An Ancient Pagan Waterspout Discovered in Northern Israel

In Tractate Avodah Zarah, the Talmud forbids drinking from water fountains decorated with graven images of deities. Archaeologists recently found just such a faucet near the ancient Galilean town of Tzippori, writes Amanda Borschel-Dan:

The [anthropomorphized] lion spout . . . measures 6 by 5 inches. Its gaping mouth leaves room for a pipe two centimeters in diameter, from which water would have splashed in a drinking fountain or bathhouse. It is formed from marble, likely imported from Turkey. . . . Ornately decorated drain spouts were usually formed into the images of animal heads or characters from mythology. They were in use from the Hellenistic era through the Roman and early Byzantine era as common architectural elements.

The archaeological site Tzippori, also known by its Greek name Sepphoris, is most known for its famous “Mona Lisa of the Galilee” mosaic. The Western Galilee city was a major home to a flourishing mixed pagan, Christian, and Jewish community during the 4th through 7th centuries CE. The settlement’s vast system of aqueducts and cisterns dates to the 1st and 2nd centuries and was in use until the 7th or 8th.

After the Jewish Revolt and destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, many sages moved north and by the 3rd century CE it was the seat of Rabbi Judah the Prince, where he began compiling the Mishnah.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Galilee, Paganism, Talmud


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount