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

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

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy