Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Israel

Was One of Jerusalem’s Greatest Archaeological Mysteries Solved?

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Leen Ritmeyer reports:

Today the Israel Antiquities Authority announced:

A fascinating discovery recently uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Givati parking lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park, has apparently led to solving one of Jerusalem’s greatest archaeological mysteries: the question of the location of the Greek (Seleucid) Acra–the famous stronghold built by Antiochus IV in order to control Jerusalem and monitor activity in the Temple which was eventually liberated by the Hasmoneans from Greek rule…

Read on here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

November 3, 2015 at 18:24

Confused About Syria? Who’s Fighting and Why

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Tens of thousands are still fleeing this ancient part of the world.


Syria is a country of mountains, deserts and fertile plains, bordering Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. The country is largely populated by Sunni Muslims, but is also home to many other ethnic and religious groups: Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, and Circassians, Christians, Shiites, Alawites, Druze, Mandeans, Salafis, and Yazidis.

The war in Syria has killed over 250,000 people and displaced over 12 million. Just today, tens of thousands are reported to be fleeing Aleppo with just the clothes on their backs, due to a  government offensive on rebel-held areas south of the city.

Although it began as a civil war, it has become much more and divided much of the Middle East, drawing in the United States and Russia. To better understand how Syria arrived to where it is today, Vox put together this simple video.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 31, 2015 at 21:42

Ancient Winery Discovered in Central Israel Region During Storm

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Large 1,500-year-old winepress unearthed in area once known for wine production.

In the Jerusalem Post:

Israel antique winepress

A large, well-preserved 1,500-year-old winery has been exposed during a violent storm in the Sharon Plain region, located between the Mediterranean Sea and Samarian Hills, the Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

According to IAA archeologist Alla Nagorski, the discovery was made off the Eyal Interchange several weeks ago when flooding and hail disrupted an excavation at the site, where natural gas lines are scheduled to be embedded.

The northern part of the Sharon Plain is considered the most historical wine region in Israel, and is where the first roots of Israeli wine were planted in modern times.

When water was pumped from the site, Nagorski said the well-preserved winery was found. She described it as impressive and rare.

“It is evident that great thought was invested in the engineering and construction,” she said. “The wine press is huge – 3 meters in diameter and 2 meters deep, and could accommodate 20 cubic meters of wine.”

More here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 31, 2015 at 21:37

Why Are Palestinians Called Palestinians?

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Over at PaleoJudaica:

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Why Are Palestinians Called Palestinians? The Palestinians don’t see themselves as descendants of the Biblical invaders, but they are named for the Philistines just the same (Elon Gilad, Haaretz).

The word “Palestinian” derives from the Philistines, a people who were not indigenous to Canaan but who had gained control of the coastal plains of what are now Israel and Gaza for a time. According to ancient Egyptian records of the period, which is the first written mention of them, the Philistines reached the region in around the 12 century BCE, which the archaeological record seems to confirm.

Although it is likely that some Philistine blood runs through the veins of modern-day Palestinians (and through the Jews’), they are a different people with a different culture.

Where the Philistines originated is a matter of debate, as they left no written records, but there are two main theories, based mainly on signature pottery shards. The original theory was that the Philistines originated in the Aegean basin and belonged to the Mycenaean culture. A newer hypothesis is that they were members of the Hurrian culture and came from what is today southern Turkey and Syria.

In any case, given the current state of knowledge, it is impossible to determine the etymology of the Philistines’ name in their own language.

What we can discuss is how this word morphed into the name of an altogether different people thousands of years later.


And so he does, taking the development of the name up to the present. Good discussion. The origin of the name is a less complicated question than that of the genetic origin of the people who now call themselves “Palestinians.” Genetic testing is probably advanced enough these days to make some progress toward answering the latter question. Meanwhile, some years ago I posted some thoughts on the subject here (point 2).


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 30, 2015 at 13:04

Historical Horse Sense

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Palestinians have waged a long campaign to deny that Jews have any historical ties to Jerusalem and the the New York Times took up their cause recently.

More  here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 25, 2015 at 17:32

The Holy Land Is Expecting More Pilgrim Visits Than Ever

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No, havoc is not being wreaked in the Holy Land. Yes, you can come on pilgrimage. The Custody of the Holy Land is not ignoring the wave of violence that is taking place around the country. However, it calls pilgrims to try to understand what is truly happening in this Land.

The country remains safe and the pilgrimage paths have been unaffected by the current clashes…

More here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 13, 2015 at 21:27

Terror Attacks Escalate in Israel

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With violence against Jewish residents escalating quickly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled a diplomatic trip to Germany.

Some say this latest campaign of terror could signal a Third Intifada.


Haaretz has an update on the situation here.

Clean up after Jerusalem stabbing

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 9, 2015 at 08:58

Posted in Culture

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