A New Book Explores the Jewish Graffiti of the Ancient Near East

June 14 2018

While ancient graffiti were much more difficult to create than their modern equivalents—requiring carving in stone rather than spray-painting—they were nonetheless plentiful. Some of these scratches and doodlings can be attributed to Jews, as the historian Karen Stern has documented in a recent book. Eve Kahn writes in her review:

[Stern] has documented graffiti written by Jews, dating back as early as the 8th century BCE, at archaeological sites from modern-day Croatia to the Persian Gulf. Clusters survive at the Dura-Europos synagogue in eastern Syria, el‐Kanaïs in Egypt along the Nile near Aswan, the Beit Shearim necropolis in northern Israel, and the Aphrodisias ruins in western Turkey. They come in a babel of languages, including Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Lihyanite, and Nabataean. Some people who carved the walls were clearly uneducated, while others used neat handwriting that indicates an elite upbringing. Interspersed are markings from non-Jewish neighbors: pagan sayings, Byzantine crosses, and praise for Allah. . . .

Travelers with Jewish names wrote on el‐Kanaïs’s cliffs to record how many times they passed through the area. At Aphrodisias’s theater, Jews used graffiti to label and reserve some rows of seats close to the stage. At the hippodrome complex in Tyre, in southern Lebanon, a female merchant named Matrona painted a wall with a menorah outline plus her name and references to her market stall’s inventory of purple cloth. . . .

Relatives of Jews buried in Beit Shearim’s tombs etched its passageways with crude pictures of ships, tear-stained mourners, and armed gladiators, intended, respectively, to transport, comfort, and protect the dead. In one catacomb, an inscription in Greek wishes visitors “Good luck in your resurrection.” Stern says she does not know if the graffiti author was sincerely hoping to impart good fortune or instead showing signs of a “morbid sense of humor.”

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More about: ancient Judaism, Ancient Near East, Archaeology, History & Ideas

 

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