The Ancient History of the Talmud’s Version of Instant, Long-Distance Communication

Sept. 1 2020

According to the talmudic tractate of Rosh Hashanah, in the evening after the Jerusalem authorities announced the beginning of a new month, messengers would stand on the Mount of Olives and wave a large torch until they could see their counterparts doing the same on another mountain. The message would be spread in this manner from one mountain to another, “until the entire face of the Diaspora looked like a bonfire.” Thus, without the benefit of modern technology, announcements about the calendar could by conveyed quickly from the Land of Israel to Babylonia. Tiffany Earley-Spadoni explains this practice’s long pedigree:

[The 5th-century BCE Greek historian] Herodotus famously related splendors of the Persian world, including its road system. . . . A system of fire-beacon-signaling stations was [one] wonder of the Persian highway—a claim that is supported by [material] evidence at Anatolian archaeological sites.

A remarkable text, sometimes called “The Eighth Campaign,” describes a military expedition conducted by the Neo-Assyrian king Sargon II in 714 BCE. According to this lengthy literary text framed as a letter, the Assyrian army set out from modern-day Iraq . . . and entered territories in modern-day Iran, . . . where it confronted one of the Assyrians’ most bitter enemies, the Urartian empire. The text . . . relates an altogether cinematic sequence akin to the lighting of the beacons in the 2003 film Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In advance of the arrival of the Assyrian troops, the Urartians illuminated the clustered mountain peaks like stars in the sky with their myriad beacon fires, presumably to warn their compatriots of imminent danger.

Archaeological investigations have revealed traces of the elaborate systems of fire beacons described in the Assyrian text. Fire-signaling platforms have been observed by archaeologists working in the region, and a computational analysis of fortress sites, identified in survey by German and Italian archaeological teams, suggest the fortresses were intentionally placed to create signaling networks.

Read more at Ancient Near East Today

More about: Ancient Persia, Archaeology, Assyria, Israel and the Diaspora, Talmud

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy