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

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria