Donate

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.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

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

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