Celebrating Sukkot 2,000 Years Ago

Sept. 23 2021

Today, the holiday of Sukkot—a seven-day festival that began last Monday evening—is characterized primarily by building outdoor booths, or sukkot, and the ritual waving of palm fronds, myrtle and willow branches, and citrons. But prior to the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, it was also a time of mass pilgrimage to the Jerusalem Temple. Rossella Tercatin explains what archaeological and historical evidence have demonstrated about the practice:

The 1st-century CE Roman-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus says that millions of people took part in the pilgrimage, bringing tens of thousands of sacrifices to the Temple. The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria also speaks about the occasion in his work. The [pilgrims’] itinerary was designed in such a way that people would experience what [the archaeologist] Guy Stiebel described as a “wow effect,” similar to that felt by someone visiting a majestic cathedral.

“At the time of Herod, [circa 37-4 BCE], the Temple Mount was known as one of the biggest religious compounds in the Roman world,” he said.

Archaeological excavations have revealed the gate the pilgrims crossed [on their way into Jerusalem at the beginning of the first millennium]. “They would purify themselves in the Siloam Pool and then go straight up to the Temple Mount, through a stepped street which was previously believed to have been built at the time of King Herod,” Stiebel noted. “Now we know that the project was actually carried out under the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, [in the 20s or 30s CE].”

While no traces survive of the ancient booths those Jews probably built to celebrate the holiday, archaeology provides other important evidence of the centrality of the festival of Sukkot. . . . A palm tree bound with some leafy branches—likely the willows and the myrtle—and one or two citrus fruits appear on artifacts that were symbols of freedom and independence from the Romans [during the Jewish revolt of 66-70 CE].

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Josephus, Second Temple, Sukkot

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy