The Cliffside Caves Used by Jewish Revolutionaries Fighting the Roman Empire

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.

Read more at ASOR

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

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship