The Jews of an Ancient Galilean Village and Their Magnificent Synagogue

Excavations of the village of Shikhin have revealed much about the lives of the Jews there. James R. Strange, one of the archaeologists involved in the excavations, answers some questions about what he and his colleagues have unearthed. (Interview by Brian Leport.)

Shikhin’s Roman-period synagogue . . . was built sometime after the 1st century CE. . . . For the main entrance to their new building, [its builders] imported two halves of very large threshold stones made of hard, dolomitic limestone, using them to form a single threshold. The fragments of columns, including heart-shaped columns for interior corners, are also quite large. Either Shikhin had a modest synagogue with oversized architectural pieces, or it was a modest village with an oversized synagogue. . . . After the building was abandoned in the 3rd or early 4th century, nearly all of its stones were removed. . . .

Contrary to older views, in which people thought of the Galileans as peasants who barely escaped starvation year by year, . . . we now know that Galilee under Roman occupation had a fairly robust economy in which people [traveled] both to the city and from village to village, whether to engage in commerce or to find work. This does not mean that the Romans were not iron-fisted overlords, or that taxes were not onerous. . . .

We also know that, so far as we can tell, the Jewish population [in the Galilee] was concerned with the same sorts of things that concerned the Jews in the south [of Israel]: maintaining [ritual] purity on a daily basis, eating kosher meats and other foods prepared according to a kosher manner, and traveling to Jerusalem when they could for the pilgrimage festivals. By and large, Jewish people tended to live together in villages and pagan people tended to live in their villages (not many villages in the Galilee were pagan).

Read more at Ancient Jew Review

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Archaeology, Galilee, History & Ideas, Synagogue

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy