Is the Rarest Artifact from King Solomon’s Temple Really a Forgery?

For many years, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has maintained that an ivory pomegranate with a Hebrew inscription is a forgery, while other scholars have insisted that it is an authentic relic of the First Temple. Hershel Shanks, founder and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), has long supported those who believe in its authenticity, but now he has his doubts. The argument, he explains, rests on a single Hebrew letter:

BAR convened a meeting of scholars at the Israel Museum to re-examine the pomegranate under a powerful microscope. The result was a disagreement. But those who regarded the inscription as a forgery failed to address the most powerful argument for its authenticity—the Hebrew letter heh—the engraving of which went into an ancient break [in the ivory]; this meant that the letter was there before the ancient break occurred. [Sorbonne paleographer André] Lemaire, who had not been asked to be on the IAA committee, but was invited to the Israel Museum meeting, relied especially on this heh.

Each side made its case in reports in the Israel Exploration Journal. Not only did the “forgery” side completely ignore the heh, but there was something else.

Read more at Biblical Archaeology Review

More about: Archaeology, First Temple, King Solomon


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy