The Cliffside Caves Used by Jewish Revolutionaries Fighting the Roman Empire

March 2 2020

In his account of the Judean revolt against Rome in the 1st century CE, the historian Josephus—who also served as a commander of Jewish forces—mentions nineteen Galilean villages that were fortified against the Romans. Archaeologists have identified four or five of them. Analyzing these excavations and others, Yinon Shivtiel concludes that the rebels used hundreds of both natural and artificially expanded caves in the region’s steep cliffs as hideouts and fortresses:

In the Galilee, hiding complexes have been discovered in dozens of well-known Jewish settlements from the Second Temple period, all within the boundaries of the Lower and Upper Galilee as described by Josephus. One of the key places where a hiding complex was discovered was in Yodfat (Jotapata), where . . . Josephus turned himself over to the Romans.

The archaeological finds in the hiding complexes resemble those found in the cliff shelters, supporting the view that these were also intended for sheltering against the Roman army. . . . In the preparation of these sites for hiding, the channels were hewn very narrowly and required crawling from room to room. The tunnels, with few entrances and exits, were designed for underground concealment for a limited period and offered the possibility of temporary escape. Seventy-four of these have been found in the Galilee. Hundreds more have been discovered in the Judean foothills, the Benjamin region, and southern Samaria. Nearly all are in close proximity to ancient Jewish settlements.

The distinctly [military] use of these hiding complexes necessitated the camouflage of entrances and exits, such as entry via cisterns. In many cases, the tunnels were hewn through or into ancient underground facilities like ritual baths, oil presses, storage pits, or cisterns, all part of the standard facilities of the Jewish population whether in the Galilee or in Judea.

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Read more at ASOR

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Archaeology, Josephus, Judean Revolt

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy