Remnants of Jewish Life in Ancient Babylonia

Ancient Babylonian tablets, now on display in the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, have revealed a heretofore unavailable perspective on the Jewish exiles who arrived there around the time of the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. Lawrence Schiffman explains the tablets’ significance:

The most important thing about these tablets is most probably the names that occur in them. Here we have Jews undertaking business and personal transactions with other Jews as well as with Babylonians and exiles from other places, in areas with significant populations of Judean exiles. We see how quickly Jews acclimated to the economic and legal conditions of Babylonia, engaging in a variety of business and agricultural activities, while maintaining their identity. . . .

Readers of these tablets who are familiar with the occupations and economic circumstances that are in evidence in the Babylonian Talmud will feel that they are essentially in the same world, in which water depends on an elaborate canal system, barley and beer are the staple foods, plow animals are at a premium, and complex transactions are constantly being effected. What these texts really show us is how the Babylonian Jewish community established itself quickly and successfully in the immediate aftermath of the exile from the land of Israel, and how it was this community that eventually developed into the Jewish community from which the most important statement of [Jewish] tradition emerged—the Babylonian Talmud.

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: ancient Judaism, Babylonian Jewry, First Temple, History & Ideas, Talmud

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas