For Ancient Jews, Graffiti Could Be an Expression of Religious Devotion

June 12 2019

Reviewing a recent book about graffiti that appear to have been written by Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman Near East, Jillian Stinchcomb writes:

“Good luck with your resurrection!” So a passerby wrote in the grave complex at [the ancient Galilean town of] Beit She’arim, in fairly messy—although still legible—Greek in the ceiling and entryway wall of a catacomb. This somewhat cheeky greeting is one among many charming, intimate moments Karen Stern catalogues in her 2018 monograph, Writing on the Wall: Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity. . . .

Stern . . . contrasts the modern expectation that graffiti are inherently illicit with evidence from the ancient world that suggests graffiti were often anticipated and unexceptional, albeit lacking official sanction. . . . Jewish graffiti follow certain patterns, particularly clustering around doorways, as seen in the evidence from the synagogue from Dura Europos [in what is now Syria, which dates back at least to the 3rd century CE, and is one of the oldest ever discovered]. Stern argues that this type of graffiti should be seen as a visual and physical form of prayer, which was performed not only in synagogues but in and near outdoor, non-Jewish sanctuaries, showing heterogeneity in the worship practices of Jewish populations. . . .

Stern [also] argues that the evidence shows “some ancient Jews and their neighbors commonly . . . visited and elaborated [upon] the interiors of cemeteries after they had completed activities of burial and interment.” [Additionally, the book] looks at Jewish graffiti in public spaces, such as the theater or a marketplace, which show everyday Jews interacting with and moving through a Christian or pagan world.

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Read more at Ancient Jew Review

More about: ancient Judaism, Ancient Near East, Archaeology

Don’t Expect the Jerusalem Summit to Drive a Wedge between Russia and Iran

June 14 2019

Later this month, an unprecedented meeting will take place in Jerusalem among the top national-security officials of the U.S., Israel, and Russia to discuss the situation in Syria. Moscow is likely to seek financial aid for the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country, or at the very least an easing of sanctions on Bashar al-Assad. Washington and Jerusalem are likely to pressure the Russian government to reduce the presence of Iranian forces and Iran-backed militias in Syria, or at the very least to keep them away from the Israeli border. But to Anna Borshchevskaya, any promises made by Vladimir Putin’s representatives are not to be trusted:

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war