The 9th of Av 3830. A day of desolation. The cooling bodies, of those who were not already long dead of starvation, filling every street, sometimes piled as many as four or five high, were so numerous that the dying did not even have their own place to fall and tumbled into a grave made up of other people. For three days, without rest or seemingly any pause, the Romans had murdered. Peace would come only for lack of more victims. There were sobs of the fallen and those whimpering and forlorn whom the Romans could not even be bothered to kill; these sounds were accompanied by the gasps of pain of the dying and their final passing gave rise to a brief note of peace.
As the days passed the initial frenzy of the Romans’ fury had passed until the massacres started to have all the gusto of a bored scribe or clerk. Their arms wearied from chopping down defenceless pilgrims: old men, the women and children, as by the end of the day, the scribe tires of holding his reed pen. Lazily but with implacable determination and resignation to a now tedious task the murders continued. All around was the sound of sudden screams which reached his ears and now the Romans hacked with a lack of discrimination so as to almost appear disinterested in their work.
None had been spared, the killing continued long after all had been assumed already killed. Those who had come to Jerusalem in celebration only months before had been only celebrating an early and bloody death.
The amount of blood issuing from the holy Temple was not to be believed, heaps of bodies seemed strewn like empty wine-skins while their blood carpeted the white marbles stones all the way down to the bottom of the sanctuary steps. The number of bodies grew deeper into the Temple and the most bodies were found carelessly clustered around the altar and piety had neither protected them nor prevented the Legionary’s arm.
The peak of chaos, lawless anarchy, disobedience and blasphemy and been reached and had manifested as Roman swords. With the mass death and the destruction of the city, the series of ritualised obscenities and dark satires which had been performed in the city in the name of its defence and that of the Jewish people, had come to a close and the curtain had come down on this fateful and awful chapter.
These are the stories they told but now none are alive who remember the day we lost our temple and lost our city: Great and Holy Jerusalem. How anyone lived to tell this tale cannot be known except perhaps the Romans didn’t quite find everyone’s hiding place, yet for those that hid and survived: to live to see such sights it might have been better to die.
There had been a million people crammed into the city, the children of Israel had come from every nation from among the cursed impious empire of the gentiles to their home in the world. All had come to the Great and Holy city of Jerusalem five months earlier to celebrate the Passover; by the 10th of Nissan there were a million Jews in the city. Some upon arriving had told of their presentiments, of fevered dreams and hearing voices in the darkness telling them not to come to Jerusalem for Jerusalem would be their bloody tomb.
But they had come all the same telling themselves it was the voice of the accuser, the one who runs to and fro throughout the earth trying to catch those who will not obey Hashem. For as Isaiah, may his memory be a shield to us, said “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Besides we had our great leader, appointed it seemed by God from the priestly line of Levites, the people of the first-tithe, the same line which gave our people Moses, Aaron Ezra and Malachi: Yohana ben Levi.
He who with the devil’s own deceit had tricked the Romans at the gate of Gash Halav and asked Titus not to displease the Gods by despoiling the Sabbath. Titus agreed to defer their entering the city to the next day by which time the wily Yohana had escaped, a ruse worthy of Jacob himself. He returned to Jerusalem and gave us courage and hope that the Romans could be defeated and reminded us of the strength of our numerous great walls which the Romans would dash themselves against while we harassed them with a thousand furious projectiles and poured fire upon them. Even with wings, he said, they would never be able to fly over the walls of Jerusalem, seeing how hard pressed they had been in taking the little towns in Galilee, how much mightier was Jerusalem? He reminded us how we had defeated the great Thunderbolt legion not once but twice and taken their sacred standard as easily as taking a blind man’s purse. The poor simple people ate up his poison like mana.
So they would not let their fears deter them and besides we were still celebrating our great victory four years earlier which had liberated Jerusalem from the control of the Gentiles when we destroyed the Twelfth Legion and captured their golden eagle. They are so foolish and credulous as children that such things mean a great deal to them and they were said to have spent thirty years trying to find the three gold eagles they had lost to the heathen of Germania who cooked the Romans they captured in pots and ate their flesh and did strange heathen magic with their bones.
But even so, on the road, the black smoke on the distant horizon and rumours of three or even four Roman legions again on the march. Still they were not to be deterred and it was not forgotten how Yahana had lied about the leader of the Jerusalem government, Hanan the High Priest and betrayed his trust. Yahana had wanted to negotiate with the Zealots and had sent John to be his ambassador but Yahana told the Zealots that Hanan meant to execute them and also claimed he had sent ambassadors to the Romans for help in taking the city back from the Zealots. The Zealots felt imperilled due to Yahana’s trickery and in desperation sent messengers to the Edomites who arrived 20,000 strong demanding to be let into the city.
Hanan refused, distrusting their motives and not wanting to radically destabilise the stalemate they had reached, for he and his party and the common folk of Jerusalem wanted peace with Rome and wanted no part of this war. So at night Eleazar son of Simon, the leader of the Zealots had the Edomites surreptitiously let into the city where they, with mock outrage at being kept out and with calls for ‘liberty’ and accusing the rulers of being traitors, massacred the high-priest Hanan and the whole moderate government of Jerusalem and anyone else who was identified as being a ‘moderate’. Thousands were dead when they had finished. Only afterwards did the Edomites learn how they had been tricked, and they left the city in repentance at the bloodshed they had been lured into performing.
It was clear now what kind of man Yahana was and though he had many supporters and 6,000 armed men at his command the populace knew that he would lead Jerusalem to its own destruction so they called on the bandit and brutal leader of a great force Shimon the Strong to depose him. Shimon arrived in Jerusalem with a mighty army of 15,000 men and was heralded by the people as a saviour of the city and of being the long-awaited Messiah, even though he was an Edomite and not even of Israel. During his rule Shimon had coins minted bearing his name and the messianic legend: Redemption of Zion.
Almost immediately he started executing people in the name of safeguarding public safety including the High Priest Matthias son of Boethus whom he murdered only after murdering his own three sons before his own eyes. Thousands more perished under Shimon’s messianic rule.
Now Jerusalem had become fully ruled by bandits who daily committed murders against those they suspected of being in league with the Romans or of being in league with any of the other two factions which opposed them. Their leaders, among them the Messiah of Israel: Shimon the Strong, were the very worst of humanity; men who tortured, raped and did not spare women and children in their murderous excesses. In fact, the Messiah of Israel himself had led a force of raiding bandits that had murdered more than 700 women and children in the nearby town of En Gedd prior to their triumphant arrival in Jerusalem.
The common-people were nervous but they had to believe that God would protect them, for it was the Passover and they were his chosen people. If it wasn’t the fear of God that guarded them it was the fear of their Messiah. Then the clouds had come. A day time darkness had covered us from the sight of God and a terrible stillness came upon the air where even words spoken to our loved ones seemed to hang in the air and whither. It was a heavy spirit which had come, some avenging angel had come to punish God’s children for their waywardness: perhaps for the murder of the high-priest and perhaps for the presence of the faithless band of assassins who now occupied the holy precincts of the Temple.
The Romans arrived and with Jerusalem filled with the million pilgrims, we were sealed in while the fury of the savage Gentile beast harangued our great walls. But how could they conquer? We had so many walls. Walls within walls. Our fortifications were built by the Romans themselves and the great Herod had brought in the Empire’s finest craftsmen to make the city impregnable and we knew the secret ways out of the city and through the walls into the country beyond and could sneak out at night to get the hidden food supplies to feed to great city’s many hungry mouths.
After two weeks they had breached the third wall near Jaffa’s gate, then they took the second wall. Then Titus’ legions themselves started building a wall and we wondered at it: some jested that the Romans were on our side and were helping us to defend the great city out of sheer admiration for its beauty. Jerusalem had won their hearts they said. Then with a sickness they realised the wall was a wall for us: to keep us trapped. We saw that we wouldn’t be able to leave to go into the country for food.
Then fear came amongst the people as quick and unassailable as water; it ran through every street like a stream and trickled into every hovel and found its way seeping into the hearts of every man woman and child in the city. Almost immediately food became short. It was said that the Zealots in the Temple were destroying the grain supplies for the city in order to induce the people to fight all the harder.
People began to go hungry and with hunger they started to speak of surrendering to the Romans. God answered the fears and prayers of the Jewish people as the Romans sent the worthy Josephus to negotiate with Jerusalem. The people clamoured to reach Shimon the Strong, now ruling most of the city as King of Jerusalem, and begged him to surrender but he was outraged at the suggestion and threated to kill anyone who dared to speak of it and Shimon’s men fired arrows at Josephus and wounded one of the Roman negotiators driving them and the last chance of peace away.
Then the hunger became intense when what little food the city had had, was exhausted. The three warring factions had been more intent on fighting each other than fighting the Romans and had also been destroying each group’s food supply as a means of forcing them to come to terms. With no-one being able to enter the city for months starvation began in earnest with people reduced to eating shoe leather and whatever grasses and weeds could still be found. One in particular, to the everlasting shame of the children of Israel, Mary daughter of Eleazar had bought themselves survival at the abhorrent price of eating her own child.
Yahana had had some success in undermining the Romans' fortifications and siege engines by building tunnels beneath then setting fire to the tunnels so that they engines collapsed into the pit but by doing so he had also undermined the walls of the Antoine tower, the Romans had removed only four choice stones from the tower and at night, it fell. It was at this point the finally the three fighting factions united their efforts to repel the Romans but too late.
Nobody quite knows how the fire in the Temple precincts started. The Romans for their part had had no inclination of destroying the Temple, so it is said at least, since it was largely a Roman building and could be repurposed to any God they chose. Some blame the Zealots and a stray firebrand intended for the Romans accidently ignited a fire in the Temple. The Romans then seeing a fire had started thought to add to it and thereupon started to encourage the Temple’s destruction as a means of demoralising the inhabitants and achieving a quicker victory also Titus may have known that the next day was Tisha B’Av: when the great Temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians and he wanted to ensure that this dread day would also see the fall of the second Temple and the fall of Jerusalem itself in blood and fire.
Those that were not killed immediately, possibly more though Roman boredom than benevolence, were in the stark minority. Any survivors who were found to be old or armed men were immediately killed. Any able-bodied men that were found were enslaved and became gladiators or were made to work on the extensive Roman building projects under terrible conditions back in Rome. Children were spared only to be sold as slaves.
The Romans now busied themselves in completely razing Jerusalem to the ground to make a corpse of the city as they had done to her people. Even the foundations and caves were brought up, perhaps reproachful that they had served to hide the Jews from their rage. What Jews remained now throughout the country and abroad were forbidden to ever return to what remained of the city under pain of death.
And the line of Jacob slept in the bosom of the earth. A crushed defeated people now without a Temple and no mother city and forced to pay Fiscus Judaicus or Jew tax in an effort to encourage the people to abandon their religion since it only applied to those who practised the religion of Judaism but not to ethnic Jews.
But the promise of Jacob lived on. Prior to the fall of the city Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakki, may the memory of his righteousness and holiness be a blessing for the life of the world to come, the first tana to be called Rabbi in the Mishnah, had arranged his escape from the city inside a coffin. He spoke with the then military commander Vespasian and Yohanan correctly predicted that Vespasian would soon become Emperor and that the Temple would shortly be destroyed. For this he was rewarded with his wish to create a Jewish Rabbinical academy at Yavneh. The school became a focal point for the reestablishment of the Sanhedrin after the destruction of Jerusalem and the absence of the Temple and the atonement sacrifices; from the council grew the future of Jewish identity: Rabbinical Judaism.
The years passed and Jerusalem was now home only to the tenth legion and Christians. But from their base in Yavneh the great council of the Sanhedrin planned. The years passed before the Jewish people found their strength again but when that time came, the world would tremble. Within two generations of the loss of a million Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem the Jewish Rabbinical Academy at Yavneh had managed to create a covert network of agents spreading all throughout the Roman Empire unknown and unsuspected by any except the Jews themselves who were now totally sworn to protect and fight for their people at any cost and they waited for their moment to strike.
