Fabric from the Time of King David Stained with the Ancient World’s Most Precious Dye

In describing the vestments and curtains used in the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Hebrew Bible often mentions wool dyed purple using a rarefied pigment produced from the murex snail. Archaeologists recently confirmed that three textile scraps they found in the Timna Valley, near Israel’s southern tip, were colored with this particular dye. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The tiny, vibrantly colored Iron Age cloth pieces are the earliest evidence of this precious dye in the entire southern Levant and shed new light on the early Edomite kingdom and Israelite kingdoms 3,000 years ago—a period when the Bible details the conquering of the Edomites by King David.

Until now, the earliest textile evidence of the royal purple dye dated to at least 1,000 years later in the Roman period, when it was highly valued. [Tel Aviv University’s] Erez Ben-Yosef explained that Timna is first and foremost known for its copper, which was mined by residents of the ancient Land of Israel as early as the 5th millennium BCE, going all the way to the early Islamic period some 1,400 years ago. Even recently, he said, the nascent state of Israel had a small factory that produced copper there.

The dry climatic conditions at Timna, deep in the Arava desert, allow for the unusually good preservation of organic materials, similar to the much later Roman-era textile and leather finds discovered in the caves of the Judean desert and at Masada.

What is noteworthy in Timna, said Ben-Yosef, is that the “big story” is related to the early Iron Age. “We’re talking about the 11th to the 9th centuries BCE, and it is a very debated period in the history of the land”—the period of the rise of the biblical kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Davidic monarchy, Edomites, Temple

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security