How Broad Is a Handbreadth? Archaeologists May Have Found an Answer

One of the main practices of the holiday of Sukkot, which begins at sundown tonight, is dwelling in a sukkah, or booth. Naturally, rabbinic tradition sets forth numerous prescriptions for how a sukkah must be constructed, including minimum and maximum dimensions, for which the unit is a tefaḥ, or handbreadth. In the past century, various rabbinic authorities have argued for conversions from this and other biblical and talmudic measurements into modern units. Some ancient jars may settle this question once and for all:

[T]hree Israeli archaeologists . . . found an astonishing common denominator among storage jars in Israel over a period of 350 years—the inner-rim diameter of the jar’s neck was almost identical. The distribution of this diameter is consistent with measurements of the palm of a male hand and, according to the three, this match is not coincidental. It appears to reflect the use of the original metrics for the biblical measurement of the tefaḥ, a unit of measurement that was used primarily by ancient Israelites and appears frequently in the Bible and is the basis for many Jewish laws.

The team did three-dimensional scans of 307 Iron Age jars found in Khirbet Qeiyafa from the time of the Judaean kingdom in the early 10 century BCE, “hippo” jars found in northern Israel from . . . the 9th century BCE, and royal Judean storage jars from the 8th and 7th centuries BCE.

The researchers observed large variations between the jars-even those from the same time period and geographic region. Only one measurement remained constant—the averaged inner-rim diameter which always measured, with a standard deviation, between 8.85 and 8.97 centimeters [about 3.5 inches]. The distribution of this diameter is statistically identical to the handbreadth of modern man.

Read more at Israel Today

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Halakhah, Hebrew Bible, Sukkot

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security