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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?

Read more at Bible History Daily

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

 

Israel Agreed Not to Retaliate During the Persian Gulf War—and Paid a Price for It

Feb. 19 2018

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, killing one person and causing extensive property damage. Under intense pressure from the first Bush administration to sit still—ostensibly because Israeli involvement in the war could lead Arab states to abandon the White House’s anti-Iraq coalition—Jerusalem refrained from retaliating. Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, comments on the decision in light of information recently made public:

[W]hat was George H.W. Bush thinking [in urging Israel not to respond]? His secretary of state, James Baker, had accompanied the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles (Chas) Freeman, on a visit to King Fahd in Riyadh on November 2, 1990, two-and-a-half months before the beginning of the war, to obtain the king’s approval for additional deployment of U.S. troops in his kingdom in preparation for the attack on Iraq.

He was told by the king that although they would not welcome Israeli participation in the war, he understood that Israel could not stand idly by if it were attacked by Iraq. If Israel were to defend itself, the Saudi armed forces would still fight on America’s side, the king told Baker. So much for the danger to the coalition if Israel were to respond to the Scud attacks. Israel was not informed of this Saudi position.

So why was President Bush so intent on keeping Israel out of the war? It seems that he took the position, so dominant in the American foreign-policy establishment, that America’s primary interest in the Middle East was the maintenance of good relations with the Arab world, and that the Arab world attached great importance to the Palestinian problem, and that as long as that problem was not resolved Israel remained an encumbrance to the U.S.-Arab relationship. If Israel were to appear as an ally of the U.S. in the war against Iraq, that was likely to damage the image the U.S. was trying to project to the Arabs.

In fact, immediately upon the conclusion of the war against Saddam Hussein, Baker launched a diplomatic effort that culminated in the Madrid Conference in the hope that it would lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t. . . .

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Peace Process, Persian Gulf War, US-Israel relations