The Babylonian Exile Might Not Have Been So Bad, After All

After destroying Jerusalem in 586 BCE, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar sent a large portion of the Judean population into exile in Mesopotamia. The Bible provides little detail about what life was like in this original Diaspora, but ancient cuneiform tablets provide a wealth of information, analyzed in full in a recent book titled Judeans in Babylonia. Tero Alstola writes in his review:

The majority of Judeans and other deportees were settled in the Babylonian countryside and given a plot of royal land to cultivate. In exchange, they had to pay taxes and perform work and military service. These people often lived in villages which were named after their geographic origin, the village of Yahudu—or “Judah”—being a prime example of this phenomenon. Some deportees found ways to benefit from the structures of local agriculture, and socioeconomic differences emerged over time. A number of Judeans were also settled in cities where they often worked as skilled professionals such as craftsmen, merchants, or officials. The state administration was open for people of foreign origin, partially because of the widespread use of Aramaic as a spoken and written language.

Deportees were not enslaved, and they could own property, engage in business activities, and travel at least locally. The practice of settling deportees in village communities according to their place of origin helped migrants to preserve their traditional culture in the countryside. Judean farmers had little interaction with the native population whereas the deportees living in cities met Babylonians on a regular basis. As a result, Judean farmers were less integrated into Babylonian society than their fellow deportees living in cities.

Why, then, does Psalm 137 say that the exiles “sat down and wept” and hung their harps upon the willows? Perhaps not because they suffered, but because they remembered Zion. Indeed, relatively benign conditions might have motivated them to feel it necessary to take oaths that they would not to forget Jerusalem.

Read more at Academy of Finland

More about: Babylonian Jewry, Exile, Hebrew Bible, Psalms

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security