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

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon