A Recently Excavated Structure Is Evidence of the Events Hanukkah Commemorates

Nov. 19 2021

Just two weeks before Hanukkah, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the discovery of a large Seleucid fortress that had been attacked by the Hasmonean priestly clan, who led the revolt against the Syrian-Greek empire that began in 167 BCE. Rossella Tercatin writes:

Some 2,100 years ago, the Hasmonean army was marching toward the Hellenistic city of Maresha in Israel’s Shephelah region, also known as the Judean foothills. Leading them was John Hyrcanus, a high priest and the ruler of Judea, a nephew of the Hanukkah hero Judah Maccabee, who a few decades earlier had led the victorious revolt against the Seleucids in the region. The Judean army was first spotted by Seleucid soldiers stationed in a fortress on a hill overlooking the city.

“Our theory is that the Seleucids blocked the entrance of the fortress and fled to the city as their enemies approached,” said the archaeologist Ahinoam Montagu. . . . “As the Hasmoneans reached the structure, they set it on fire.” The building, approximately 50 feet by 50 feet, featured seven rooms. Steps that are likely connected to a second floor are still visible and well preserved. Burnt beams offer dramatic insight into its last moments.

Among the artifacts were also a few well-preserved small jugs, often used to store expensive liquids—and possibly not so different from the little jug that according to the Jewish tradition was instrumental for the Hanukkah miracle, in which a small jug that contained pure olive oil kept on refilling itself to allow the menorah in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to be lit for eight days.

“The stories of the Maccabees are coming to life before our eyes,” . . . said the IAA general director, Eli Eskozido.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hanukkah, Hasmoneans

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform