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

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank