Exploring a Maccabean-Era Fortress

On a remote hilltop in the Judean desert stands a fortress from the 2nd century BCE known as Hyrcania. While its location has long been known, it until now has never been excavated. Uri Shapira writes:

“The archaeological significance of the site is tremendous. Unearthing the evidence, it’s something that overwhelms us” said Michal Haber, one of the archaeologists who led the excavations.

Hyrcania is mentioned in Josephus’ book Antiquities of the Jews as one of the three fortresses that queen Salome Alexandra, wife of Alexander Janneaus (the second Hasmonean king, who ruled the land during the 1st century BCE), refused to give up to the Pharisee party. Later, the site was associated with the famous king Herod the Great. It was known as the place where the Roman-appointed king of Judea imprisoned and tortured his rivals. The fortress is also linked to the copper scroll, one of the famous Dead Sea scrolls, which contains instructions about a mysterious treasure.

“We assume that the treasures which are mentioned in the scroll are the treasures of the Temple. The late archaeologist Hanan Eshel suggested that they are also treasures from the First Temple era,” [the excavation’s director], Oren Gutfeld, said.

[Taking] part in the digging is the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery, an organization that helps war veterans facing challenges in their life.

Read more at i24News

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hasmoneans, Herod


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7