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.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

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

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy