Persia’s Talmudic-Era Jewish Kingdom

April 26 2016

In the middle of the 5th century CE, the Persian empire, which until then had been benevolent toward its large Jewish population, began to persecute Judaism and Christianity alike. The empire then entered a period of instability, brought about by internal fighting and external attack. In response to both the chaos and the persecution, the exilarch—the temporal leader of Mesopotamian Jewry—established a short-lived independent Jewish kingdom. Eli Kavon tells the story:

Together, [the exilarch] Mar Zutra II and [his grandfather] Rabbi Ḥanina, [a leading rabbinic authority], took advantage of the disorder that broke out throughout the Persian empire. Mar Zutra raised a small army and founded a kingdom with its capital in Maḥoza, [now part of the city of al-Mada’in, Iraq].

He proceeded to levy taxes and wage wars with his Jewish army. From 495 to 502 Mar Zutra II ruled with the complete support of his grandfather. . . . But the Persian king Kavadh I, who had been deposed during the disorder, regained his throne and destroyed Mar Zutra II’s Jewish state.

Both Mar Zutra II and Ḥanina were crucified by the Persian authorities.

The defeat was devastating. The rabbis had to establish academies out of the reach of the central Persian government. Eventually, however, life returned to normal for a short period under the Persian king and Jews were even drafted to serve as soldiers in the Persian army. A surviving son of Mar Zutra II, Mar Zutra III, escaped death by making his way to the land of Israel as a young man and gained prominence there.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Persia, Babylonian Jewry, Exilarch, History & Ideas

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism