Archaeologists Uncover an Ancient Idumean Structure in the Negev

Digging near the ancient city of Lachish, a team of Israeli researchers have found a mysterious building—which they believe to be either a palace or a temple—dating approximately to the 3rd century BCE. The site has been connected to the Idumeans or Edomites, who, according to tradition, were descended from the biblical Esau. Daniel Eisenbud writes:

[D]uring the Persian period in the 5th century BCE, the Idumeans—a Semitic people originating in [what is now] southern Jordan—settled in the Judean foothills. After the area was conquered by the Hasmoneans in 112 BCE, the Idumeans converted [to Judaism] and assimilated into the Judean population. . . .

“If this was indeed an Idumean palace or temple, it is a rare and exciting find,” [the archaeologists] said in a joint statement. “Similar structures in this country can be counted on the fingers of one hand. It seems that the building was intentionally dismantled, possibly during the Hasmonean conquest of the region.”

Two well-preserved stone incense altars were discovered in one of the rooms. One of them, bearing the carved image of a bull, is depicted as standing in what is apparently the façade of a temple adorned with prominent columns. . . . In addition to the incense altar, delicate pottery vessels were also uncovered, including painted bowls, juglets, and oil lamps.

[Besides the Idumean structure and artifacts], also found at the site were numerous underground spaces used as quarries, or to house ritual baths (mikva’ot), oil presses, and dovecotes. Additionally, hiding tunnels from the time of the Jewish revolts against the Romans were discovered, with one containing an intact cooking pot from the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–135 CE).

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Bar-Kokhba, Edomites, History & Ideas, Maccabees

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East