When Jerusalem Stood between the Byzantine and Persian Empires

In the 6th century BCE, Cyrus the Great famously conquered the Land of Israel, making possible the rebuilding of the Second Temple. Less well known is the Persian conquest of Jerusalem from the Byzantine empire, more than a millennium later. The invading Persian armies were even joined by a Jewish force eager to help wrest the Holy Land from Christian control. A recent study of a large cache of Roman coins, known as solidi, discovered in Jerusalem’s Givati parking-lot excavation several years ago, has revealed some rare evidence of this episode. David Hendin writes:

There were 264 gold solidi [bearing] a portrait of Heraclius in the Givati hoard. Heraclius ruled the Eastern Roman [or Byzantine] empire from 610 to 641 CE. None of the coins are clipped, carry graffiti, or have any other significant signs of use. . . . The Givati hoard is singularly homogeneous, and [the Israeli scholar Gabriela] Bijovsky concludes that “during this time (608-615 CE), and especially after the capture of Antioch by the Persians in 611 and until 613, the presence of a Byzantine military garrison in Jerusalem could explain the operation of a temporary mint in order to pay the troops and to emphasize Byzantine sovereignty over the city.”

Archaeological remains associated with the Persian conquest are quite sparse in Jerusalem. The archaeologists believe that the Givati hoard is correctly identified as an “emergency” hoard that was “concealed during times of imminent danger, siege, or war. These hoards usually reflect the coinage in current circulation at the time of their deposition.”

Read more at Coin Week

More about: Ancient Persia, Archaeology, Byzantine Empire, Jerusalem, Jewish history

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy