Kibbutzniks Are Fighting to Preserve a 2,000-Year-Old Ritual Bath

Over the past century, Israeli archaeologists have discovered several ritual baths, or mikva’ot, from the Second Temple period and the subsequent centuries—important testimony to the antiquity and continuity of Jewish ritual. When one such ancient mikveh was recently discovered in the Lower Galilee near Kibbutz Hannaton, archaeologists expected to document it and then allow it to be covered up by the highway now under construction. But some of the locals objected, as Rossella Tercatin writes:

[S]ome Hannaton residents are hoping to be able to transfer the whole structure to the kibbutz and to create a small archaeological park around it. The mission especially resonated with them also because Hannaton is already home to a very special ritual bath, the only one in Israel that is open to anyone . . . regardless of religion, sex, or age.

Archaeologists could date the mikveh to the Second Temple period thanks to the grey plaster coating the pool and the width of the staircase leading into it. [They believe] that the area was then [used either for the cultivation of] olive trees or for vineyards, producing the high-quality oil or wine used in the Temple. For this reason, the ritual bath could have been used by the farmers, who needed to immerse themselves regularly in order to avoid making their produce impure. Similar cases are discussed in the Mishnah, the foundational text of rabbinic Judaism, which would be compiled in the nearby city of Tzippori (Sepphoris) some 200 years later.

[The] two archaeologists carrying out the excavation which uncovered the ancient ritual bath are Israeli Arabs—one Christian, one Muslim.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Israeli society, Kibbutz movement, Mikveh

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security