A Hasmonean Coin and a Two-Millennia-Old Mikveh Point to a Lost Judean Village

Last month, Israeli archaeologists discovered some important artifacts in the town of Itamar in Samaria. The most important, a silver coin from era of the Hasmoneans—the priestly dynasty, established by Judah the Maccabee, who ruled an independent Judea from about 140 to 37 BCE. Efrat Forsher writes:

The coin was minted in the city of Tyre in modern-day Lebanon, . . . in the time of Seleucid king Demetrius II and the high priest John Hyrcanus.

The excavation has also revealed a Second Temple-era stone structure; a sealed cistern that had never been opened, which contained tools and vessels assessed to be some 2,000 years old, including cooking pots; as well as an olive press, a mikveh, and a bronze Roman coin minted in Nablus (Shechem) in the middle of the 3rd century CE. The coin is imprinted with an image of Mount Gerizim, [the site of ritual described in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua].

According to researchers, the finds indicate the former presence of a rural community that reached its peak between the end of the Second Temple and Roman periods.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hasmoneans, Mikveh


Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood