How Plague, Climate Change, and Economic Collapse Destroyed the Negev’s Booming Winemaking Industry

Nowadays, most Israeli wine is produced in the northern areas of the country, but in the first centuries of the Common Era the Negev desert was famous for its viticulture. By the 7th century, however, this ceased to be the case. Archaeologists and paleobotanists examining seeds found in ancient Negev trash dumps believe they have discovered why, writes Amanda Borschel-Dan:

Byzantine-era texts laud the vinum Gazetum or “Gaza wine.” The sweet white wine, [produced in the Negev], was exported from the port of Gaza throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, usually in amphorae known as Gaza jars. The Gaza jars were found in large quantities in the Negev trash pits.

Contributing factors to the [decline of Negev wine production] included the Late Antique Little Ice Age, a bizarre widespread climate anomaly that began with a series of massive volcanic eruptions in the 530s and 540s CE, and the Justinian plague of 541-549.

Daniel Fuks, [the lead author of the recent study], believes that one of the main forces causing the decline [was] the decreasing demand for imported wine in a world beset by plague—conservative estimates figure some 20 percent of population centers were killed off—and resultant economic depression even while . . . still being heavily taxed by emperor Justinian.

The Negev settlements had . . . an export-based industry and became more and more reliant on markets. When demand dried up . . . these farther-flung locations would have been the first to be affected. Even if trade continued in Gaza, the Negev settlements are farther away from the port and would require a higher price for their products to make the journey worth the traders’ while.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Byzantine Empire, Climate Change, Economics, Negev, Plague

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University