Lady Stanhope, the British Eccentric Who Brought Archaeology to the Land of Israel

Hester Stanhope (1776-1806), who came from a wealthy, aristocratic British family, served early in her life as a chief-of-staff of sorts to Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. She then left England for the Middle East, where she was the first to convince the Ottoman rulers to allow archaeological excavation in the land of Israel. Shirly Seidler writes (free registration required):

Stanhope was an adventurer who often scandalized people, but always got her way. In the early 19th century, she did everything women weren’t supposed to do: roamed the Middle East by herself, wore male clothing, rode astride rather than sidesaddle, and smoked pipes with sheikhs. She was called the queen of the desert. And even though she didn’t find the treasure she sought, she was an archaeological pioneer. . . .

[Stanhope] reached Lebanon . . . in 1812. There, she visited the Mar Elias monastery near Sidon, where the monks showed her an Italian scroll that told of a great treasure buried in Ashkelon in Palestine. Stanhope promptly decided to hunt for the treasure.

When she asked . . . for a permit to dig in Ashkelon, [the Ottoman authorities] initially refused, because that was an era when Western archaeologists routinely stole antiquities for Western museums. But after Stanhope promised to give them the treasure if she found it, the Ottoman authorities grew enthusiastic and ordered the governors of Damascus, Acre, and Jaffa to assist her.

“You have to understand that there was no archaeology in the land of Israel until the 1920s,” explains [the historian Gad] Sobol. “But suddenly, along comes a woman dressed like a man, riding a horse, who enters Damascus and gets what she wants. . . . After Lady Stanhope, the Ottomans no longer feared archaeologists.”

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Archaeology, Britain, History & Ideas, Land of Israel, Ottoman Empire

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7