What Became of the Treasures of the Second Temple?

April 3 2019

According to an eight-century-old rumor, which persists in some Jewish circles today despite the lack of evidence to support it, sacred items from the Second Temple lie in the vaults of the Vatican. The ancient historian Josephus recounts that the golden menorah, the table of the showbread, and other ritual objects were indeed transported to Rome after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, paraded through its streets in a triumphal procession—depicted famously in the Arch of Titus—and then placed in the recently built Temple of Peace. In the last post of a five-part series, Carl Rasmussen explores what happened to them next:

[I]n 192 CE the Temple of Peace [in Rome] was burned down. [The historian Clyde] Billington argues that “the [Jerusalem] Temple menorah and the other ‘treasures of the Jews’ were rescued and placed in the royal palace where, according to the Byzantine historian Procopius, they remained until the mid-5th century CE.” . . . In 445 CE . . . the Vandals conquered and looted the city of Rome and [took these treasures] to their capital city of Carthage in North Africa. Procopius of Caesarea also describes how . . . the Byzantine general Belisarius conquered Carthage in 534 CE. . . . [Then] the Temple treasures were brought to Constantinople [and] placed, for a time, in the newly built Nea Church [in Jerusalem], dedicated in 543 CE.

Some of the remains of the Nea Church have been excavated and are located in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem—but much is covered by the Jewish Quarter parking lot. . . .

At that point, the story becomes very complex because of the Persian invasion and capture of Jerusalem in 614 CE. It is complex partially because the Jews initially assisted the Persians, and may have gained possession of the objects then, but soon thereafter the Persians sided with the Christians. And eventually the Byzantine ruler Heraclius captured Jerusalem in 630 and treated the Jewish population harshly.

Read more at Holy Land Photos

More about: Ancient Rome, Archaeology, Jerusalem, Josephus, Second Temple

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia