The Forgotten Shavuot Rebellion

The holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost), which marks the start of the wheat harvest and, according to tradition, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, begins on Thursday night. In 4 BCE, it was the occasion of a Judean revolt against Rome, brought about by the death of the Roman client King Herod a few weeks earlier. Martin Goodman, in a brief examination of Second Temple-era sources about the festival, tells the story:

Crowds who gathered to mark [Herod’s] passing were treated to a feast to mark the end of the seven days of mourning by Archelaus, the son finally designated as his heir, but they took advantage of a mass assembly in the Temple to pour out their grievances, demanding lighter taxes, the release of prisoners put in chains by Herod over many years, and the replacement of the high priest appointed by Herod shortly before his death. . . .

Despite the chaos, Archelaus traveled to Rome to seek confirmation from Augustus but on arrival found himself faced with extensive opposition. As he was delayed in the imperial city, Judaea erupted in unrest, which reached a peak on Shavuot. . . .

Following this incident, Judea rapidly melted into chaos, with violent uprisings all over the country. Rome expected the governor of Syria to intervene when there was serious trouble in Judaea. Publius Quinctilius Varus, the current governor of Syria, accordingly marched south from Antioch with a large army, and he savagely suppressed the uprisings around the kingdom.

Goodman also details how Shavuot was celebrated by an Egyptian-Jewish sect known as the Therapeutae, who welcomed the holiday with a vegetarian feast and then stayed up all night singing hymns and listening to their leaders expound Scripture—a custom strikingly similar to the all-night Shavuot study sessions that originated in the 16th and 17th centuries.


More about: Ancient Israel, ancient Judaism, Ancient Rome, Jewish holidays, Shavuot

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy