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Susan Schnur

About Those Canaanite Shoes That Have Been In Your Closet For 2,000 Years

Walking the narrative of Zionism

In the 2nd century C.E., a widow named Bavta bat Simon, fleeing Roman persecution, hid in a cave in the Judean Desert. She brought a lot of stuff with her to this cave — letters, real estate documents, cosmetics — and when the trove was discovered, after almost 2000 years, by the renowned Israeli archeologist Yigael Yadin in 1960, one of Bavta’s belongings — a filthy humble sandal — became instantly famous. Comprised of a three-layer leather sole held together by a spare, between-the-toes strap, it found its way into the Holiest of Holies: that is, a glass display case in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, where it resides to this day. [See illustration.] It also embarked on a second career traveling the world in exhibitions. So much for careers that languish for only a decade.

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