A Rare Mosaic Discovered in Caesarea

Feb. 13 2018

Archaeologists excavating in the coastal city of Caesarea have uncovered a colorful and sophisticated mosaic dating from the 2nd or 3rd centuries CE. Some 300 years later, a sort of Byzantine shopping mall had been built on top of it, obscuring it until now. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

[This] is one of the few extant examples of a mosaic from this time period in Israel; its craftsmanship is compared by archaeologists to the fine artistry found in Antioch. . . . According to Peter Gendelman and Uzi Ad, the directors of the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, the mosaic . . . was once part of an even earlier building from approximately 1,800 years ago.

According to the archaeologists, the mosaic measures 3.5-by-8 meters and is “of a rare high quality.” . . . There are three figures depicted on the uncovered section, as well as typical multicolored geometric patterns, which were formed using small tesserae (mosaic pieces) placed densely at about 12,000 stones per square meter. . . .

Of potentially even more interest than the beautifully formed images is a long inscription in ancient Greek. It was unfortunately damaged by the Byzantine building constructed on top of it, but is being studied now by the epigrapher Leah Di Segni from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology. . . .

The mosaic dates from when the area was the Roman Empire’s administrative center in the province of Judea.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Archaeology, Byzantine Empire, History & Ideas

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East