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].

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Read more at Times of Israel

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

 

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia