A Carved Stone Is Changing Scholars’ Conception of the Ancient Synagogue

Discovered in the ruins of a 1st-century synagogue in 2009, a large rock known as the Magdala stone is covered with elaborate carvings that seem to depict the Second Temple in great detail. In studying it, scholars are beginning to reconsider the formation and function of ancient synagogues. Isabel Kershner writes:

Experts have long believed that in the period before the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, synagogues were used as general places of assembly and learning. . . . The more formal conception of a synagogue as a sacred space reserved for religious ritual was thought to have developed later, . . . after the Temple had been destroyed.

But the Magdala stone was found in the center of [an] old synagogue, and [Rina] Talgam, [a scholar who has studied the stone extensively], said it might have been intended to give the space an aura of holiness “like a lesser temple” even while the Second Temple still existed. . . .

The Magdala stone is about the right size for laying down a Torah scroll, so it might [also] have been used as liturgical furniture.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Second Temple, Synagogue

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security