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

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

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security