A 2,200-Year-Old Earring Sheds New Light on a Mysterious Period in Israel’s History

Working at the Givati parking lot in the City of David area of Jerusalem—which in the past few years has become a hugely fruitful source of ancient artifacts—archaeologists have discovered a gold earring dating to the 3rd or 2nd century BCE. Little is known about this period in Jewish history, which stretches from the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 BCE to the Maccabean Revolt in 167 BCE. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The beautifully wrought gold earring discovered in the Givati dig is an example of the widespread reach of Hellenistic culture in the region. The hoop earring bears the head of what could be an antelope or a deer. Its intricate detail depicts the animal’s large eyes, mouth, and other facial features. . . . [A] gold bead with complex, spiral rope-like embroidered ornamentation was also discovered at the site. . . .

During the period ascribed to the jewelry and pottery found in the excavation, Judea was a Hellenistic vassal state and under semi-autonomous Jewish rule administered by the priestly class: it was first ruled by Ptolemaic Egypt from 301 to 198 BCE, and then by the Seleucid empire after Antiochus III conquered Jerusalem. . . While this era is documented in several ancient sources, . . . there is scant physical evidence of it found in Jerusalem aside from some pottery and a few coins. . . .

The researchers cannot determine whether the earring belonged to a man or woman, or the adorned individual’s religious and ethnic identity. “But we can say for certain that whoever wore this earring definitely belonged to Jerusalem’s upper class. This can be determined by the proximity to the Temple Mount and the Temple, which was functional at the time, as well as the quality of the gold piece of jewelry,” [they stated].

The finding may lead experts to reconsider the geography of Jerusalem during this period. Until now, the consensus has been that from the 5th to the late-2nd centuries BCE the city had shrunk to a narrow area around the Temple Mount, while most of the City of David lay desolate or was converted to farmland. But the earring, and its location in what seems to have been an upper-class home from the same time period, suggests otherwise.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hellenism, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Maccabees

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East