Ancient Rome’s Jewish Catacombs

First discovered in the 17th century by the Maltese scholar Antonio Boso, the subterranean Jewish catacombs on the outskirts of Rome are some of the oldest monuments to the European Diaspora. Additional Jewish burial sites, not to mention many Christian ones, were also unearthed in the 19th century. Saul Jay Singer outlines their history:

Ancient Roman law prohibited burial within the city, so catacombs were established in the soft volcanic rock outside the city walls. These Roman catacombs, which feature about a half-million tombs interred in a complex underground network of narrow passageways and dark galleries, contain the largest body of archaeological evidence on the early Christian and Jewish communities of ancient Rome.

Intriguingly, [modern] radiocarbon dating suggests that Jewish catacombs may have preceded Christian catacombs and that their use may have actually been of Jewish origin, as Jewish immigrants from the Middle East brought their traditional burial practices to Rome and influenced the Romans to abandon their customary cremation funerary practices. Indeed, according to Leonard Rutgers, an archaeologist for Utrecht University and an expert in Roman Jewish catacombs, radiocarbon analysis by atomic-mass spectroscopy shows that Jewish catacombs predate their Christian counterparts by at least a century.

An unsolved mystery, however, is where Jews—who are known to have been living in Rome at least as early as the 1st century BCE—buried their dead before the initial construction of the Jewish catacombs around the late-1st to 3rd centuries CE.

Read more at Jewish Press

More about: ancient Judaism, Ancient Rome, Jewish cemeteries

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship