What Paleolithic Burial Sites Tell Us about Human Spirituality

Oct. 12 2015

After dismantling some recent attempts by scientists to explain the origins of religion, Russell Saltzman suggests a theory of his own:

The role of death in religious or spiritual awareness is an element not entirely overlooked, but it is never accorded a primary role in the development of religion, beyond cryptic acknowledgment that the practice of burial may suggest the spiritualization of death. When our ancestors understood the finality of death, something got knocked loose in the lower-Paleolithic mind, something requiring a ritualization of grief. . . .

The first intentional burial of anatomically modern humans was found at the gates of Europe, in Israel at the Skhul and Qafzeh caves on Mount Carmel, [having taken place] roughly 100,000 years ago. Fifty thousand years on, human burials become more elaborate with the use of red ocher. By 40,000 years ago . . . burials were marked by more ocher, grave goods, [and] Venus figurines, all matched by compellingly complex cave art and swift technological developments.

And there is this: burial marks a felt loss, a sad wistful yearning never satisfied, something that must be expressed spiritually and addressed. This is a human need that arose 40,000 years ago, to voice our heartache and sorrow. But to whom may we finally, ultimately address it? Is there a prehistorical analogue to Martin Buber’s I and Thou? God speaks to humans in wrenching natural events, like death, as senseless then as today. Perhaps it is there, in that hammering grief universally shared, that God created a meeting ground for conversation with an early humanity, a revelation disclosing the ultimate Thou giving solace to my devastated I.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Archaeology, Death, Martin Buber, Prehistory, Religion & Holidays, Science

Iran’s Responsibility for West Bank Terror

On Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli police officer and was then shot by another officer after trying to grab his rifle. Commenting on the many similar instances of West Bank-based terror during the past several months, Amit Saar, a senior IDF intelligence officer, predicted that the violence will likely grow worse in the coming year. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the Islamic Republic’s role in fueling this wave of terrorism:

The escape of six terrorists from Gilboa prison in September 2021 was the catalyst for the establishment of new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank, according to senior Islamic Jihad officials. The initiative to establish new armed groups was undertaken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, implementing the strategy of Qassem Suleimani—the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Iraq by the U.S.—of using proxies to achieve the goals of expansion of the Iranian regime.

After arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Iran moved in the last year to support the new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank. Iran has been pouring money into the Islamic Jihad organization, which began to establish new armed groups under the name of “Battalions,” which also include terrorists from other organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. First, the “Jenin Battalion” was established in the city of Jenin, followed the “Nablus Battalion.”

Despite large-scale arrest operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad continues to form new terrorist groups, including the “Tulkarem Battalion,” the “Tubas Battalion,” and the “Balata Battalion” in the Balata refugee camp.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank