Restoring the Roman Basilica in Ashkelon National Park

The Ashkelon basilica, a large public building that is believed to have been built during Herod’s rule in the 1st century BCE, was destroyed in an earthquake in 350 CE. Its approximately 50 marble columns, each weighing over seven tons, were later sawed up and used as building supplies. As Judith Sudilovsky reports, conservationists have painstakingly collected the remaining marble material from the original structure and put the pieces together “like a puzzle.” The project of excavation and restoration, which began over a century ago, is scheduled to conclude within the next year.

Excavations of the site were first carried out between 1920 and 1922 by the Palestine Exploration Fund based in London under the direction of John Garstang and, in addition to the pillars, also uncovered five large marble statues. After completing his excavation, Garstang decided to establish an open-air museum in the apse area to exhibit the main marbles and statues.

Over the years the museum fell into disrepair and by 2008, the walls of the open-air museum were collapsing, and the statues were in poor condition. The statues were removed for conservation.

During the years 2016 to 2021, the main hall of the basilica and its northern part were excavated by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, under the direction of Rachel Bar-Nathan with Saar Ganor and Federico Kobrin. “Now, one hundred years after they were excavated, (the columns and statues) are being returned to their place,” said the park manager Ronit Rozen.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Herod

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7