Ancient Israelite Craftsmen Were More Skilled Than Once Thought

Jan. 26 2018

The book of Kings describes King Solomon, who presumably lived in the early 9th century BCE, as having to import master craftsmen from the nearby kingdom of Tyre to help build the Temple and various royal buildings. Drawing on this story and on the lack of material evidence to the contrary, archaeologists have long assumed that the ancient Israelites were not especially advanced when it came to artisanship. A new discovery suggests otherwise, as Robin Ngo explains:

From the archaeological record, we see that the Canaanites living in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (ca. 2000–1500 BCE) in the southern Levant were master craftworkers in ivory, bronze, gold, and silver. At [the ancient city of] Hazor—which was “the head of all those [Canaanite] kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10) in the second millennium BCE—excavations directed by Yigael Yadin (in the 1950s and 1960s) and by Amnon Ben-Tor (from the 1990s to the present) uncovered magnificent basalt sculptures carved by the Canaanites, including statues, vessels, stelae, and altars.

In 2010, [a new group of] archaeologists at Tel Hazor discovered a basalt workshop dating to the 9th century BCE, when the Israelites occupied the site. The workshop is located on the northern part of the [site] just outside a large agricultural storeroom, but whether the two structures were related remains to be determined. The workshop contained unfinished basalt vessels, of which there were four main types that had also been popular in the second millennium BCE: plates/platters, pedestal bowls, tripod bowls, and bowls with out-turned walls. Additionally found in the workshop were remnants of the vessel production, including basalt chips, ash, iron chisels, flint tools, and basalt hammerstones. Was this Israelite craft tradition related to that of the Canaanites, the previous occupants of Tel Hazor until the city was burned, destroyed, and abandoned around 1300 BCE?

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, History & Ideas, King Solomon

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat