A Hasmonean-Era Village Discovered in Jerusalem

March 28 2019

In the centuries following the construction of the Second Temple in 516 BCE, Jerusalem remained a relatively small city. But after the Hasmoneans threw off their Greek rulers and reestablished an independent monarchy some 250 years later, their capital grew in size and importance—as is made evident by the discovery of an agricultural village in what is now an Arab neighborhood of the city. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

[A]rchaeologists discovered an impressive burial estate, an olive press, and many jar fragments, ritual baths, a water cistern, rock quarries, and a dovecote, all dating to circa 140-37 BCE. . . .

“Jerusalem under the Hasmoneans grew fivefold, from a relatively small area in the City of David with some 5,000 inhabitants to a population of 25-30,000 inhabitants,” writes [the Hebrew University historian Lee] Levine. Those inhabitants would have needed to be fed, and the recent excavation points to a large agricultural settlement that may have contributed food products to the nearby city. [In particular], the discovery of a luxurious, multi-generational burial chamber in the current excavation provides indications of a much larger settlement [than previously thought]. . . .

Among the more interesting architectural elements so far uncovered at the site is a large dovecote, where pigeons roosted. As was common for the Second Temple era, pigeons were bred as both a Temple offering and a food source: the bird and its eggs were eaten, while its excrement was used as fertilizer.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Archaeology, Hasmoneans, History & Ideas, Jerusalem

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy