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

Nov. 30 2021

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

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism