Rededicating a Two-Thousand-Year-Old Synagogue in the Golan

Oct. 12 2018

On Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in the Golan village of Ein Keshatot to celebrate the completion of a fifteen-year project to restore the ancient synagogue there; it is now open to the public. Zachary Keyser writes:

The synagogue, with its ornately carved basalt Torah ark, was built in the 1st century CE but extensively renovated some 500 years later. The building, which collapsed in the catastrophic earthquake of 749 CE, measured almost 60 feet long by 43 feet wide, and is calculated to have been nearly 40 feet high. That impressive size made it one of the biggest of the 30 ancient synagogues discovered in the Golan Heights.

Several factors indicate the wealth of this Jewish village during the Byzantine era. The [nearby] springs supported a flax and textile industry, while the twin olive presses produced oil for export. The villagers’ wealth was displayed in their elaborate synagogue. . . .

Unlike other synagogues in the Golan which have an opening on the south oriented to Jerusalem, the door to the [this one] is set in the east wall. The opening is slightly asymmetric, and researchers assume the door was placed off-center to highlight the ark.

Among the archaeological findings was a cache of bronze and gold coins stored under the synagogue’s stone floor. Archaeologists used those coins to determine the synagogue was [renovated] during the reign of Justinian I, who ruled the Eastern Roman empire from 527 to 565 CE.

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More about: Archaeology, Benjamin Netanyahu, Golan Heights, History & Ideas, Synagogue

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror