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

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy