Rededicating a Two-Thousand-Year-Old Synagogue in the Golan

On Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in the Golan village of Ein Keshatot to celebrate the completion of a fifteen-year project to restore the ancient synagogue there; it is now open to the public. Zachary Keyser writes:

The synagogue, with its ornately carved basalt Torah ark, was built in the 1st century CE but extensively renovated some 500 years later. The building, which collapsed in the catastrophic earthquake of 749 CE, measured almost 60 feet long by 43 feet wide, and is calculated to have been nearly 40 feet high. That impressive size made it one of the biggest of the 30 ancient synagogues discovered in the Golan Heights.

Several factors indicate the wealth of this Jewish village during the Byzantine era. The [nearby] springs supported a flax and textile industry, while the twin olive presses produced oil for export. The villagers’ wealth was displayed in their elaborate synagogue. . . .

Unlike other synagogues in the Golan which have an opening on the south oriented to Jerusalem, the door to the [this one] is set in the east wall. The opening is slightly asymmetric, and researchers assume the door was placed off-center to highlight the ark.

Among the archaeological findings was a cache of bronze and gold coins stored under the synagogue’s stone floor. Archaeologists used those coins to determine the synagogue was [renovated] during the reign of Justinian I, who ruled the Eastern Roman empire from 527 to 565 CE.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Archaeology, Benjamin Netanyahu, Golan Heights, History & Ideas, Synagogue

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood