An Ancient Jewish Amulet for Winning at the Chariot Races

In the 1930s, two American archaeologists working in the now-Turkish city of Antioch discovered a small lead scroll, closed shut with a nail, from the 5th century CE. It resembled other ancient amulets used to curse the owner’s enemies, but only recently has modern imaging technology made decoding the scroll’s text possible, as Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

In the curse, written in a Jewish dialect of Aramaic in Hebrew letters, [a] gambler beseeches God and his panoply of angels to thwart a competitor’s horse and cause him to “drown in the mud.” . . . “The curse calls upon the angel who [in the Bible] stands before Balaam’s ass to block the horses of the opposing team,” said [Rivka Elitzur-Leiman, the scholar who has translated the amulet].

Curse amulets on horse racing were common during this time, but until now were only discovered written in Greek or Latin. There has been some attempt to tie one scroll to Jews, said Elitzur-Leiman, because it referenced Pharaoh’s chariots. However, she said, Christians of the era were also well versed in the Hebrew Bible’s stories, so this could not be conclusive proof of a Jewish connection.

Due to this scroll’s Jewish Aramaic dialect, the Hebrew lettering and the very Jewish content—including the Hebrew Tetragrammaton—she is convinced that this amulet was indeed written by Jews. . . . Spells were very diverse in terms of their goals, she said, but incantations on horse races were among the most popular in the general population of the time. And now, with this newly deciphered tablet, we see this unsporting behavior among Jews, too.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Superstition

Nikki Haley Succeeded at the UN Because She Saw It for What It Is

Oct. 15 2018

Last week, Nikki Haley announced that she will be stepping down as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year. When President Trump appointed her to the position, she had behind her a successful tenure as governor of South Carolina, but no prior experience in foreign policy. This, writes Seth Lispky, turned out to have been her greatest asset:

What a contrast [Haley provided] to the string of ambassadors who fell on their faces in the swamp of Turtle Bay. That’s particularly true of the two envoys under President Barack Obama. [The] “experienced” hands who came before her proceeded to fail. Their key misconception was the notion that the United Nations is part of the solution to the world’s thorniest problems. Its charter was a vast treaty designed by diplomats to achieve “peace,” “security,” and “harmony.”

What hogwash.

Haley, by contrast, may have come in without experience—but that meant she also lacked for illusions. What a difference when someone knows that they’re in a viper pit—that the UN is itself the problem. And has the gumption to say so.

This became apparent the instant Haley opened her first press conference, [in which she said of the UN’s obsessive fixation on condemning the Jewish state]: “I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. . . . I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”

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Read more at New York Post

More about: Nikki Haley, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations, US-Israel relations