The Biblical “Unicorns” of Israel’s Deserts

Dec. 11 2019

The Bible makes frequent mention of a horned animal called a r’em, often invoked as symbol of might or majesty. Following the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, which render the word as monoceros and unicornis, respectively, the King James Bible translates it as “unicorn.” Other translations include wild ox, buffalo, and rhinoceros, but there is reason to think that the r’em is in fact an oryx, found in Israel’s deserts since ancient times. Amit Naor speculates that this beast may be the inspiration for legends of unicorns, and certainly for the reports of unicorn sightings in the Land of Israel:

The oryx is a type of large antelope; there are several different species of oryx living around Africa and the Middle East. The kind found in Israel and the surrounding countries is the white or Arabian oryx, its coat mostly white, with two long, straight horns on its head.

Wait a minute—two horns? . . . Bear with me.

[I]n one of the first [printed] books containing an account of a journey to the Holy Land, composed by the German traveler Bernhard von Breydenbach around 1485, we find an illustration of various animals he spotted during his travels. Breydenbach traveled from Venice to Jaffa, making his way to Jerusalem before later heading south to the Sinai desert. The illustration shows a number of exotic animals including a camel, a crocodile, a goat, a salamander, and—a unicorn. Breydenbach wrote that he got a brief glimpse of one in the Sinai.

According to one theory, the oryx’s long, straight horns may appear as a single horn if the animal is viewed from the side. A viewer who is only able to get a quick glimpse from such an angle might mistake the oryx for a large horse with a single horn. . . . [A]nother theory suggests that the stories are based on oryxes who lost one of their horns at some point, as these protrusions never grow back.

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Read more at The Librarians

More about: Animals, Hebrew Bible, Land of Israel, Translation

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy