A Galilean Synagogue Demonstrates the Architecture of the Earliest Extant Jewish Houses of Worship

In the 16th century, a rabbi made note of the remains of an ancient synagogue in the village of Baram in the upper Galilee, not far from the Israel-Lebanon border. The structure still stands, and it sheds much light on how Jews prayed in talmudic times. Ron Traub writes:

There are essentially three types of ancient synagogues: the first built during the mishnaic period (70-200 CE), the second in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, and the last group from the latter part of the Byzantine period (324-638 CE). Baram . . . is purported to be one of the 24 synagogues built by Rabbi Simon bar Yoḥai, who lived in the 2nd century CE. However [most] archaeologists . . . maintain that the synagogue was built at least a century later.

The [structure] measures 15.2 by 20 meters. The southern façade, which faces Jerusalem, has three openings. External to the southern façade are eight columns that run parallel to the building front. The columns supported an overhead pediment not found in other synagogues of the period.

The space between the columns and the façade is known as a vestibule, which is essentially a covered lobby next to the outer doors of the building. The internal plan has three longitudinal divisions that are defined by columns and include two narrow side aisles on either side of a wider central aisle known as a nave. An internal row of columns runs parallel to the back wall. The space between the columns and the back wall is known as an ambulatory and allows people to walk around the inside of the building without disturbing the congregants in the center. . . .

An inscription under the right window of the southern façade reads “Elazar bar Yudan built it.” An unusual feature is the presence of a three-dimensional sculpture: a pair of stone lions featuring a winged Victory and images of animals.

Read more at Mida

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Galilee, History & Ideas, Jewish architecture, Synagogues

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy