There Are No Cats in the Bible. Why?

At Passover seders, numerous Jewish families will be singing the Aramaic song Ḥad Gadya (“Only a Goat”), which includes the line, “Then came a cat and ate the goat that my father bought for two zuzim.” While the Hebrew Bible has numerous references to goats, it has none to cats—although the animal was certainly known to ancient Israelites. Joshua Schwartz examines the evidence:

Cats have been excavated in Jericho from as early as the pre-pottery Neolithic period (before 6000 BCE). At most, these ancient cats may have co-existed in some form with humans, although they were not yet domesticated.

To date, we have found no evidence that the Israelites kept cats in their houses. The scant archaeological evidence of cats in a domestic context from Bronze and Iron Age Israel shows no connection to the Israelites, and the Bible never mentions cats. This silence stands in contrast with the evidence from Egypt, where cats were dearly loved and often depicted in wall paintings and bronzes from the mid-second through late-first millennium BCE.

Schwartz then moves on to the Talmud:

The Persians who ruled talmudic Babylonia despised cats; they were considered khrafstra, noxious creatures, not much better than the vermin they destroyed. The talmudic traditions about cats suggest a slightly more mixed view of cats. The only talmudic tradition that directly praises cats is cited by the Palestinian sage Rabbi Yohanan (3rd century CE): “If the Torah had not been given, we could have learned modesty from the cat.”


More about: Animals, Hebrew Bible, Seder, Talmud


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict