Two Rare Discoveries Are Evidence of the Original Return to Zion

In 586 BCE, Babylonia destroyed Jerusalem and sent most of its population into exile; 50 years later, Persia overran the Babylonian empire, and the Persian king, Cyrus the Great, allowed the exiled Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple. These events are narrated in the Hebrew Bible and attested by contemporaneous evidence, but the period between the Babylonian conquest and the fall of Persia to Alexander the Great around 333 BCE is, in the words of the Yiftaḥ Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “a black hole in archaeology.” But two items recently unearthed in Jerusalem may help to change that, writes Amanda Borschel-Dan:

The two recent discoveries in an ongoing excavation in the Givati parking lot—a clay “official” seal impression and a strange . . . pottery sherd seal with fake writing—help illuminate the enigma that is 6th-century-BCE Jerusalem history. There are only ten other similar artifacts discovered in Israel that date to the Persian period.

Whereas the seal impression is made in an official imperial style, perhaps depicting a god, the crude clay seal is locally made, presumably by an illiterate underling. Combined, said Shalev, the seal and seal impression illustrate all levels of officialdom in the reviving city. They indicate, he added, that after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews, Jerusalemites were rebuilding the city, including its bureaucracy, as told in the Bible.

The clay seal was made from an eight-centimeter in diameter reused potsherd. Shalev called it a “strange item” and said it appears that someone took a piece of a broken vessel and reused it, while carving into it “curved figures” that were made to look like letters. He called the pseudo-epigraphic seal “a very unique item” that appears to have been “very local” in its make, as opposed to the official Babylonian-style impression.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Persia, Babylon, Hebrew Bible, Jerusalem


Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority