Using Cutting-Edge Technology, Scientists Make an Ancient Torah Scroll Readable

In 1970, Israeli archaeologists discovered an ancient synagogue in the oasis of Ein-Gedi in the Negev. Its ark contained charred lumps that had once been Torah scrolls, destroyed in a long-ago fire, which are the oldest extant manuscripts of the Pentateuch besides the Dead Sea Scrolls. Since even touching the scrolls would cause them to disintegrate, they have remained a mystery until recently, when a team of researchers used “virtual-unwrapping” technology to produce a legible scan of the texts. Nicholas Wade writes:

The scroll’s content, the first two chapters of the book of Leviticus, has consonants—early Hebrew texts didn’t specify vowels—that are identical to those of the Masoretic text, the authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible and the one often used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles.

The Dead Sea Scrolls . . . contain versions quite similar to the Masoretic text but with many small differences. The text in the scroll found at the Ein-Gedi excavation site . . . has none, according to Emanuel Tov, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“We have never found something as striking as this,” Tov said. “This is the earliest evidence of the exact form of the [Masoretic] text.”

The date of the Ein-Gedi scroll is the subject of conflicting evidence. A carbon-14 measurement indicates that the scroll was copied around 300 CE. But the style of the ancient script suggests a date nearer to 100 CE. “We may safely date this scroll” to between 50 and 100 CE, wrote Ada Yardeni, an expert on Hebrew paleography. . . . Dr. Tov [also] said he was “inclined toward a 1st-century date.”

Read more at New York Times

More about: Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, History & Ideas, Masoretes, Synagogues, Torah


The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law