Herod’s Masada Pleasure Palace

In 1924, a British pilot flew over the ancient fortress of Masada and took photographs that have been preserved at University College London. Examining them, the archaeologist Guy Stiebel found something overlooked by previous excavations, and this led to a new discovery. Robin Ngo writes:

Stiebel . . . noticed next to the Byzantine church [atop the fortress] an oblong shape that seemed to be covering a subterranean structure—something that couldn’t be seen at the site at the time. As it turns out, not knowing that anything was there, the Israel Nature and Parks authority had covered this structure around 45 years ago—providing an excellent candidate for excavation. With this undisturbed section of Masada in mind, Guy Stiebel and Boaz Gross launched a new archaeological project under the sponsorship of Tel Aviv University. . . .

The project has uncovered evidence of agricultural activity, aqueducts, and irrigation systems from the time of King Herod, [the Judean king who built a palace on Masada in the fourth decade BCE]. Although Masada is situated in the middle of the Judean desert, such excessive use of water for agriculture was not unheard of in antiquity. Scholars were already familiar with Herod’s lush gardens at Jericho, Caesarea, and Herodium; moreover, the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus describing the soil at Masada offered clues.

“Learning from Josephus’ account that the soil of Masada was allegedly fertile, we wondered if we could identify evidence of such agricultural activity atop the mountain,” write Stiebel and Boaz Gross in [a report on their findings]. “We excavated a series of probes in the semi-hemispheric feature of the northern palace’s upper terrace, which had been suggested to be a viridarium, a plantation of trees constituting what many call a ‘pleasure-garden.’ The semi-hemispheric balcony provided the royal residences of the northern palace with a spectacular view of the Dead Sea, the Moab mountains, and the oasis of En Gedi.”

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Herod, History & Ideas, Josephus, Masada

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict