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

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority