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


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security