An Ancient Torah Pointer Discovered in the Remains of a Vilna Synagogue

In the Lithuanian city of Vilnius—known to Jews as Vilna—archaeologists have been at work excavating the remains of the great synagogue, which was destroyed by successive Nazi and Soviet occupations. Like many East European synagogues, the 17th-century structure was part of a larger complex organized around a central courtyard that included smaller houses of prayer and other buildings. Cnaan Liphshiz describes the latest discovery:

One of the main findings . . . are two mikvahs, or ritual baths. . . . Additionally, the diggers have found a yad, a small metal object shaped like the palm of a hand with the index finger extended. The yad is moved along a Torah scroll to indicate which portion of the page is being [chanted]. The discovery this week follows the 2019 unearthing of the Tuscan baroque-style bimah, the synagogue’s central prayer platform.

The city of Vilnius intends to build a memorial to the historic synagogue on the site that will display its artifacts in time for the 700th birthday of the Lithuanian capital in 2023.

In the 1950s, Soviet authorities built a school on the ruins in order to prevent the synagogue or another Jewish cultural center from being rebuilt. The synagogue was built in 1630 on a site that had been used as a synagogue beginning in 1440.

Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: Archaeology, Lithuania, Synagogues, Vilna

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