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.

Read more at Ancient Near East Today

More about: Ancient Near East, Babylonian Jewry

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