What Became of the Treasures of the Second Temple?

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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict