Israeli Schoolchildren Discover a 7th-Century Engraving of a Hanukkah Menorah

April 17 2018

Participating in a project organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority, thousands of students joined adult volunteers in helping to prepare a new hiking path through the historic Galilee—discovering, in the process, a number of ancient and medieval artifacts. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

[The] pupils participated in archaeological excavations at sites including Usha, the first seat of the Sanhedrin in the Galilee following the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-136 CE. Previous excavations of the small Galilee town . . . have uncovered remains of a thriving community, including building foundations, a mosaic floor, rock-hewn tombs, wells, wine presses, and an oil press. . . . During the [current] excavations, more evidence of settlement was discovered, including an intact 1,400-year-old oil lamp engraved with an eight-branched menorah, such as one would use during the holiday of Hanukkah. (The menorah of the Temples, and the symbol of the state of Israel, only has seven branches.) . . .

Additionally . . . the team uncovered clear signs of the glass industry that is recorded in ancient Jewish sources as having been located in the vicinity of Usha, [and that] was one of the most important centers of glass manufacturing during the Roman [period]. The quality [of the glass produced there] was considered very fine—the discovered blocks are still crystal clear—and would have been exported throughout the empire. . . .

[One] high-school student, Ilai Yonah, . . . uncovered a gold coin bearing an inscription from the period of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman empire and builder of Jerusalem’s city walls, who died in 1566. Only two others exist in the State Treasury.

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More about: Archaeology, Galilee, History & Ideas, Menorah, Ottoman Empire

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy