints were used on letters and documents which were bound by string and sealed by wet clay pressed with the sender’s mark or name. . . . Among the bullae [one] bears the name “Aḥiav ben Menaḥem” [both names used by kings of Israel and thus thought to be Israelite rather than Judaean]. . . .

According to [the excavation’s] co-director Ortal Chalaf, these Israelite names and other findings point to the possibility that after the destruction of Israel, refugees fled the Kingdom of Israel for the Kingdom of Judah, and settled in Jerusalem. . . . [T]he use of their names on official correspondence shows that these Israelites gained important roles in the Judaean administration.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Assyria, History & Ideas, Jerusalem

The Movement to Return Jewish Worship to the Temple Mount Has Gone Mainstream

Sept. 25 2017

During the eruption of violence against Israelis in Jerusalem this summer, and the subsequent struggle over metal detectors, the Islamic authorities briefly boycotted the Temple Mount. As a result, Jewish visitors, normally prohibited from praying there, immediately began to do so. Meir Soloveichik puts the episode in context and describes its meaning:

The Temple Mount is fast becoming a pilgrimage site for religious Jews. In the past, most abstained from visiting out of concern that they might enter a sacred area in a state of ritual impurity, but many now believe that, with a knowledge of the layout, history, and religious laws pertaining to the location, it is permissible to visit certain parts of the Temple Mount plaza. They thus visit the site under religious guidance—immersing first in a ritual bath, or mikveh—and tread only in specific areas. What was once a trickle of pilgrims has become a stream, and this year they numbered in the many thousands. . . .

[Indeed, a] sea change has taken place in the past fifteen years: . . . the segment of Jews visiting the Temple Mount is becoming more and more mainstream, supported by rabbis noted for their liberalism in social or religious affairs. . . .

Visiting Jews were, for a brief and brilliant moment [this summer], able to utter several words of prayer without interference. The Israeli media published photos of a diverse group of Jews standing on the Temple Mount reciting the kaddish, so close to where their ancestors, on Yom Kippur, had once stood listening to the high priest pronounce the Name of God. Soon after this kaddish, the [status quo ante] returned; Jews again were no longer free to pray at the site toward which all Jewish prayer has been directed for thousands of years. But images of that one unimpeded kaddish remain; to study them is to look back on the miraculous and heartbreaking past half-century in Jerusalem, to celebrate what has been achieved, and to mourn what might have been.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Palestinian terror, Religion & Holidays, Temple Mount