For the First Time, a Persian King’s Name Is Discovered on an Inscription in Israel

Editors’ Note:
On Friday, March 3, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that the potsherd described below did not, in fact, bear an authentic Persian-era inscription. Rather, it was a re-creation made last year for educational purposes, accidentally left at the archaeological site, and then misidentified by experts. More can be read about it here.

 

On Monday night and Tuesday, Jews around the world will read the book of Esther, which is set in the court of the Persian king Ahasuerus—identified by modern scholars with the monarch known in Greek as Xerxes. Just in time for the holiday, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced a timely finding. Melanie Lidman reports:

A hiker in Israel’s Judean lowlands region recently discovered a 2,500-year-old pottery shard inscribed with the name of the Persian king Darius the Great, the father of king Ahasuerus. It is the first discovery of an inscription bearing the name of Darius I anywhere in Israel. . . . The site of the find, the ancient city of Lachish, was a prosperous city and a major administrative hub 2,500 years ago. The inscription is believed to be a receipt for goods received or shipped.

The ostracon, a potsherd that was used as a writing surface, bears an Aramaic inscription that reads “Year 24 of Darius,” dating it to 498 BCE. Darius I reigned from 522–486 BCE, during which time the Persian Achaemenid empire grew rapidly to encompass a large swath of the ancient world. But no written evidence of Darius’s reign has ever been found in Israel, until now.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Persia, Archaeology, Esther

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem