A Galilean Synagogue Demonstrates the Architecture of the Earliest Extant Jewish Houses of Worship

June 13 2018

In the 16th century, a rabbi made note of the remains of an ancient synagogue in the village of Baram in the upper Galilee, not far from the Israel-Lebanon border. The structure still stands, and it sheds much light on how Jews prayed in talmudic times. Ron Traub writes:

There are essentially three types of ancient synagogues: the first built during the mishnaic period (70-200 CE), the second in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, and the last group from the latter part of the Byzantine period (324-638 CE). Baram . . . is purported to be one of the 24 synagogues built by Rabbi Simon bar Yoḥai, who lived in the 2nd century CE. However [most] archaeologists . . . maintain that the synagogue was built at least a century later.

The [structure] measures 15.2 by 20 meters. The southern façade, which faces Jerusalem, has three openings. External to the southern façade are eight columns that run parallel to the building front. The columns supported an overhead pediment not found in other synagogues of the period.

The space between the columns and the façade is known as a vestibule, which is essentially a covered lobby next to the outer doors of the building. The internal plan has three longitudinal divisions that are defined by columns and include two narrow side aisles on either side of a wider central aisle known as a nave. An internal row of columns runs parallel to the back wall. The space between the columns and the back wall is known as an ambulatory and allows people to walk around the inside of the building without disturbing the congregants in the center. . . .

An inscription under the right window of the southern façade reads “Elazar bar Yudan built it.” An unusual feature is the presence of a three-dimensional sculpture: a pair of stone lions featuring a winged Victory and images of animals.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Galilee, History & Ideas, Jewish architecture, Synagogues

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