An Ancient Depiction of a Nine-Branched Menorah Discovered in the Negev

While the menorah in the Jerusalem Temples, like that described in the book of Exodus, had seven branches, the menorah traditionally used for the holiday of Hanukkah has nine. The former type is one of the most common motifs of ancient Jewish art; the latter rarely appears at all. But during excavations of a Second Temple-era village near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, archaeologists have found a potsherd depicting a nine-branched candelabrum. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The site is dated to the 1st century CE and was settled until the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE; . . . underground hidden passageways discovered there may have been used by Jewish rebels. Unearthed on the southernmost border of [the Roman province of] Judea, . . . the site’s finds indicate a continuation of Jewish religious practice on the edges of the kingdom, such as ritual baths, stone vessels associated with the laws of purity, and an abundance of pottery and lamps decorated with typical Jewish themes such as grape leaves. Additional finds include olive and date pits and baking facilities. . . .

In addition to the site’s size and [the fact that it has been well preserved], the archaeologist Shira Bloch emphasized that its significance is also drawn from the clear evidence that despite being on the outskirts of the kingdom, the residents “kept their Judaism.” . .

The jewel of the excavation so far is the depiction of the nine-stemmed menorah. Bloch clarified that while it may be tempting to call it a “hanukkiah,” a menorah which has a total of nine flames that is used during the . . . holiday of Hanukkah, there is no evidence of holiday celebrations there at that time and therefore one cannot assign that purpose to the image.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Menorah, Second Temple

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law