In 3875 the Roman armies moved East to fight the Persians leaving only small garrisons behind them. This was the moment.
The Jews rose up as one man and slaughtered the Roman garrisons and massacred the inhabitants of cities of Libya, Cyprus, Egypt, Anatolia and as far East as Seleucia and Arbela in Babylon. By the end of the rebellion the lives of half a million Roman citizens had been taken in revenge for the crimes of the Romans. We burned their temples as they had burned ours and we pulled down their idolatrous statues of the demon Gods housed in their shrines. Their bath-houses, nests of un-righteousness we burned and slaughtered those we found fat, naked and debauched within.
They pursued some of the men to the city of Lod and besieged the city and foully executed those heroes of the line of Jacob wishing to bring justice to the Roman people. But our part remained undetected and we rejoiced over our victory and the terror we had riven into the heart of the Roman world at the invincible unconquerable Jew and we planned our next move.
And it was not long in coming. In the year 3890 Emperor Hadrian visited Judea and ordered the construction of a new Roman City for Roman citizens and Christians on the grave of Jerusalem and gave this new city a heathen name: Aelia Capitolina and it was to have a new temple dedicated to the heathen Ba’al Tzedek and Jews were only to be allowed to enter to commemorate the loss of their two temples on Tish B’Av. Hadrian’s intention was to remind the Jews of the triumph of the Romans by giving them only a glimpse each year of what was once their great city.
In a series of deliberately targeted insults at the Jewish people Hadrian trod on a bees’ nest he didn’t even know had been growing under his feet for so long. He came to our land proudly with his sodomy slave: Antinous. He also ploughed up the foundations of our temple recalling with pain to us the words of the prophet Micah:
“Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed up like a field, and Jerusalem will become heaps of rubble, and the Temple Mount like a forest high place.”
Two years later 3892 Emperor Hadrian made a law forbidding circumcision in the whole empire under pain of death and the bees nest became busy but none but those who knew it was there could see the furious activity underground, in the very caves and holes in the earth we met and we planned.
As time grew on the new city took shape and the insults continued, with pagan shrines and sanctuaries right on top of the ruins of our old holy places. A statue of the sodomite Emperor was put in the place of the Holy of Holies and a monstrous statue of a pig was erected before the northern gate. This was said to be a symbol of the Tenth Legion who were stationed here to keep the children of Israel out but the insult was intentional and not in the least incidental. But it was perfect. It gave us the excuse which we had been waiting for to put all our work into practice. And soon they would encounter our Messiah and his hand would be on the neck of our enemies.
The council of Pharisees of the Sanhedrin had been very busy and had found the star of Jacob at long last, or at least, they had made him. Long incubated in the Holy Law at Yavneh and trained in the ruthless guerrilla tactics what used to be called the Sicarii assassins, now rehabilitated from their old ways of banditry to be the key leaders of Jewish terror and political violence throughout the Roman world. This man was at once Messiah, redeemer, leader and trained killer; expert at all forms of torture with a particular personal preference for cutting off the hands and then cauterising the wound with fire to cause maximum pain and absolute delirium in his victims. Their screams and shrieks of agony always brought the hint of a smile to the edges of his lips.
The messiah was ready, it only needed the right provocation to unleash the full force of the hidden snap of the Jewish people, coiled like sleeping serpents for so long. The greater the forbearance the greater the rage once patience is exhausted, and the Rabbis at Yavneh knew that soon, the surprise was coming, and they smiled when they passed the Romans and saluted them in the Roman tongue, for they knew that a sword hung over their very necks which was about to fall and they could afford to be gracious to the dead.
And then one day the Romans, quite by accident despite their previous deliberate provocations, gifted us with the ultimate outrage. While they were making a foundation by the western wall they broke through to the subterranean tomb of Solomon and caused its collapse. It was as if Solomon himself had been struck by the Romans, their profanity and supreme arrogance not content with destroying the Jews but now reaching back in time to affront the kings and prophets themselves. Every Jew felt this and as one body we flushed red with pain and surprise yet in this act, provoking a king of peace, the fury of King David was roused and with just one word from Yavneh the thousands of waiting guerrillas holed up in their caves and subterranean hiding places, pounced upon the Romans the whole breadth of Judea. As one man, ambushes everywhere, the Romans literally at times killed in their garrison barracks half asleep and then when the cry of consternation and alarm was raised in the towns and cities the red hand of Israel slank back into their holes, like bears with a fresh carcass, to enjoy their kill.
Our greatest Tana, Rabbi Akiva, may his memory be a blessing and may Hashem avenge his blood, as president of the rabbinical academy of Yavneh, declared that the leader of the rebellion: Shimon Ben Kosevah was the Messiah and named him Shimon Ben Kochba, Shimon of the star and said that he had come down to Earth from heaven:
“..there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel...” Not everyone agreed with Rabbi Akiva that Shimon was the Messiah of the children of Israel. It was said that the man was of Edomite ancestry and certainly not of the royal Davidic bloodline.
Nevertheless, the Romans reeled, with hundreds brutally murdered in the first day of the rebellion, and then, as they were nursing their wounds and mustering their forces the guerrillas struck again, this time choosing different garrisons and waylaying small detachments of Legionaries with surprise and ambush tactics. And it didn’t stop until Jerusalem was cut off from reinforcements and the Messiah took the city slaughtering the 10th Legion like the pigs they were so proud of and throwing their unclean bodies into the burning valley of the wicked; those that did not fall that day fled and the city was reconquered by her children led by their Messiah.
Shimon had coins minted declaring himself ‘Prince of Jerusalem’ which celebrated year 1 of the liberation of the holy city along with a star representing Shimon as the Messiah and the Ark of Covenant found and placed back in the Temple.
Shimon had appealed to the Christians to join in the uprising, since the Christians had grown into quite a force all throughout the empire but particularly in Judea which they considered the home of their faith. But they could not be prevailed upon to fight for they said they were peaceful and that their Rabbi had told them that they must love their enemies and not resist evil but turn the other cheek. Shimon mocked them greatly for this but when he saw that they remained firm he grew angry. He found that not one of those called Christians would help them against the Romans therefore he went out and started to round them up from the villages he controlled and ordered them to renounce the False Messiah and blasphemer unless they wished to share his fate. They protested that they were Jews as well and were followers of the law of Moses and the Patriarchs and the prophets but he now had the rage inside him and bid them deny the false messiah who died on a tree because the time of the real messiah was upon them and all should unite under his banner. He would be the ‘ruler of Israel’ foretold by Isaiah, the False Messiah ruled over nothing. One Christian argued with Shimon and said that he ruled over Israel and would do so for eternity, since he was the redeemer and shepherd of the children of Israel, and that his throne is a heavenly, not an Earthly one.
Shimon laughed and ordered him to be put to death for blasphemy. He signalled two men to come and take him away. The Christian saw that he was dealing with an implacable man and resigned himself to his fate:
“The Lord Jesus will speak for me in heaven. Who will speak for you?”
At that, Shimon considered for a minute and shouted after the men leading away the Christian.
“Hold there men! I’ve changed my mind about this Christian,” he looked long and hard at the Christian. Then spoke, “Torture him first, then kill him.”
They took the man away who shouted out: “They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.” And at that moment a cloud passed in front of the sun and also a cloud seemed to settle on the hearts of some of the men there as they thought about the words of Jeremiah and how Jerusalem now was in ruin without inhabitant as the prophet had foretold and the destroyer of nations, Rome, who will soon set out from his nation again and will meet Israel in war, and it was hard not to have a moment’s doubt.
Almost as if to dispel the cloud Shimon shouted to those around him in bravado:
“And that goes for all those who follow the False Prophet and will not help Israel in her time of need. All those of the so-called party of Christians who will not fight will be tortured and killed. Let us see if that is enough to dissuade them from following their dead magician.”
But strange to say it did not dissuade them. The piety and faith of the Christians was a strange almost unnatural thing to us in those times and we wondered sometimes whether they were either madmen and perhaps should be dealt with as such, with sympathy and medical treatment, but when we encountered them in the markets of Judea and Galilee there was no madness in them that could be discerned, but a strange and disconcerting serenity which was almost contagious and we had to draw back from them and harden our hearts for fear they would make us in league with their idolatry.
But they were now in terror and that Shimon had brought the same contempt for them as for the Romans and they fled for any cliff cave or subterranean hiding place which was not already occupied by Jewish guerrillas.
Our greatest Tana Rabbi Akiva was taken by the Romans for publicly teaching the holy Torah and never seen again until a couple of years later when the Romans presented his body for burial boasting of their cruelty saying that they were surprised how dedicated he had been to his silly Jewish religion for the sake of all the tortures he had borne including having the skin from his body torn with hot iron combs.
The Romans also murdered eight members of the Great Sanhedrin, the holiest Jewish council, torturing these great and holy men with unspeakable tortures which only a mind forged in hell would think to inflict on another human being. Rabbi Ishmael had the skin slowly removed from his head and Rabbi Hanania was burned at the stake, a Torah scroll was wrapped around him and stuffed with wet-wool so that his agonies endured for the whole day and into the night and all heard or heard the tale of his screams.
Shimon bar Yochai, the most fervent and devoted disciple of his teacher, while initially supportive of the rebellion against the Romans, with the death of his mentor now spoke ominously and although he didn’t raise his voice or sow discord, since he saw this thing must now run its course for good or ill, he wondered if the Romans should finally crush the revolt what would be left of the children of Israel and how they would ever be able to rebuild themselves. He would disappear for long periods of time when he was said to dwell in caves and some even said in desperation to help improve the fortunes of Israel, he resorted to performing strange rites and imploring spirits which appeared to have strange and unholy names.
Hope however, still reigned abundant and at the report of the first Roman casualties the children of Israel in the distant lands had hearkened to the call which had gone out even before the rebellion had started, and now they surged back homeward, hopeful of finally retaking the land their great grandfathers had been exiled from and now they the children of those exiles were coming back in triumph to avenge them. The number of Jews in the countryside surged and the number of armed roving bands swelled in force and the sound of unusual and exotic dialects was heard all throughout the land as the great spreading tree of the cosmopolitan sons of Jacob now returned to be one people again.
But the ferocity of the children of Israel and the number of Roman cohorts including an entire detachment of the 9th Legion, which we massacred did not dissuade the Romans and even the total destruction of the twelfth legion by the triumphant children of Jacob.
No matter how many Romans were killed more came to replace them. From the start of the rebellion when there were two full Roman legions stationed in Judea until there were seven full legions by the end of the rebellion; a huge force of a hundred and twenty thousand Romans the like of which we had never seen. Some of these legionaries it was noted seemed to be more boys than men and the report went round that the Romans were running out of fighting age men because the Jews had killed the best part of them. This cheered us no end but all the same these Roman boy soldiers were just as well armed and well trained and they now seemed to have discovered a great many of our hiding places and our great networks of tunnels which communicated sometimes even between neighbouring villages and ensured our rebels were always well provisioned and ready to emerge from the very ground under the feet of the Romans to strike them dead. We had extensive tunnel networks ranging through the Judean hills and even into the northern Negev desert. There were also tunnels in Galilee and Samaria and even near Moab. Hundreds and hundreds of tunnels with our warriors waiting for the time to strike their ambush.
But then the Romans simply and brutally started destroying the villages, stone by stone until they were completely razed and the caves, grottos and cellars laid bare to their eyes and rendered useless to us. This is how they slowly started to beat us. And we felt the tide was turning against us at last.
Now Shimon bar Kosiba was not called Kokhba: the son of the star but they called him the Kozeba: the son of disappointment.
In all the Romans destroyed nearly a thousand of our villages and left homeless, the people, the women and children had no-where to go and were easily taken by the Romans to be sold into slavery. Many Jews, even those who had lately returned to Judea hopeful of reconquering their land were forced to flee back from where they had come, and they were lucky if they made it that far because the Romans were now indiscriminately killing or taking prisoner any Jews they found under the assumption that all Jews were in arms against the Romans, which was largely true, but how can women and children be considered ‘enemy combatants’?
Marching on the camp of the 6th Legion at Tel Shalem to challenge the Romans with a giant show of force, Shimon had assembled some twenty thousand men to chase the Romans even from their main harrying point far outside of Judea’s borders. After many successes and now fully believing that he was indeed the long-awaited Messiah and God had already decided to hand over the Romans to them and that God would direct the order of battle and give the victory. When the time came for the two armies to meet however God did not share his strategy with Shimon who despite his confidence, was not a match for the ruthless and well-trained Roman legion and its cohorts who behaved as if they were ten armies and all harassed Shimon and his force from all sides until he was forced to flee, fragmenting and disappearing into the shadows and contours of the surrounding countryside albeit with very heavy losses.
The Romans pursued and Shimon fled to the walled fortress refuge of Betar high in the Judean hills along with his men and civilians who had no-where else to go. This was to be the last stand. The siege began in the summer of 3895 but it was clear that we had finally only walled ourself into the refuge of a grave and as the fatal date, Tisha b’Av came nearer our hearts grew cold and we knew that doom would befall us yet again.
Bar Kokhba had become increasingly suspicious of anyone, even those closest to him and suspecting that his uncle Rabbi Elazar Hamuda’i was collaborating with the Romans, he murdered the holy man in cold blood. It was felt then that a curse had come over Shimon and all those who now stood with him, that the man was not the Messiah we had waited for all this time, but was simply a madman. There are many strange stories in circulation even now about Bar Kokhba, that he was so strong he could catch the Roman catapult stone and throw them back and stories about how the gentiles who took the land afterwards had no need to fertilise their vines because there was enough Jewish blood spilt to nourish them for seven years. All childish nonsense, but these are the stories we are told as children to keep our history alive, until we grow up and we discover what the truth was, and how it was hardly any less fantastic.
Besieged by two entire legions, the Romans took the city and massacred everyone, including all the children they found there, whom they rounded up, then in the space of an hour’s unnatural horror, the Romans devoted themselves to lifting up the children and killing them by smashing out their brains on the stone pavements, it was not known why they killed them in this way, doubtfully they considered it a more humane method but possibly a more entertaining one.
The Romans took a twisted pleasure in finding new atrocities even as the war came to an end. A group of children who attended the Torah schools were told to assault the Romans with their writing styluses but the Romans, in order to mock their studious approach made a great procession of these children before wrapping them in the school’s Torah scrolls until they resembled some strange kind of pagan idol or effigy, then they burned them alive.
As the dead lay in the ravaged, burned and butchered state the Romans had left them and no-one was permitted to return to bury the dead for 15 years after the fall of the fortress and it became a place of wild animals taking the flesh and gnawing the bones of our martyrs and some say the restless spirits of the dead haunted it and tried in vain to drive off the packs of mountain wolves from further desecrating their own corpses since the body must remain complete in order to be able to stand before the final judgement of God.
There were continued lamentations about the fate of the martyrs of Betar and much secret discussion on whether God would have pity on the wretched horde who would appear at the celestial throne missing limbs and with empty eye sockets where a crow had ungraciously picked them out. Those Jews that survived were hardly in a better state than the dead and were by the tens of thousands sold by the Romans in great sprawling slave markets, the average price being roughly the same as the price of a pack-horse, there being so many Jewish slaves on the market and the value being driven so low by abundance.
One day we will be the slave-masters, though the cleverness will be that those we intend to enslave will not even know that they are slaves, therefore they will not even be able to think of revolting for they will not even know that they are not free. Also, the nature of their slavery will be so disguised from them that they will act as our slaves thinking that everything they do is from their own free-will. That is the distinction of the superior Jewish mind over the coarse and profane Goyim one.
Now it wasn’t enough for the Romans to destroy Jerusalem, now they had to destroy Judea and the Jews altogether. No Jews now were allowed to live in Judea and any found were either killed or enslaved. The Romans blasphemed the land with the name of its cursed former inhabitants and our great enemies: Palaestina and Jerusalem was rebuilt with a pagan name: Aelia Capitolina and started settling Roman citizens there.
Some said that Shimon had brought down this punishment on Israel and that we should have sought peace with the Gentiles, but I do not believe that. I believe what Shimon bar Yochai said when he said that at least we fought, but that now we must find a new way to fight. We cannot fight enemies like the Romans with their own crude methods.
The survivors fled from the death of Jerusalem and gathered to the divine presence through the lands scorched and ruined by the Romans to resemble an early hell for the people. Some even wondered whether it was the end of the Jewish people altogether and they would disappear from history at this point. At Yavneh the remnant gathered. Destitute, starving.
Shimon bar Yochai saw now as did all the survivors that it was impossible to ever beat the Westerners in open war in this generation or any of the coming generations. There would have to be another way but it would be a long-term project. They had nearly killed his people, burned his people’s cities, towns and even eradicated the smallest village, stone by stone and it was clear the Romans intended to wipe them out forever, just as all the proud people had tried to do but as long as a remnant could be found, they would work his plan. A plan which would probably bear no fruit even in his lifetime or that of his children, but one day the Westerners would be brought low and his people would reign supreme on the ashes of their civilisation. It would be their cities which would burn, their towns raised, their holy shrines would be toppled. Their great temples would be made into latrines and places to keep livestock.
We would murder and torture their so-called holy men and make martyrs of their priests. We would devise tortures for these such to equal or even exceed the cruelty of the Romans to our own Rabbis. But we will not be the ones to bloody our hands in such filthy arts, by some agency we one day will be able to appoint the men of their own kind to do our bidding. We are working on the details even now but we will nurture and develop our system from one generation to the next and slowly and craftily release it into the Gentile world, always testing new methods but we shall use two main methods of control. We shall use the promise of gain to buy the loyalty of the Gentile against his own kind, then when we possess him; we shall use terror and fear to make him our slave until the only thing he fears shall be our invisible network which we already have partially constructed throughout the whole civilised world, a network which is even more extensive than the Roman Empire and which operates in regions and lands even the Romans know nothing about and would not dare to set foot.
They would not hack the bodies, nor rape the women and burn the holy places as the Romans had done to them. These were not fit tasks for God’s chosen people. They would find others to do these things for them. They would devise a system, so serpentine and difficult to unfold and each step in the system removing one from his brother by more secrets and passwords which could not be communicated on pain of death that the group itself under its own power would be powerless, only those who knew the keys to this group and controlled its highest levels would be the masters.
They would recruit from the Westerners themselves to be the agents of their own downfall. It all became very clear in Shimon bar Yochai’s mind, even in the midst of their utmost destruction and greatest loss, he knew that destiny had singled him out to conceive this plan which would stretch far far into the future, far beyond even the Romans' sight, perhaps even long after the Romans were gone, and would leave his people conquerors of the whole world. Their revenge would be terrible, more terrible if it were possible than the memory of the butchered men and women blood-staining the streets of the holiest city on Earth.
He shuddered at the thought of their total subjugation which though remote in time, was already an absolute certainty for him because he knew God would not stand this affront. As he reasoned he concluded that this had all transpired for this very reason, in order to make them the eventual masters over the Earth. The total loss of Judea and their final expulsion was a sacrifice in what had been one of many. History now made sense. The tragedy of the captivity, the loss of the two great Temples, the loss of Jerusalem and now Judea, but somehow his people would persist. They could never be destroyed, each time they were strengthened as if forged in the hottest fire to make them finally masters of all by the strength and sharpness of their metal. Each disaster had been a sacrifice and one day all of this pain would be soothed when they stood triumphant at the head of their own Empire and the Gentiles and Christians themselves were their slaves to do with what they chose.
The world they would create for them would be a hell on Earth.
But their religion would have to change. They would have to reintegrate some of the ancient half-forgotten forces of their forefathers, those they called demon worshippers and impious. Their rites practiced only by those called insane and shunned by righteous Jews. They would need their help.