Denying the Connection to Jewish History of an Ancient Israelite Capital

The ancient city of Sebastia, known in biblical times as Shomron (Samaria), served as the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the 9th and 8th centuries BCE. Although its ruins are in the Israeli-controlled portion of the West Bank, the adjacent Arab village is under the control of the PA. As a result, excavations there are stalled. Due to security concerns, Israel allows tourists to visit only a few days each year, while the PA avoids any mention of the city’s biblical connections. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

Fragments of houses, walls, and a palace from the Iron Age remain [in Sebastia]. After its destruction by the Assyrians in 721 BCE, the city became the provincial capital of the conquered region. Under the Greeks it again flourished, but was destroyed by Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus. Then his son Alexander Jannaeus rebuilt the city and repopulated it with Jews.

During the Roman era, King Herod renamed it after Augustus Caesar—sebaste is the Greek equivalent of “Augustus.” At its height, Sebastia was a major city and entrepôt; the remains of its Roman theater, temple, palaces, forum, hippodrome, and marketplace are still visible today.

In the centuries of its long decline, Sebastia was a major Christian site, as underlined by the ruins of a Byzantine church dedicated to John the Baptist, where legend says he was executed and his head interred. . . .

The PA’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’ brochure avoids any mention of Israel or a Jewish connection to the site. It notes that Sebastia was “an important administrative and political regional capital during the Iron Age II and III” and was “a major urban center during the Hellenistic period,” but makes no reference to the Israelite Kingdom or the Hasmoneans.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hasmon, History & Ideas, Palestinian Authority, Samaria

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