What Did the Second Temple’s Floor Look Like?

During his reign, which lasted from 37 to 4 BCE, King Herod undertook major renovations of the Temple Mount and the Temple itself. Recent archaeological findings suggest that these included repaving the floors with a kind of polished stone tile known as opus sectile. Frankie Snyder, Gabriel Barkay, and Zachi Dvira write:

Opus sectile—Latin for “cut work”—is a technique for paving floors and walls in geometric patterns or figurative scenes using meticulously cut and polished polychrome stone tiles. These tiles were crafted and laid with such precision that there was hardly space to insert a knife-blade between them. Opus sectile floors were more prestigious than mosaic ones and were typically used in more important areas of buildings. Along with using frescoed walls, stucco decorations and elegantly carved columns, Herod introduced this paving technique to Israel to decorate many of his palaces, including Masada, Jericho, Herodium, and Cypros.

The 1st-century-CE Jewish historian Flavius Josephus comments about the pavements [on] the Temple Mount [thus], “The open courtyard was from end to end variegated with paving of all manner of stones.” . . . Continued research has allowed [archaeologists] to distinguish the time period in which many of the recovered opus sectile tiles were crafted and mathematically to reconstruct possible floor patterns. . . .

A key characteristic of Herodian tiles is their size, which is based on the Roman foot, 11.6 inches. In the floor patterns, each tile was surrounded by tiles of contrasting colors. Dark tiles were frequently made from bituminous chalk quarried locally just northwest of the Dead Sea, around Nebi Musa. Some of the contrasting light-colored tiles were made from local limestone and calcite-alabaster, while others were made of imported alabaster, africano, breccia coralline, breccia di Aleppo, breccia di Settebasi, giallo antico, pavonazzetto, and portasanta from Greece, Asia Minor, Tunisia, and Egypt.

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Archaeology, Herod, History & Ideas, Josephus, Second Temple

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