After Ten Years, Excavations Resume at Masada

The ancient Negev fortress where, in 74 CE, Jewish rebels fought their last stand against the Romans, yielded many important discoveries in the 20th century. Now archaeologists plan to begin digging there once more. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

[A] substantial portion of the mountaintop’s historical material, [as well as] the former Roman army encampments ringing the fortress peak, remains largely unstudied. After the first large-scale excavations in 1963-65 under the former IDF chief of staff and archaeologist Yigael Yadin, archaeologists refrained from digging up the entire site for the sake of leaving some exploration for the generations to come. The dry desert climate allowed the preservation of elegant frescoes and organic remains belonging to the Jewish rebels who holed up on the mountaintop. . . .

[The] team said the plans for its first season at Masada will involve the excavation of new sections of the Jewish rebel dwellings, as well as a garden constructed by Herod. “Our intention is to explore further a mysterious underground structure that was detected in the earliest aerial photographs of the site” in 1924, said Guy Stiebel, [the archaeologist leading the project].

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Archaeology, History & Ideas, Judean Revolt, Masada, Yigael Yadin


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy