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An Archaeologist Sheds Light on the Temple Mount’s Other Monumental Structure

During his renovations of Jerusalem in the 1st century BCE, King Herod ordered the construction of a large building called a stoa, just opposite the Temple. The stoa, a common feature of Roman cities, served as a commercial and administrative center, where banks, shops, and courts were located. Due to the contradictory, and sometimes self-contradictory, ancient accounts of the structure, which do not line up neatly with archaeological evidence, scholars have long struggled to determine its size, layout, and location. Nir Hasson describes a new theory. (Free registration may be required.)

A recent study by Orit Peleg-Barkat of the Hebrew University archaeology department reexamined [the ancient Jewish historian] Josephus’ text in comparison with archaeological finds from Temple Mount digs in the 1970s. Focusing on fragments of decoration found from the time, she extrapolates to the construction of the buildings. . . . Tens of thousands of [these fragments] from [Herod’s day] have been kept in underground storehouses in the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus. Peleg-Barkat dusted them off and started combing through them, seeking fragments of walls and ceilings.

The fragments confirm that the colossal structure was somewhere between a Roman basilica and a Greek stoa—both being, simply, roofed meeting places, places of administration, government, law, and trade. . . . Probably there would have been other structures by the stoa—which is almost certainly the place where Jesus flew into rage at the sacrilege [as described in the Gospels].

The assembly of stone ornamentation fragments found on Temple Mount differs from the assemblies collected at Herod’s palaces on Masada, in Jericho, and at the Herodium [palace south of Jerusalem], says Peleg-Barkat. “First of all, they used Jerusalem limestone, which has much higher quality. Secondly, the quality of the carving is extraordinary, indicating that it was the work of first-class artisans, involving vast investment of resources,” says Peleg-Barkat. “Even though the work was done by local artisans, we see the influence of Rome and the Syrian region.” . . .  The local influence is clear, she adds, in the total absence of figurative art in the fragments—[a result of] the traditional Jewish prohibition against the use of graven images.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Archaeology, Herod, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, New Testament, Temple Mount

Europe Has a Chance to Change Its Attitude toward Israel

Dec. 15 2017

In Europe earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu met with several officials and heads of state. Ahead of his visit, the former Italian parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein addressed a letter to these European leaders, urging them to reevaluate their attitudes toward the status of Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the gravity of European anti-Semitism, and the threat posed by Hamas and Hizballah. In it she writes:

For years, the relationship between Europe and Israel has been strained. Europe tends to criticize Israel for simply defending itself against the continual threats and terrorist attacks it faces on all its borders and inside its cities. Europe too often disregards not only Israel’s most evident attempts to bring about peace—such as its disengagement from Gaza—but also chides it for its cautiousness when considering what solutions are risky and which will truly ensure the security of its citizens.

The EU has never recognized the dangers posed by Hamas and Hizballah, as well as by many other jihadist groups—some of which are backed by [the allegedly moderate] Fatah. The EU constantly blames Israel in its decisions, resolutions, papers and “non-papers,” letters, and appeals. Some of Europe’s most important figures insist that sanctions against the “territories” are necessary—a political stance that will certainly not bring about a solution to this conflict that . . . the Israelis would sincerely like to resolve. Israel has repeated many times that it is ready for direct negotiation without preconditions with the Palestinians. No answer has been received.

The European Union continues to put forth unrealistic solutions to the Israel-Palestinian issue, and the results have only aggravated the situation further. Such was the case in 2015 when it sanctioned Israeli companies and businesses in the territories over the Green Line, forcing them to close industrial centers that provided work to hundreds of Palestinians. The Europeans promoted the harmful idea that delegitimizing Israel can be accomplished through international pressure and that negotiations and direct talks with Israel can be avoided. . . .

[Meanwhile], Iran’s imperialist designs now touch all of Israel’s borders and put the entire world at risk of a disastrous war while Iran’s closest proxy, Hizballah, armed with hundreds of thousands of missiles, proudly presents the most explicit terrorist threat. Europe must confront these risks for the benefit of its citizens, first by placing Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations and secondly, by reconsidering and revising its relationship with Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Europe and Israel, European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy