A New Discovery May Solve a Mystery about Israel in the 7th Century BCE

March 25 2019

In 701 BCE—according to both the Bible and other ancient sources—the Assyrian king Sennacherib invaded the kingdom of Judah and laid waste to dozens of cities. Among these, it appears, was Beit Shemesh, which archaeologists long assumed was subsequently abandoned. But, in the course of a salvage excavation in preparation for the construction of a new highway through the modern city of Beit Shemesh, the archaeologist Yehuda Govrin has uncovered a vast ruin dating to the 7th century BCE, lying to the east of the ruins of the fortified ancient city. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

There has been a roadway in this area—where several ancient routes and borders meet—for some 3,000 years. Excavations have revealed human settlement on the archaeological mound since the late Bronze Age. . . . Many of the great characters of the Hebrew Bible also passed through Beit Shemesh, literally the House of the Sun. . . .

Govrin managed to uncover some fifteen olive presses and over 200 “royal” jug handles labeled “for the king.” In addition to thought-provoking artifacts, the excavation offered impressive structures, including what Govrin considers a large administrative center. For Govrin, it was evidence of a large-scale olive oil industry in an area—and era—that was [thought] to be vacant.

Until recently, said Govrin, a research fellow at Hebrew Union College, archaeologists tended to look only at strategic high points for [evidence of] settlement, not the harder-to-defend lowlands. He hypothesized that following the Assyrians’ campaign, fortification was perhaps no longer necessary (or allowed). The Judeans could therefore settle in a more hospitable area, closer to the plaster-covered water cisterns his large team . . . had unearthed.

In discovering the unexpected industrial zone and dozens of houses on the relatively small strip of land, “we solved the central mystery of why it was that we didn’t have evidence of the 7th century” BCE — because archaeologists had searched in the wrong places. “Not only did they settle, but there was a massive settlement,” said Govrin.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Assyria, Hezekiah, History & Ideas

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations