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Ancient Israelite Craftsmen Were More Skilled Than Once Thought

Jan. 26 2018

The book of Kings describes King Solomon, who presumably lived in the early 9th century BCE, as having to import master craftsmen from the nearby kingdom of Tyre to help build the Temple and various royal buildings. Drawing on this story and on the lack of material evidence to the contrary, archaeologists have long assumed that the ancient Israelites were not especially advanced when it came to artisanship. A new discovery suggests otherwise, as Robin Ngo explains:

From the archaeological record, we see that the Canaanites living in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (ca. 2000–1500 BCE) in the southern Levant were master craftworkers in ivory, bronze, gold, and silver. At [the ancient city of] Hazor—which was “the head of all those [Canaanite] kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10) in the second millennium BCE—excavations directed by Yigael Yadin (in the 1950s and 1960s) and by Amnon Ben-Tor (from the 1990s to the present) uncovered magnificent basalt sculptures carved by the Canaanites, including statues, vessels, stelae, and altars.

In 2010, [a new group of] archaeologists at Tel Hazor discovered a basalt workshop dating to the 9th century BCE, when the Israelites occupied the site. The workshop is located on the northern part of the [site] just outside a large agricultural storeroom, but whether the two structures were related remains to be determined. The workshop contained unfinished basalt vessels, of which there were four main types that had also been popular in the second millennium BCE: plates/platters, pedestal bowls, tripod bowls, and bowls with out-turned walls. Additionally found in the workshop were remnants of the vessel production, including basalt chips, ash, iron chisels, flint tools, and basalt hammerstones. Was this Israelite craft tradition related to that of the Canaanites, the previous occupants of Tel Hazor until the city was burned, destroyed, and abandoned around 1300 BCE?

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, History & Ideas, King Solomon

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations