It has been a very strange and difficult week this week, and I’ve been having doubts about posting a Good News friday installment. My father is currently sitting shiva for his sister who passed away on Monday. We had a family health crisis, and at this moment the funeral for Shimon Peres z”l is taking place.
And yet… Shabbat is still coming, the Shabbat which is a day of healing, when there is no mourning (my father will get up from the Shiva this afternoon and will resume the shiva after Shabbat), and when we should be happy.
So here is a slightly shorter than usual Good News Friday post to lift our spirits.
My first item is another incredible archeological discovery – a shrine from the First Temple period was uncovered in the Lachish region (via Zvi):
An important and unusual discovery was made in archaeological excavations that were carried out in the Tel Lachish National Park, an archaeological site located in the Shfela (lowland) region of Israel between Mount Hebron and the Mediterranean coast. The find is a gate-shrine from the First Temple period (eighth century BCE) in what archaeologists perceive as compelling evidence of King Hezekiah’s efforts to abolish idol worship there, as described in the Bible: “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles…” (II Kings 18:4).
… The northern part of the gate was uncovered decades ago, and the current excavation aims to expose the gate completely. The gate that emerged is the largest known from the First Temple period.
According to Sa’ar Ganor, excavation director on behalf of the IAA, “The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was a major city and the most important one after Jerusalem.” According to the biblical narrative, the city gate was where the city elders, judges, governors, kings and officials sat on their benches, as the core of civic life. “These benches were found in our excavation,” Ganor noted.
The Lachish city gate (73.5 × 73.5 ft.), which is now completely exposed and preserved to a height of 12 ft., consists of six chambers, three on either side, and the city’s main street that passed between them. Artifacts discovered in its rooms indicate how they were used in the eighth century BCE: in the first chamber were benches with armrests, at the foot of which were numerous finds including jars, a large number of scoops for loading grain and stamped jar handles that bear the name of the official or a lmlk (belonging to the king) seal impression. Two of the handles bear the seal impression lmlk hbrn (belonging to the king of Hebron). The word lmlk is written on one of the handles together with a depiction of a four-winged beetle (scarab), and another impression bears the name lnhm avadi, who was probably a senior official during the reign of King Hezekiah. It seems that these jars were related to the military and administrative preparations of the Kingdom of Judah in the war against Sennacherib, king of Assyria (705- 681 BCE).
There was another weird and wonderful discovery at the site – an ancient toilet!:
In order to further intensify the abolition of worship in the gate-shrine, a toilet was installed in the holy of holies as the ultimate desecration of that place. A stone fashioned in the shape of a chair with a hole in its center was found in the corner of the room. Stones of this type have been identified in archaeological research as toilets. Evidence of abolishing cultic locations by installing a toilet in them is known in the Bible, as illustrated in the case of Jehu destroying the cult of Baʽal in Samaria: “And they demolished the pillar of Baʽal, and demolished the house of Baʽal, and made it a latrine to this day.” (II Kings 10:27) This is the first time that an archaeological find confirms this phenomenon. Laboratory tests we conducted in the spot where the stone toilet was placed suggest it was never used. Hence, we can conclude that the placement of the toilet had been symbolic, after which the holy of holies was sealed until the site was destroyed.
It gives me shivers to see the Bible, and our own history, being brought to life in this way.
According to Shaul Goldstein, director-general of the Nature and Parks Authority, “Tel Lachish is one of the most quintessential places where one can get unequivocal proof of Israel’s hold on its land. The new visitor center will include the relief that was found in the private room of the King of Assyria which depicts our forefathers in their war and as they entered captivity that led to a life of exile that continues to this day. The altar from the time of King Hezekiah constitutes another sacred link to this important settlement.”
The gate at Tel Lachish was destroyed by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in 701 BCE. The excavation revealed destruction layers in the wake of that defeat, including arrowheads and sling stones, indicative of the hand-to-hand combat that took place in the city’s gatehouse. Evidence of Sennacherib’s military campaign in Judah is known from the archaeological record, the Bible (II Kings 18 and II Chronicles 32), and the Lachish wall reliefs from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh, depicting the story of the city’s conquest.
Kol hakavod to every one of the archeologists and historians involved in this extraordinary dig. Each discovery like this puts paid to the arguments that the Jews are not indigenous to Israel.
My next item is most definitely from today, possibly even a futuristic Messianic time. Who could have imagined that a peace conference in Yeshivat Otniel of all places, which is located in the heart of Samaria – not exactly a place where one would expect a peace conference to take place, and certainly not that a Muslim Sheikh, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sharif, would address the yeshiva students! The Sheikh asserts that “The road to peace goes through us. Not the UN”. And he is so right!
I’m not so sure about his invitation to join him with Allah, but his intentions are good and he comes in peace, and he is speaking to what would normally be considered his mortal enemies. So kol hakavod to Sheikh Ahmad al-Sharif, and kol hakavod to Otniel Yeshiva for acting “out of the box” and taking a step towards normalization with our neighbours. Halevai we should have many more neighbours like the Sheikh!
And speaking of peace, here is a message of love and peace from an outstanding supporter and lover of Israel. Chloe Valdary, who was a young student activist and now an aspiring journalist, has always been an outspoken and courageous defender of Israel. Now she has directed a beautiful video about the people she loves:
We love you too Chloe, we salute your courage and applaud your tireless devotion to the cause of Israel. May you go from strength to strength.
And now, on this last Shabbat of the year, before we head into Rosh Hashana on Sunday night, I pray that the coming week be a good one, and may the coming year bring only blessings.
I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.