Sunday, 26 October 2014

20 years ago: Israel and Jordan sign peace treaty

On October 26, 1994, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordanian Prime Minister Abdel Salam Majali signed a peace treaty in a desert area of Wadi Araba on the Israeli-Jordanian border. U.S. President Bill Clinton was one of more than 4,500 guests at the ceremony; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat were among the absentees (Mr. Mubarak wasn't on friendly terms with Jordan, and Mr. Arafat wasn't invited). See also here and here. On October 27, Mr. Clinton went to Syria and met with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, hoping to promote progress in peace talks between Syria and Israel.

On October 28, 1974, 20 year earlier almost to the day, a conference in Rabat, Morocco of the heads of state of 20 Arab nations, including King Hussein of Jordan, unanimously called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state "on any Palestinian land that is liberated" from Israeli occupation. The Arab leaders also recognized Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." The next day, during the final moments of the conference, the nations agreed on a four-year, multi-billion-dollar program to aid the PLO, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan--the three countries bordering on Israel--with funds to be provided by the Arab oil-producing countries.

On October 26, 2004, 10 years to the day after the signing of the peace treaty with Jordan, the Israeli Knesset voted 67-25 in favour of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal to remove settlements and soldiers from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank.

Israeli archaeologists discover stone inscribed to Roman Emperor Hadrian, providing evidence of events leading to Bar Kokhba revolt in 2nd century

As reported by Israel Antiquities Authority, October 21, 2014:

A Rare 2,000 Year Old Commemorative Inscription Dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian was Uncovered in Jerusalem (October 2014)

According to Dr. Rina Avner, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is an extraordinary find of enormous historical importance”

All of the information regarding the inscription will be presented in a conference open to the public on “Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Surroundings”, to be held this Thursday (23/10) on the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

A rare find of tremendous historical significance was discovered in Jerusalem: a fragment of a stone engraved with an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman emperor Hadrian. Researchers believe this is among the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem.

During the past year the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted salvage excavations in several areas north of Damascus Gate. In one of those areas a stone fragment bearing an official Latin inscription from the Roman period was discovered. According to Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “We found the inscription incorporated in secondary use around the opening of a deep cistern. In antiquity, as today, it was customary to recycle building materials and the official inscription was evidently removed from its original location and integrated in a floor for the practical purpose of building the cistern. Furthermore, in order to fit it with the capstone, the bottom part of the inscription was sawed round.”

Upon finding the inscription it was immediately clear to the excavators that they had uncovered an especially significant discovery, as indicated by the size and clarity of the letters.

The inscriptions, consisting of six lines of Latin text engraved on hard limestone, was read and translated by Avner Ecker and Hannah Cotton of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The English translation of the inscription is as follows: (1st hand)To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis (2nd hand) Antoniniana.
According to Ecker and Cotton, “This inscription was dedicated by Legio X Fretensis to the emperor Hadrian in the year 129/130 CE.” Their analysis shows that the fragment of the inscription revealed by the IAA archaeologists is none other than the right half of a complete inscription, the other part of which was discovered nearby in the late nineteenth century and was published by the pre-eminent French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau. That stone is currently on display in the courtyard of Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum.

Only a small number of ancient official Latin inscriptions have been discovered in archaeological excavations throughout the country and in Jerusalem in particular, and there is no doubt that this is one of the most important of them. The significance of the inscription stems from the fact that it specifically mentions the name and titles of Hadrian who was an extremely prominent emperor, as well as a clear date. The latter is a significant and tangible confirmation of the historical account regarding the presence of the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem during the period between the two revolts, and possibly even the location of the legion’s military camp in the city, and of one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt several years later and the establishment of ‘Aelia Capitolina’. Even after 2,000 years the inscription is in an impressive state of preservation. Once the excavation findings are published the inscription will be conserved and put on display for the public.

The events of the Bar Kokhba revolt are ascribed to the reign of the emperor Hadrian. He is remembered in Jewish history for having issued dictates imposing the persecution and forced conversions of Jews, which the sources referred to as the ‘Hadrianic decrees’.

The history of the Bar Kokhba revolt is known from, among other things, the works of the contemporary Roman historian Cassius Dio, who also mentions Hadrian’s visit to Jerusalem in the year 129/130 CE, within the framework of the emperor’s travels in the eastern empire. These travels are also documented on coins issued in honor of the occasion and in inscriptions specifically engraved prior to his arrival in different cities. This is apparently exactly what happened in Jerusalem.

The completion of the two parts of the text reveals an especially large inscription that is quite impressive. According to Dr. Abner, “The inscription itself might have set in the top of a free-standing triumphal arch on the city’s northern boundary such the Arch of Titus in Rome.”

The fate of Jerusalem following the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) and prior to the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 AD) is one of the major issues in the history of the city and in terms of the Jewish people's connection to it.

We know from ancient writers and the inscriptions on coins that the new city, which Hadrian established, was granted the status of ‘colonia’ (that is, a city whose citizens and gods are Roman) and its name was changed to Aelia Capitolina (COLONIA AELIA CAPITOLINA in Latin). That name incorporates within it the emperor’s name that is in the inscription, whose full name is Publius Aelius Hadrianus, and Rome’s main family of dieties.

There is no doubt that the discovery of this inscription will contribute greatly to the long-standing question about the reasons that led to the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt: were the reasons for the rebellion the construction of Aelia Capitolina and the establishment of the pagan temple on the site of the Jewish Temple.

Israel Antiquities Authority and Rockefeller Archaeological Museum collections are now available online

As reported by Israel Antiquities Authority, September 2014 (link in original):

In its continued efforts to share and make accessible to people around the world the archaeological treasures of the Land of Israel, the IAA created the National Treasures Online website: which offers a selection of thousands of objects from the collections of the National Treasures, ranging from one million BP to the Ottoman period. The site, which currently has some 5,700 artifacts, is updated continuously, and new hi-resolution images of artifacts and information are added on a regular basis. The artifacts on the site are arranged both chronologically (according to archaeological periods) and typologically (according to the type of artifact). The artifact's information card presents detailed archaeological data about the selected artifact, including provenance, type, dimensions, material, site where discovered, dating and bibliography.

Recently, the Israel Antiquities Authority embarked on a major undertaking to make available through the internet, hi-resolution digital images of and information about the rare archaeological collections that are on display in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. This online project is another example of the IAA’s commitment to providing meaningful, unlimited and easy public access to the nation’s archaeological treasures. The project is made possible by a generous lead gift from Mr. David Rockefeller, son of John D. Rockefeller Jr. who established the museum, with additional support from Paul and Eileen Growald and Jonathan and Jeanette Rosen. This is the first time the entire collection on display of a museum in Israel is being photographed and made available online.

On January 13, 1938, The British Mandatory Government of Palestine opened The Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem. Known informally at the time as The Rockefeller Museum, because of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s gift of two million dollars to erect the building and house the collections properly, the museum continues to hold one of the most important collections of archaeological objects excavated in the Land of Israel during the early part of the Twentieth century. More than 5,000 artifacts are in the collection, managed by the Israel Museum, most of which were excavated during the British Mandatory period in the 1920’s and 1930’s at important sites such as the prehistoric caves in the Carmel Mountain, Jericho, Megiddo, Samaria, Beth Shean, Tel El-Ajjul, Khirbet El Mafjar, and Ovdat. The collection spans more than 1.5 million years, from prehistoric periods to the time of the Ottoman Empire.
Go here for the home page of the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum.