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

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East