An Ancient Lioness Carving, in Pristine Condition, Uncovered in the Galilee

Israeli archaeologists recently uncovered a relief of a lioness, carved onto 1,320-pound basalt rock and dating to somewhere between the 4th and 6th centuries CE, in the village of el-Araj. While some experts have identified el-Araj with Bethsaida, a town mentioned in the New Testament, and with the adjacent Roman settlement Julias, others are skeptical. For now, the question to be solved is whether the lioness relief belonged to Jews, Christians, or pagans. Ruth Shuster writes that Mordechai Aviam, the excavation’s supervisor, believes it is Jewish, although he admits that it is too soon to say with certainty:

For one thing, during excavations at el-Araj in the summer of 2016, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a Second Temple-era Jewish village. For another, Judaism is rich in lion symbolism. Thirdly, the ancient synagogues of the Golan and Galilee often sported lion art, while the Byzantine churches did not. . . .

On the other hand, since the carving was found at a site Aviam believes to have been Julias, a Roman-era town, it could have graced a non-Jewish public building. Various items of art discovered around the region indicate grand construction in the area [at the time], though again, Aviam notes [that] there is no sign that the non-Jewish construction involved lion art. Synagogues, on the other hand, definitely did.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Art, Galilee, History & Ideas


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7