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Archaeologists Uncovered a Buried Part of the Western Wall to Find an Ancient Roman Theater

Oct. 17 2017

Excavating a portion of the Western Wall that has been sunken into the earth for nearly 1,700 years, Israeli researchers have found a theater-like structure they believe to have been built by the Romans around 130 CE. Their findings shed light on a period in Jerusalem’s history—after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE—about which little is known. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The small 200- to 300-seat theater, whose existence was noted by [the historian] Flavius Josephus and other ancient sources but which has eluded Jerusalem excavations for some 150 years, is the first rediscovered example of a Roman public building in Jerusalem, archaeologists said.

In 70 CE, the Second Temple was razed along with most of the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem. In its place, the Roman colony Aelia Capitolina was established and named after the Roman god Jupiter and the emperor Hadrian (also known as Aelius), who began reconstructing the city in 130 CE. Following the bloody Bar Kokhba revolt of circa 132–136 CE, Jews were banned from the capital aside from on Tisha b’Av, a day of mourning commemorating the destruction of the Temple. . . .

The team expects to continue excavations until next spring. Joe Uziel, [one of the archaeologists leading the team], said while he cannot know [for certain], he expects to reach First Temple-period remains. . . .

[I]t appears that the theater was not fully finished. The stairs are not fully hewn and there are rocks that have guide marks but weren’t fully carved. [Uziel] speculated that perhaps the Bar Kokhba revolt interrupted its construction. . . . The theater and other finds from previous excavations give “a hint” into the importance of the Temple Mount following the fall of the Second Temple, said [another archaeologist].

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Rome, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Western Wall

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen