A Newly Discovered Inscription Sheds Light on an Ancient Negev City

Archaeologists excavating the ruins of an ancient city in southern Israel have found a Greek inscription with the city’s name, confirming that it is indeed Ḥalutsah—in Greek, Elusa. The Jewish Press reports:

The discovery of an inscription with the name of the ancient city in a site itself is a rare occurrence. . . . The name of the city of Elusa appears in a number of historical documents and contexts, including the Madaba mosaic map, the Nessana papyri, and [elsewhere]. However, this is the first time that the name of the city has been discovered in the site itself. The inscription mentions several Caesars of the tetrarchy, [a period when governance of the Roman empire was divided among four rulers], which date it to around 300 CE.

In addition, in the recent excavation season, a bathhouse and Byzantine church were uncovered. The 130-foot-long three-aisled church contained an eastward apse, whose vault was originally decorated with a glass mosaic. Its nave was decorated with marble. The bathhouse is a large, urban complex of which were revealed part of the furnace and caldarium (hot room). . . .

Elusa was founded toward the end of the 4th century BCE as an important station along the Incense Road, the ancient road between Petra, [in what is now Jordan], and Gaza. The city continued to develop, reaching its peak in the Byzantine period in the 4th-to-mid-6th centuries CE. In that period, it was inhabited by tens of thousands of inhabitants and was the only city in the Negev.

Read more at Jewish Press

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Negev

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem