A Rare 3rd-Century Synagogue, and Its Even Rarer Mosaic

In 2014, archaeologists discovered the ruins of a synagogue from the 3rd century CE in the ancient town of Majdulia. Located in the Golan Heights, Majdulia was founded in the 1st century CE, around the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, and was abandoned around 350. Further excavations have recently uncovered the remains of the colorful mosaics that once decorated the synagogue, as Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The rainbow tiles in the black basalt-stone synagogue shed light on a little-known but thriving Jewish community in the Land of Israel’s far north. . . . [Depicted on the tiles] are animal legs and other portions of intricate designs. The fact that no complete image remains may point to a deliberate dismantling of the decorations.

[T]he archaeologists see the lively decorations as pointing to a community that had its eye on transforming the more somber study hall typical of the early Roman period into an ornate public meeting hall.

“In the 3rd century CE, we see an interesting mix of the continuation of a tradition from Second Temple synagogues—for example the seating arrangement—and the tradition of a relatively unadorned architectural style, with the addition of some new elements that with time became common in synagogues, such as colorful mosaics including animals,” said Mechael Osband, [the excavation’s director].

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: ancient Judaism, Golan Heights, Jewish art, Synagogues

Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria