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

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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