A Mysterious Dead Sea Scroll Turns Out to Be a 364-Day Calendar

Jan. 22 2018

More than six decades after their discovery, all but two of the hundreds of documents in the Qumran caves have been published. Researchers at the University of Haifa have finally determined that one of these two—a scroll that was found in 60 tiny fragments and written in a sort of code—is a calendar used by the desert sect to whom the scrolls belonged. Daniel Eisenbud explains:

The researchers spent a year painstakingly studying the tiny fragments, . . . some of which measured smaller than one square centimeter. . . . According to the researchers, the calendar was involved in one of the fiercest debates among different sects during the late Second Temple period. “An important peculiarity of the present discovery is the fact that the [Qumran] sect followed a 364-day calendar,” the university said.

“The lunar calendar, which Judaism follows to this day, requires a large number of human decisions. People must look at the stars and moon and report on their observations, and someone must be empowered to decide on the new month and the application of leap years.” By contrast, the researchers described the 364-day calendar as “perfect.”

“Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day,” they said in a joint statement. “This avoids the need to decide, for example, what happens when a particular occasion falls on the Sabbath, as often happens in the lunar calendar. The Qumran calendar is unchanging, and it appears to have embodied the beliefs of the members of this community regarding perfection and holiness.” . . .

“The scroll is written in code, but its actual content is simple and well-known and there was no reason to conceal it,” they said. “This practice is also found in many places outside the land of Israel, where leaders write in secret code even when discussing universally-known matters, as a reflection of their status.” The custom . . . was intended to show that the author was familiar with the code, while others were not.

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More about: Dead Sea Scrolls, History & Ideas, Jewish calendar, Qumran

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security