A Carving of a Lioness from an Ancient Synagogue Found in the Golan Heights

March 23 2023

On March 1, Mordechai Aviam, a professor of archaeology, took a group of students to the site of the ancient Jewish village of Ein Nashut in the Galilee. He expected that the excursion might turn up some minor ancient artifacts, but he was both surprised and pleased when two students found a 62-pound stone carving of a lioness nursing her young, which apparently had been part of Ein Nashut’s 5th-century synagogue. Melanie Lidman writes:

In previous expeditions, archaeologists discovered eight fragments of carvings of lions or lionesses at the site, but this was the largest and most complete specimen discovered recently. There is one complete lion carving from Ein Nashut, which was taken from the site while the area was still under Syrian control before 1967, Aviam said. It’s now housed in a museum in Katzrin. The current carving was found a bit down the hill from the synagogue, leading Aviam to believe that it had either rolled there or someone had tried to steal it and gave up because it was so heavy.

Similar carvings, especially of lions and eagles, are well-documented at synagogues in the area during the late Roman period in 200–300 CE, and continued during the Byzantine period through 500 CE. . . . Lions roamed freely across Israel until the 13th century, alongside a number of large predators. “During a pilgrimage from the Galilee to Jerusalem, which took a week, Jews would have crossed forests and possibly met bears, hyenas, and lions and leopards,” explained Aviam.

Decorative stone carvings were more common at synagogues than churches during the Byzantine era, but lions also appeared in church decorations, usually as part of mosaic floors. However, Jewish communities were much more likely to use lion symbolism than their Christian counterparts, Aviam said.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Golan Heights, Jewish art, Synagogues

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan