An Ancient Coin Dedicated to “the Freedom of Israel”

Feb. 13 2019

Last week, two Israeli hikers came across an ancient coin, apparently exposed by recent winter rains. Realizing its likely historical value, they handed it over to the archaeologist Zvika Tzuk, who in turn showed it to his colleague Danny Syon. Tzuk and Syon identified the coin as one minted by followers of the Jewish rebel Shimon Bar Kokhba during the brief period when they managed to liberate parts of Palestine from Roman rule. Michael Bachner writes:

Despite the fact that the coin hadn’t yet undergone professional cleaning yet, Syon succeeded in deciphering the images and inscriptions on the rare coin, determining that it dates back to 133 or 134 CE.

One side of the coin had an image of a palm tree with seven branches and two clusters of grapes above the name “Shimon”—Bar Kokhba’s first name—in ancient Hebrew. The reverse side of the coin had a vine leaf with a twig and around it an inscription meaning “the second year of the freedom of Israel.” Coins of this type were minted during the Bar Kokhba revolt from 132 to 135 CE, during which time Jewish rebels managed to regain some autonomy from Rome. The “second year” is either the year 133 or the year 134 CE. . . .

“The road near where the coin was found connects a number of communities with hiding places from the days of Bar Kokhba,” said Tzuk. “It is possible that one of the residents or fighters who moved from one community to another lost the coin, which waited 1,885 years until it was found.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Simon bar Kokhba

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat