Rare Clay Tablets Shed Light on the Babylonian Exile

At Israel’s Bible Lands Museum, on display for the first time is a collection of some 100 clay tablets documenting the lives of Jews exiled to Babylonia after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. These “Al-Yahudu” tablets, named for a Jewish settlement in Babylonia, are written in the Akkadian language and cuneiform script. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

Before the Al-Yahudu texts were found and studied, scholars had only an outline of life for Judeans in Babylon, said Dr. Wayne Horowitz, Hebrew University’s professor of Assyriology, who helped prepare the exhibit and the corresponding academic literature. . . . “[N]ow we’re actually seeing the community living its life, really fleshed out.”

He compared the experience of the exiled Judeans to that of new immigrants to Israel in the early years of the state. They were settled in a region of southern Babylon that had been ravaged by years of war and forced to rebuilt infrastructure and dig canals—the rivers by which they wept when they remembered Zion [according to Psalm 137].

“Once they had built the infrastructure they were allowed to settle and build their lives,” Horowitz explained. Within a short while, the community became more prosperous and secure, a fact documented in the financial documents preserved in clay.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Archaeology, Babylon, Babylonian Jewry, History & Ideas, Psalms


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy