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

The Ugly Roots of Ireland’s Anti-Israel Policies

Prime Minister Varadkar’s meretricious messaging concerning the freeing of a kidnapped child is only one example of the Irish government’s perverse reaction to Hamas’s assault on Israel. Varadkar has accused the IDF of pursuing “something approaching revenge” in Gaza, and compared the Israeli war effort to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His parliament, meanwhile, came close to expelling the Israeli ambassador. Terry Glavin writes:

In a recent interview, . . . the retired Irish diplomat Niall Holohan put it this way: “We feel we have been victimized over the centuries. It’s part of our psyche—underneath it all we side with the underdog.” But there’s something else in the Irish psyche that’s impolite to mention in the comfy Dublin pubs and bistros. . . . Not a few of Ireland’s gallant and celebrated champions of the underdog, its heroes of Irish freedom, were vulgar anti-Semites and Nazi collaborators.

And in recent years, Irish Jews are commonly baited, harassed, and badgered every time there is some eruption in Israel involving Palestinian “resistance.”

The republican pamphleteer Arthur Griffith approved [of anti-Jewish agitation in Limerick in 1904], calling Jews “usurers and parasites.” Griffiths was one of the founders of Sinn Féin, in 1905, and he served as Sinn Féin’s president in 1911.

There was always a deep division in the Irish nationalist movement between Irish republicans who felt an affinity with the Jews owing to a shared history of dispossession and exile, and Catholic extremists who ranted and raved about Jews. Those Catholic shouters are still abroad, apparently unaware that for half a century, Catholic doctrine has established that anti-Semitism is a mortal sin.

Read more at National Post

More about: Anti-Semitism, Gaza War 2023, Ireland