An Ancient Coin Dedicated to “the Freedom of Israel”

Feb. 13 2019

Last week, two Israeli hikers came across an ancient coin, apparently exposed by recent winter rains. Realizing its likely historical value, they handed it over to the archaeologist Zvika Tzuk, who in turn showed it to his colleague Danny Syon. Tzuk and Syon identified the coin as one minted by followers of the Jewish rebel Shimon Bar Kokhba during the brief period when they managed to liberate parts of Palestine from Roman rule. Michael Bachner writes:

Despite the fact that the coin hadn’t yet undergone professional cleaning yet, Syon succeeded in deciphering the images and inscriptions on the rare coin, determining that it dates back to 133 or 134 CE.

One side of the coin had an image of a palm tree with seven branches and two clusters of grapes above the name “Shimon”—Bar Kokhba’s first name—in ancient Hebrew. The reverse side of the coin had a vine leaf with a twig and around it an inscription meaning “the second year of the freedom of Israel.” Coins of this type were minted during the Bar Kokhba revolt from 132 to 135 CE, during which time Jewish rebels managed to regain some autonomy from Rome. The “second year” is either the year 133 or the year 134 CE. . . .

“The road near where the coin was found connects a number of communities with hiding places from the days of Bar Kokhba,” said Tzuk. “It is possible that one of the residents or fighters who moved from one community to another lost the coin, which waited 1,885 years until it was found.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Simon bar Kokhba

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank