Remnants of an Ancient Refugee Camp at Masada Tell a New Story

Sept. 13 2017

The hilltop fortress in the Negev, where—according to the ancient historian Josephus—some 1,000 Jewish zealots killed themselves rather than fall to the Romans in 73 CE is among Israel’s best known archaeological sites. In conducting the first excavations there in over a decade, archaeologists have uncovered many new details. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

“We’re actually excavating a refugee camp,” said Guy Stiebel, the archaeologist leading the excavations. . . . Masada’s inhabitants during the seven years of the revolt were “a sort of microcosm of Judea back then,” comprising refugees from Jerusalem and across Judea including priests, members of the enigmatic monastic group from Qumran who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and at least one Samaritan.

“What my expedition intends to do is to reconstruct life at Masada, without even referring to [the fortress’s destruction],” Stiebel said. . . .

Cutting-edge archaeological techniques helped glean a more detailed picture of the past that would have been impossible during the time of [the site’s earlier excavator Yigael] Yadin. The picture emerging from these new data about Masada’s inhabitants is far more complex than previously assumed.

“It’s not one monolithic group,” Stiebel explained, describing the people living at Masada before its fall as a “very vibrant community of 50 shades of gray” of Judea.

“We have the opportunity to truly see the people, and this is very rare for an archaeologist,” he said. Among them are women and children, who are too often underrepresented in the archaeological record. . . . “We know people by name; we know people by profession. We can learn about the way this group of rebels lived,” he said.

Read more at Forward

More about: Archaeology, History & Ideas, Josephus, Judean Revolt, Masada


Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC