An Ancient Curse from a Lost Jewish Community

Sometime in the 5th or early 6th century BCE—that is, after the destruction of the First Temple—a group of Jews settled on the Island of Elephantine, located on the Upper Nile in southern Egypt. They seem to have had their own temple, and, although they remained faithful to the God of the Hebrew Bible, revered a number of pagan deities alongside Him. (Their story also inspired Cynthia Ozick’s latest novel.) A curse inscribed on a clay tablet by these Jews helps shed light on a period of Jewish history about which very little is known. Nathan Steinmeyer writes:

Dated by its script to the 5th century BCE, the tablet consists of twelve words, including a reference to the God’s temple and one of the common epithets of Israel’s God, “the lion.” . . . It was a curse tablet, very similar to curse texts that would become common a few centuries later in the Hellenistic period. These texts, which were typically written as curses against thieves, were left inside temples as a way of transferring the stolen property to the deity and thus turning the thief into a temple robber and liable to the wrath of the deity.

The curse text also reveals new details of how the Jewish God was worshiped differently on Elephantine.

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Ancient Egypt, ancient Judaism, Archaeology

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