The Buried Medieval Jewish Treasure of Colmar

July 23 2019

Currently in France, but until the 17th century belonging to the Holy Roman Empire, the territory known as Alsace lies in the center of the original heartland of Ashkenazi Jewry and includes some of Europe’s oldest Jewish communities. A buried Jewish treasure found in the Alsatian town of Colmar and dating to the early 14th century is now on display in the Cloisters museum in upper Manhattan. Diane Cole writes in her review of the exhibit:

In 1863, workmen at a Colmar confectionary shop situated on a street once called “Rue des Juifs” (Street of the Jews) chipped a hole into a mortared wall, reached inside, and pulled out a terracotta pot filled with a collection of precious jewels, rings, a colorful brooch, decorative buttons and belt buckles, a miniature silver key, coins, and other objects.

A major clue to the original owners’ being Jewish is the most exquisite artifact in the cache: a gold Jewish ceremonial ring topped with a miniature rendition of the lost Temple in Jerusalem. An engraved Hebrew inscription reads mazal tov.

Sleuths should also seek out another object that points to the cache having once belonged to a Jewish family: a tiny silver key [comparable] to a delicate “Tiffany” key, to be worn as . . . a small accessory. . . . Jewish observance prohibits carrying money and valuables beyond the household on the Sabbath, [while] wearing jewelry is allowed. The key would have been used to lock up the box, which would have been kept at home. With important objects thus safeguarded, the wearer of the key could feel comfortable going outside on the Sabbath, whether to synagogue or to visit members of the community.

In the mid-14th century, the Black Death swept through Europe, provoking murderous pogroms and expulsions of Jews. Most likely, writes Cole, the owner of the treasure hid the cache to protect it from plunder, and never returned.

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Read more at Jewish Week

More about: Ashkenazi Jewry, French Jewry, Jewish art, Sabbath

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy