Relics of Ancient Jewish Life in Palmyra, Now in the Hands of Islamic State

May 27, 2015 | Ilan Ben Zion
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According to the 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus, the city of Palmyra, which last week fell to Islamic State, was built by King Solomon. It also had a sizable Jewish population well into the Middle Ages. Ilan Ben Zion takes note of some of the archaeological evidence of ancient Jewish life there:

Among the archaeological gems from Palmyra, the pearl of Syria’s desert, at risk after Islamic State’s takeover last week are vestiges of its Jewish past, including the longest biblical Hebrew inscription from antiquity: the opening verses of the Shema carved into a stone doorway. Western archaeologists who visited the site in the 19th and 20th centuries discovered Hebrew verses etched into the doorframe of a house in the ancient city. But whether that inscription is still at the site is unclear. The last time a European scholar documented it in situ was 1933, when Israeli archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik of Hebrew University photographed it.

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