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A Carved Stone Is Changing Scholars’ Conception of the Ancient Synagogue

Dec. 14 2015

Discovered in the ruins of a 1st-century synagogue in 2009, a large rock known as the Magdala stone is covered with elaborate carvings that seem to depict the Second Temple in great detail. In studying it, scholars are beginning to reconsider the formation and function of ancient synagogues. Isabel Kershner writes:

Experts have long believed that in the period before the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, synagogues were used as general places of assembly and learning. . . . The more formal conception of a synagogue as a sacred space reserved for religious ritual was thought to have developed later, . . . after the Temple had been destroyed.

But the Magdala stone was found in the center of [an] old synagogue, and [Rina] Talgam, [a scholar who has studied the stone extensively], said it might have been intended to give the space an aura of holiness “like a lesser temple” even while the Second Temple still existed. . . .

The Magdala stone is about the right size for laying down a Torah scroll, so it might [also] have been used as liturgical furniture.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Second Temple, Synagogue

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:

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Read more at New York Post

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