Archaeologists Discover Evidence of an Ancient Mass Beheading in Jerusalem

Oct. 17 2018

After the death of Judah the Maccabee in 160 BCE, his brother Simon assumed the position of both high priest and king—establishing the Hasmonean dynasty that ruled over Israel until 40 BCE. In a burial site adjacent to an ancient cistern in Jerusalem, archaeologists have now found evidence to support existing accounts of the war and civil strife that characterized the Hasmonean period. They believe the site dates to the reign of King Alexander Yannai, Simon’s grandson, who ruled from 103-76 BCE and is depicted by the ancient historian Josephus and the Talmud as cruel and ruthless. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

“We removed from the pit more than twenty neck vertebrae which were cut by a sword,” said Yossi Nagar, an anthropologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). “In the pit we discovered bodies and body parts of infants and adults, women and men, who were probably victims of a brutal slaughter.” Embryonic bones discovered in the excavation indicate that among victims were even pregnant women. . . .

The reign of Alexander Yannai (or Jannaeus) . . . was marked by court intrigue and seemingly endless military campaigns in which he conquered—and lost—swaths of territory.

It was a time of violent power struggles between the Jewish sects known as the Sadducees and Pharisees, [Alexander Yannai supported the former], which led to a six-year civil war that, according to Josephus, left some 50,000 Jews dead. . . . According to the commentary on the book of Nahum discovered as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, after the war’s end Alexander Yannai punished some 800 of his political enemies, sentencing them to crucifixion. Others, such as those discovered in the courtyard [in Jerusalem], were beheaded and dismembered.

During excavations, the archaeologists discovered broken human bones, which were randomly discarded together in a water cistern and covered in ash, rocks, and boulders.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hasmoneans, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Nahum

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy