Discovered in Israel: A Biblical Shrine for the Ark of the Covenant?

Jan. 11 2019

According to the books of Samuel and Chronicles, the Ark of the Covenant was kept at various locations in the Land of Israel, the last of which was the town of Kiriath Jearim, until King David brought it to Jerusalem. An excavation at what is thought to be this town has revealed a large elevated podium that Israel Finkelstein—the dig’s co-director and one of Israel’s leading archaeologists—believes was built to commemorate the Ark’s sojourn there. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The elevated rectangular podium . . . can be reconstructed to have covered an area of more than four acres. Created with typical Iron Age walls, which still stand at some six-feet tall, it is oriented exactly north-south and east-west.

It is an oddity in the kingdom of Judah, which, according to the Bible, once ruled Kiriath-Jearim. Finkelstein and his co-directors believe the platform may have been a shrine built by the Northern Kingdom [to compete with Jerusalem, located firmly in the Southern Kingdom of Judah], in commemoration of the Ark of the Covenant story. . . .

According to the archaeologists, other similar platforms were well-known in the Northern Kingdom during the suggested window of time, including in the capital Samaria. The pottery debris close to the wall dates to the period from 900 to 700 BCE and the timing of the construction could also point to the Northern Kingdom: “An elevated platform at Kiriath-Jearim could have been built by [the Northern Kingdom] following the subjugation of Judah by [the north’s] King Joash,” as noted in 2Kings 14:11-13, stated the archaeologists. . . .

The archaeological dig is unusually located on private church property under the protection of the French government, a situation stemming from a 1949 agreement with the fledgling state of Israel. Today the site serves as the Convent of the Ark of the Covenant, which covers the hill’s summit, and is occupied by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Ark of the Covenant, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat