The Drought That May Have Led to the Fall of a Jewish Kingdom in Arabia, and Paved the Way for Islam

June 20 2022

By analyzing stalagmites in a cave in northern Oman, a team of scientists have found evidence of a severe draught that struck the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula in the beginning of the 6th century CE. Reading the data they collected in the context of the historical record, they concluded that lack of rainfall contributed to the demise of the Jewish kingdom of Himyar that once dominated the region, thus creating a geopolitical vacuum that facilitated the rise of Islam. Ariel David writes:

The Himyarite kingdom was founded in the late 2nd century BCE in today’s Yemen. It gradually extended its control over most of southern Arabia by conquering neighboring states, including Saba (or Sheba), the ancient kingdom whose queen of biblical fame supposedly visited King Solomon. During the 4th century CE, the Himyarite elite abandoned its ancestral polytheistic beliefs and converted to Judaism, followed by an unknown percentage of the broader population.

The choice of Judaism as a state religion may have been a way to maintain neutrality among various rival regional powers: the Christians of the Byzantine empire and of the kingdom of Aksum in Ethiopia, as well as the Zoroastrians of the Persian empire. All these powers eyed the lucrative spice trade of Arabia that enriched Himyar and they eventually played a part in the kingdom’s demise.

Until the 6th century, Himyar managed to fend off foreign encroachment, but around 525 it suddenly fell to an invading Ethiopian force. . . . With Himyar definitely out of the geopolitical picture, the Byzantine and Persian empires were now free to vie for influence over southern Arabia and its rich trade in myrrh and frankincense. But very quickly these two powers would also cripple each other in a long and bloody conflict that lasted from 602 to 628.

With the economic turmoil and political fragmentation of the period it was only a matter of time until the tribes of Arabia united under a new leadership, which they ultimately found in the prophet Mohammad and his successors from the 620s onward.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ancient Near East, Arabia, Islam, Jewish history, Yemen

 

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform