The Ancient Queen Who Converted to Judaism

Jerusalem’s Reḥov Heleni ha-Malkah (Queen Helena Street) was named for a Byzantine Christian queen. After Israel gained its independence, a second Helena’s name graced the street. This Helena was the 1st-century-CE queen of Adiabene—a principality located in what is now Iraq—who converted to Judaism. Elaine Rose Glickman recounts some of the talmudic legends about this remarkable historical figure:

Helena became acquainted with Judaism through Jewish merchants who visited her country and—according to legend—hired a tutor in order to learn everything she could. Around the year 30 CE, she turned her back on the dominant [local] religion and—along with her younger son Izates—formally converted to Judaism. . .

[The Talmud relates that Helena, in] addition to giving money for the beautification of the Second Temple and to support the poor in the Holy Land, . . . dipped into the royal treasury to purchase grain from Egypt and dried fruits from Cyprus when famine threatened the lives of Jerusalem’s Jews. . . . Helena also donated several significant pieces of art to the Temple: a gold ornament placed over the door, whose reflection of the sun’s rays would indicate the time to recite the morning Shema prayer, a plate onto which was carved a passage from the Torah, and the golden handles that were fastened to the Temple vessels on Yom Kippur. . . .

Queen Helena also erected a magnificent palace that may have been unearthed during excavations of the City of David, as well as an ornate mausoleum where her body and those of her descendants now lie. Her burial place is known as the Tomb of the Kings, . . . because the tomb was so glorious that early excavators assumed it housed the royal dynasty of Judah.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Mesopotamia, Second Temple, Talmud

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