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

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