Judaism’s Ancient Revolution

In the 2nd century BCE, after centuries of living in a province of one or another empire, Jews won themselves a powerful independent kingdom. In the ensuing period under the Maccabeans, Judaism, too, underwent a major internal change. According to most scholars, this is when such notions as the afterlife, the apocalypse, and martyrdom first appeared in Jewish writings, and also when the major sects of the first century CE—Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes—came into existence. Nor was that all, according to Philip Jenkins:

During the Second Temple period [516 BCE – 70 CE], we see a shift from a religion based wholly on the collective (people or family) to the individual. That meant at least some movement from the public sacrificial cult to more individual and even private forms of practice, in which people prayed, studied and meditated. Linked to that were new concepts of divine justice, of theodicy. In the new vision, God rewarded and punished individuals rather than collective groups, and punished individuals according to their own sins, not those of ancestors.

Read more at Patheos

More about: Afterlife, ancient Judaism, Eschatology, Jewish history, Maccabees, Pharisees


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy