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


Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times