An Ancient Potsherd Sheds Light on the Origins of the Hebrew Alphabet

Archaeologists have analyzed a brief ancient inscription in an alphabet that was the precursor to Hebrew. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

A potsherd slightly larger than a business card found in the ruins of a Late Bronze Age temple at the biblical site of Lachish in southern Israel has yielded a few tantalizing letters from a 12th-century BCE alphabet. . . . The inscription, three lines containing nine letters, . . . is believed to date from around 1130 BCE. . . . The letters were etched into a clay jar before firing, and are exceptionally clear.

The first line reads pkl, the second spr—the Semitic root for “scribe”—but the third has two letters of uncertain meaning (one is fragmentary). The text includes the earliest dateable examples of the letters kaf (the precursor to the Latin letter K), samekh (S), and resh (R). Samekh had never before been found in early Canaanite inscriptions.

The Canaanites began to develop the alphabet around 1800 BCE, over a thousand years after cuneiform writing first appeared in Mesopotamia. . . . But there are centuries of silence following the earliest known alphabetic inscription. . . .

The archaeologists . . . who studied the potsherd inscription determined that it was too fragmentary to make heads or tails of what it might say. The jar fragment’s discovery in a temple complex suggests the text may be dedicatory.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Canaanites, Hebrew alphabet, History & Ideas

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy