Discovering a Biblical People

March 23 2022

At the end of this month, Yeshiva University’s Museum at the Center for Israel Studies will be unveiling an exhibit on the Samaritans, marking “the first time that important Samaritan artifacts preserved in museums and libraries worldwide—including paintings, manuscripts, priceless books, photography, ritual objects, and archaeological discoveries from Greece, Italy, and Israel—have been compiled.” JNS reports:

The Samaritans have been around for thousands of years, tracing their lineage to the “lost” northern tribes of Israel and living alongside Jews, Christians, and Muslims for centuries.

Yet this ancient group remains a mystery, which . . . an international team of scholars, historians, artists and Yeshiva University students have spent the last six years unraveling.

Central to the project is a documentary by the cultural historian and author Moshe Alafi called The Samaritans: A Biblical People, which will get its first public viewing at the launch event. A cookbook, called Samaritan Cookbook: A Culinary Odyssey from the Ancient Israelites to the Modern Mediterranean—the first-ever cookbook of Samaritan cuisine in English—will also be featured, along with a pop-up art exhibition created specifically for this project by the New York-based non-profit Jewish Art Salon.

Read more at JNS

More about: Archaeology, Samaritans

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount