1. The absence of Presence
The Romans are approaching. We wallow in callous pettiness. The city will fall soon.
There’s been a lot of talk in our community lately about this notion of “balance,” particularly around the question of whether Israel supporters should balance their support for Israel with empathy for the enemy.
Archaeologists digging just a few kilometers from the fishing village where Jesus is believed to have preached, have uncovered a monumental Roman-era synagogue with an exquisite, colorful mosaic floor with fine female faces.
The Rome Jewish community mourned the death of an Italian Muslim leader who was a key figure in promoting interfaith Jewish-Muslim relations.
Professor Yaron Z. Eliav, who recently spoke about Jews and statues at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, co-directs the multidisciplinary Statuary Project at the University of Michigan, which, among other endeavors, peruses classical Jewish texts for references to statues (there are at least 6,000 of them -- many appreciative of the figures' beauty and tolerant of female nudes).
The complaints may sound familiar: Jews were forgetting the ways of their forefathers. They could no longer read, write or speak Hebrew -- having turned to Greek instead. They were not observing the commandments, and could no longer say the prayers. The Sabbath was not being observed: Worse yet, young men were engaging in athletics on the Sabbath, throwing the discus or participating in wrestling competitions (the rabbis were particularly offended that wrestling was in the nude; but my guess is that the Jewish mothers weren't so crazy about all that fighting). There was even a reform movement led by rabbis, Jewish philosophers and Jews practicing new forms of Greek-leavened Judaism.
Masada, which represents a stronghold of Jewish courage and defiance, is among Israel's most visited sites. Located in the Judean Desert, adjacent to the Dead Sea, King Herod the Great built Masada 2,100 years ago as both his winter palace and a place where he would retreat in times of crisis.