An Archaeologist Sheds Light on the Temple Mount’s Other Monumental Structure

During his renovations of Jerusalem in the 1st century BCE, King Herod ordered the construction of a large building called a stoa, just opposite the Temple. The stoa, a common feature of Roman cities, served as a commercial and administrative center, where banks, shops, and courts were located. Due to the contradictory, and sometimes self-contradictory, ancient accounts of the structure, which do not line up neatly with archaeological evidence, scholars have long struggled to determine its size, layout, and location. Nir Hasson describes a new theory. (Free registration may be required.)

A recent study by Orit Peleg-Barkat of the Hebrew University archaeology department reexamined [the ancient Jewish historian] Josephus’ text in comparison with archaeological finds from Temple Mount digs in the 1970s. Focusing on fragments of decoration found from the time, she extrapolates to the construction of the buildings. . . . Tens of thousands of [these fragments] from [Herod’s day] have been kept in underground storehouses in the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus. Peleg-Barkat dusted them off and started combing through them, seeking fragments of walls and ceilings.

The fragments confirm that the colossal structure was somewhere between a Roman basilica and a Greek stoa—both being, simply, roofed meeting places, places of administration, government, law, and trade. . . . Probably there would have been other structures by the stoa—which is almost certainly the place where Jesus flew into rage at the sacrilege [as described in the Gospels].

The assembly of stone ornamentation fragments found on Temple Mount differs from the assemblies collected at Herod’s palaces on Masada, in Jericho, and at the Herodium [palace south of Jerusalem], says Peleg-Barkat. “First of all, they used Jerusalem limestone, which has much higher quality. Secondly, the quality of the carving is extraordinary, indicating that it was the work of first-class artisans, involving vast investment of resources,” says Peleg-Barkat. “Even though the work was done by local artisans, we see the influence of Rome and the Syrian region.” . . .  The local influence is clear, she adds, in the total absence of figurative art in the fragments—[a result of] the traditional Jewish prohibition against the use of graven images.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Archaeology, Herod, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, New Testament, Temple Mount

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