Unearthing a Building Incinerated during the Babylonian Siege of Jerusalem

Last week, Jews the world over commemorated the destruction of the First Temple, in 586 BCE, and the Second, in 70 CE. The same week, archaeologists published a study explaining how, using new scientific techniques, they determined that an ancient building was burned to the ground during the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, which resulted in the first of those destructions. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The charred building’s remains, dubbed “Building 100” by the researchers, underwent a variety of analyses to understand how the fire had started and how it had progressed through the structure. While researchers can only make an educated guess that the building was burned during the siege of Jerusalem, the intense damage caused to the massive structure supports their hypothesis. Building 100 was once a large two-story home belonging to a member of Jerusalem’s elite; however, it was lost to time until it was discovered under a parking lot in the southeastern part of the ancient city.

The researchers searched the building for an ignition point, which would allow them to trace the spread of the fire through the building. They did this by measuring the magnetic signatures of pottery shards and broken floor panels. Through this line of study, the researchers uncovered that the fire had started on the top floor of the building, as the bottom floor had rooms that the fire had not reached.

“The widespread presence of charred remains suggests a deliberate destruction by fire, which was ignited at several locations in the top and bottom floors, with heat rising to burn the ceiling of the bottom floor,” the archaeologists explained. “The spread of the fire and the rapid collapse of the building indicate that the destroyers invested great efforts to demolish the building completely and take it out of use.”

The researchers suggest it was highly likely that this building was targeted in an arson as a punitive measure for disobedience, which was common in the 30-month siege of the city.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, First Temple, Jerusalem

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy