An Ancient Village Appears to Have Been a Center for the Production of Gazelle-Hide Torah Scrolls

Aug. 21 2018

The Talmud requires that Torah scrolls be written on parchment made from the hide of a kosher animal, and notes that the hides of gazelles were particularly prized for this purpose. Armed with this information, archaeologists made sense of a recent finding in the Galilean village of Shikhin (modern-day Shukha), as Philippe Bohstrom writes. (Free registration may be required.)

Archaeologists . . . encountered a mystery: a strangely large proportion of the animal bones [uncovered while excavating Shikhin] were from wild gazelles—far greater than the proportion of gazelle remains found at any other archaeological site in Israel, from [the era of the site]—about 1,900 years ago—or earlier. Or later. What was the strange predilection the ancient Jews of Shikhin had for gazelles?

Some were surely eating gazelle, which is perfectly kosher when slaughtered by [the prescribed] ritual. But the people of Shikhin also had plenty of domestic flocks: sheep, goats, and cows. It seems, the archaeologists concluded, that the Jews of Shikhin had developed a robust industry of curing gazelle hide for parchment, including for Torah scrolls. . . .

Even when compared with sites from the earlier Bronze Age and Iron Age, when people had been cultivating flocks for thousands of years but still hunted for some of their meat, the proportion of gazelle bones at Shikhin is big; [furthermore], gazelle run very fast, [and are therefore very difficult] to chase down. So appetite alone could hardly explain the spike in gazelle hunting.

The gazelle is indigenous to the region and was appreciated in ancient times not only for its speed but for its gracile beauty. The ancient Hebrews alluded to it frequently in Scripture.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ancient Israel, ancient Judaism, Animals, Archaeology, History & Ideas

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism