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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.”

Read more at Atlas Obscura

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

 

America Is Right to Withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council

June 21 2018

Yesterday the U.S. announced its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which serves primarily as a forum for the worst human-rights abusers to condemn Israel while ignoring the atrocious behavior of tyrants. Anne Bayefsky writes:

Among the 47 UN states calling the shots on the organization’s top human-rights body are such human-rights paragons as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, . . . Qatar, and Venezuela. . . .

There is no doubt that the UN Human Rights Council is a productive tool for anti-Semites. Discrimination against the Jewish state is baked into its procedures . . . as well as its composition. The council reserves one permanent agenda item for every one of its regular sessions solely for condemning Israel. All other 192 UN member states are considered together under a separate item, if they are discussed at all.

The council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than any other country on earth, and nothing condemning almost 90 percent of the world’s states. The council has held more emergency special sessions on Israel than on any other country, including Syria—where at least 500,000 have died and up to 12 million have been displaced.

But even beyond the disturbing fact that anti-Semitism thrives at the United Nations under the guise of human rights is that the “human-rights” experts, the nongovernmental organizations and the academic entourage surrounding this whole apparatus, have the council’s back. For months, they have been flooding the airwaves and [the American ambassador to the UN Nikki] Haley and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s email inboxes begging the Trump administration to stay on the council. In a nutshell, they make one basic point: the demonization of Israel, even if undeserved, is peripheral to the common good. Pompeo and Haley have courageously decided to set them straight. Equal rights cannot be built on inequality for Jews and the Jewish state.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy, UNHRC, United Nations