A Rare First Temple-Era Weight Discovered Near the Temple Mount

Nov. 26 2018

A volunteer sifting ancient debris from the vicinity of the Temple Mount uncovered a small stone with the word beka—a measurement of weight equal to a half-shekel—inscribed on it in Hebrew. In First Temple times, such stones were used in scales to weigh precious metals. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The beka [was] used by pilgrims paying their half-shekel tax before ascending to the Temple Mount. . . . The word beka appears twice in the Torah: first as the weight of gold in a nose ring given to the matriarch Rebecca in the book of Genesis, and later in the book of Exodus as a weight for the donation brought by the Jewish people for the maintenance of the Temple and the census, as recorded in Exodus 38:26. . . .

The beka stone was discovered in dirt taken from 2013 excavations under Robinson’s Arch. According to Eli Shukron, [the director of the excavation], the earth came from a drainage canal under the foundation of the Western Wall.

During this era, unlike several hundred years later, there was no half-shekel coin. Pilgrims brought the equivalent weight, a beka, in silver to pay their tax, which would have been measured out on scales in the very spot under the Temple Mount where the tiny stone weight was unearthed.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, First Temple, History & Ideas

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform