Signs of Jewish Life, and Death, Discovered at the Ancient Capital of Rabbinic Scholarship

In an oft-retold talmudic story, Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, a leading rabbi at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction, negotiated with the soon-to-be-emperor of Rome, Vespasian, for the preservation of the village of Yavneh, along with its sages. Thus Yavneh, located about 15 miles south of Tel Aviv, became the center of rabbinic learning and the seat of the high rabbinic council known as the Sanhedrin for the next 60 years. Archaeologists have, for the first time, excavated a house from this era of the town’s history, writes Aaron Reich:

The findings of this excavation . . . indicate that the occupants of this home kept kosher and other Jewish purity laws. This was evidenced by the presence of “measuring cups,” vessels identified with Jews in the late Second Temple era that were used to retain ritual purity.

But another impressive find was found just 230 feet away: a cemetery dating back to the same period. On top of these tombs were over 150 glass phials.

The excavation directors add that, . . . “With all due caution, the historical records and archaeological finds raise the possibility that these are the tombs of the city’s Jewish community. If this hypothesis is correct, then at least some of the tombs, perhaps the most elaborate, may belong to the sages of Yavneh, contemporaries of Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabban Gamliel.”

The city of Yavneh has a rich Jewish history, and was a vital point in the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid empire in the story of Hanukkah.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Rabbi Akiva, Sanhedrin, Yohanan ben Zakkai

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion