A Workshop for Making Stone Vessels Testifies to Ancient Jews’ Observance of Ritual Purity Laws

Digging in a cave in northern Israel known as Einot Amitai, archaeologists have discovered what appears to be 2,000-year-old stoneware factory. Robin Ngo comments on its significance:

“Stone vessels played an integral role in the daily religious lives of Jews during [the 1st century CE],” explained the archaeologist Yonatan Adler, a senior lecturer at Ariel University. “It was a Jewish ‘stone age’ of sorts.”

Adler and Dennis Mizzi [of] the University of Malta are co-directors of the excavation at Einot Amitai. . . . Located on the western slopes of Har Yonah near Nazareth, Einot Amitai features a massive cave hewn into a chalkstone hill. The archaeologists discovered in their inaugural excavation season this summer chalkstone vessels at different stages of production, suggesting that the cave functioned as a workshop.

While vessels—from tableware to cooking pots to storage jars—were usually made of clay in antiquity, Jews throughout Judea and Galilee in the 1st century CE used vessels made of stone.

According to the purity laws observed by Jews in ancient times, metal or clay vessels could become ritually contaminated, in which case they often had to be destroyed. Stone vessels, which couldn’t contract impurity, were therefore seen as advantageous—a fact noted in the New Testament:

The gospel of John alludes to the Jewish custom of using stone vessels: “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from 20 to 30 gallons.”

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Ancient Israel, ancient Judaism, Archaeology, New Testament

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security