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

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy