Everyday Life by the Rivers of Babylon in the Era of Jeremiah and Ezekiel

June 23 2022

Thanks to the discovery of several cuneiform tablets, archaeologists have been able to reconstruct much about the experience of those Jews who were exiled to Babylonia after the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BCE. Tero Alstola writes:

An exceptional case of a well-off Judean family in an urban context are the descendants of Arih. They lived in the city of Sippar in the second half of the 6th century, working as royal merchants and trading with the Ebabbar temple. They sold gold to the temple, and because the metal had to be imported to Babylonia from far-flung regions, it is possible that members of the family also travelled themselves. Travelling merchants are an example of people who could have provided a communication channel between the Judean communities in Judah and Babylonia.

Most of the Judean deportees were settled in the Babylonian countryside around Nippur and integrated into the so-called land-for-service system. They got a plot of land to cultivate, and, in exchange, they had to pay taxes and perform work and military service. Under this scheme, new land was brought under systematic cultivation by dependent settlers who were closely controlled by the state, ensuring efficient extraction of taxes.

Judeans were only one of the many groups of deportees who were brought to the Nippur region and settled in villages according to their place of origin. The names given to these villages, such as Ashkelon, Hamath, and Yahudu—the village of Judah—attest to this phenomenon.

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Read more at Ancient Near East Today

More about: Ancient Near East, Babylonian Jewry

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion