The Birth of Israel (Topics In History Book 5)
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The Hebrew calendar closely resembles the Babylonian calendar and probably dates from this period. In the early 20th century papyrus documents were discovered, recording activity in this community, including the "Passover Papyrus", a letter instructing the garrison on how to correctly conduct the Passover feast. Sometime thereafter, the first translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint , was begun in Alexandria.
After Alexander's death, his generals fought over the territory he had conquered. The Books of the Maccabees describe the uprising and the end of Greek rule. A Jewish party called the Hasideans opposed both Hellenism and the revolt, but eventually gave their support to the Maccabees. Modern interpretations see the initial stages of the uprising as a civil war between Hellenised and orthodox forms of Judaism. The Hasmonean dynasty of Jewish priest-kings ruled Judea with the Pharisees , Sadducees and Essenes as the principal Jewish social movements.
As part of the struggle against Hellenistic civilization , the Pharisee leader Simeon ben Shetach established the first schools based around meeting houses. Justice was administered by the Sanhedrin , which was a Rabbincal assembly and law court whose leader was known as the Nasi.
The Nasi's religious authority gradually superseded that of the Temple's high priest , who under the Hasmoneans was the king himself. The Hasmoneans continually extended their control over much of the region. Hyrcanus' son Alexander Jannaeus established good relations with the Roman Republic , however there was growing tension between Pharisees and Sadducees and a conflict over the succession to Janneus, in which the warring parties invited foreign intervention on their behalf.
Herod the Great considerably enlarged the temple see Herod's Temple , making it one of the largest religious structures in the world. Despite the fame of the temple, Rabbinical Judaism , led by Hillel the Elder , began to assume popular prominence over the Temple priesthood. The Romans gave the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem permission not to display an effigy of the emperor, the only religious structure in the Roman Empire that was exempt. Special dispensation was granted for Jewish citizens of the Roman Empire to pay a tax to the temple.
Ancient Israel: A Brief History
There was a small revolt against Roman taxation led by Judas of Galilee and over the next decades tensions grew between the Greco-Roman and Judean population centered on attempts to place effigies of the Emperor Caligula in Synagogues and in the Jewish temple. Jesus was born in the last years of Herod's rule, probably in the Judean city of Bethlehem. In the year 50 CE, the Council of Jerusalem led by Paul, decided to abandon the Jewish requirement of circumcision and the Torah, creating a form of Judaism highly accessible to non-Jews and with a more universal notion of God.
Another Jewish follower, Peter is believed to have become the first Pope. Over the next few hundred years this requirement became steadily more ingrained in Jewish tradition. Josephus estimated that over a million people died in the siege of Jerusalem. The Temple and most of Jerusalem was destroyed.
During the Jewish revolt, most Christians , at this time a sub-sect of Judaism, removed themselves from Judea. After the war Jews continued to be taxed in the Fiscus Judaicus , which was used to fund a temple to Jupiter. A victory arch erected in Rome can still be seen today.
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Tensions and attacks on Jews around the Roman Empire led to a massive Jewish uprising against Rome from to This conflict was accompanied by large-scale massacres of both sides. Cyprus was so severely depopulated that new settlers were imported and Jews banned from living there. Jews were banned from living in Jerusalem itself a ban that persisted until the Arab conquest , and the Roman province, until then known as Iudaea Province , was renamed Palaestina , no other revolt led to a province being renamed.
From to , the Jewish leader Simon Bar Kokhba led another major revolt against the Romans, again renaming the country "Israel"  see Bar Kochba Revolt coinage. The Bar-Kochba revolt probably caused more trouble for the Romans than the better documented revolt of During the Bar Kokhba revolt a rabbinical assembly decided which books could be regarded as part of the Hebrew Bible : the Jewish apocrypha and Christian books were excluded.
A rabbi of this period, Simeon bar Yochai , is regarded as the author of the Zohar , the foundational text for Kabbalistic thought. However, modern scholars believe it was written in Medieval Spain. After suppressing the Bar Kochba revolt, the Romans exiled the Jews of Judea, but not of Galilee and permitted a hereditary Rabbinical Patriarch from the House of Hillel , based in Galilee to represent the Jews in dealings with the Romans.
The most famous of these was Judah haNasi who is credited with compiling the final version of the Mishnah a massive body of Jewish religious texts interpreting the Bible and with strengthening the educational demands of Judaism by requiring that illiterate Jews be treated as outcasts. As a result, many illiterate Jews may have converted to Christianity. However, economic mismanagement of the Roman economy in the third century led to a collapse of Roman trade and empire, as well as increased taxation and persecution,  which caused most Jews to migrate to the more tolerant Persian Sassanid Empire , where a prosperous Jewish community with extensive seminaries existed in the area of Babylon.
Early in the 4th century, the Emperor Constantine made Constantinople the capital of the East Roman Empire and made Christianity an accepted religion. His mother, Helena made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem — and led the construction of the Church of the Nativity birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem , the Church of the Holy Sepulchre burial site of Jesus in Jerusalem and other key churches that still exist. The name Jerusalem was restored to Aelia Capitolina and it became a Christian city. Jews were still banned from living in Jerusalem, but were allowed to visit, and it is in this period that the surviving Western Wall of the Temple became sacred to Judaism.
In —2, another Jewish revolt in the Galilee erupted against a corrupt Roman governor. He died while fighting the Persians in and the project was discontinued. Byzantine Christianity was dominated by the Greek Eastern Orthodox Church whose massive land ownership has extended into the present. In the 5th century, the Western Roman Empire collapsed leading to Christian migration into the Roman province of Palaestina Prima and development of a Christian majority.
Judaism was the only non-Christian religion tolerated, but restrictions on Jews slowly increased to include a ban on building new places of worship, holding public office or owning slaves. In , following the death of the last Nasi, Gamliel VI , the Sanhedrin was officially abolished and the title of Nasi banned. Several Samaritan Revolts erupted in this period,  resulting in the decrease of Samaritan community from about a million to a near extinction.
It lasted seven years and after its fall, his son Mar-Zutra III moved to Tiberias where he became head of the local religious academy in The Jewish Menorah , which the Romans took when the temple was destroyed, was reportedly taken to Carthage by the Vandals after the sacking of Rome in According to the Byzantine historian, Procopius , the Byzantine army recovered it in and brought it to Constantinople.
Jews briefly governed Jerusalem when the Persians took over. The Byzantine Emperor Heraclius reportedly revoked his brother's decision to extirpate the Jews of Edessa for fighting on the Persian side during the war by giving them a blanket pardon,  and provided protection to the Jews of the Galilee.
He allegedly managed to convince Benjamin of Tiberias to convert, after the latter admitted Jews had massacred Christians during the Persian interregnum. According to Muslim tradition, on the last night of his life in , Muhammed was taken on a journey from Mecca to the "farthest mosque", whose location many consider to be the Temple Mount , returning the same night. The Byzantine ban on Jews living in Jerusalem came to an end and Palestine gradually came to be dominated politically and socially by Muslims, though the dominant religion of the country down to the Crusades may still have been Christian.
In , Muawiyah was crowned Caliph in Jerusalem, becoming the first of the Damascus-based Umayyad dynasty. Both buildings were rebuilt in the 10th century following a series of earthquakes. Jews believe it is the site where Abraham tried to sacrifice his son, Isaac , while Muslims believe that Abraham tried to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, in Mecca.
A new city, Ramlah , was built as the Muslim capital of Jund Filastin , the name given to the province. During the 8th Century, the Caliph Umar II introduced a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear identifying clothing: Jews were required to wear yellow stars round their neck and on their hats. Christians had to wear Blue.
Clothing regulations were not always enforced, but did arise during repressive periods and were sometimes designed to humiliate and persecute non-Muslims. A poll tax was imposed on all non-Muslims by all Islamic rulers and failure to pay could result in imprisonment or worse.
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There were also bans on construction of new places of worship and repair of existing places of worship. The system of requiring Jews to wear yellow stars was subsequently adopted also in parts of Christian Europe. The Fatimids were followers of Isma'ilism , a branch of Shia Islam and claimed descent from Fatima , Mohammed's daughter. Around the year 1, the Church of Holy Sepulchre believed to be Jesus burial site , was destroyed by Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim , who relented ten years later and paid for it to be rebuilt.
In al-Hakim claimed divine status and the newly formed Druze religion gave him the status of a messiah. Between the 7th and 11th centuries, Jewish scribes, called the Masoretes and located in Galilee and Jerusalem, established the Masoretic Text , the final text of the Hebrew Bible.
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During the conquest, both Muslims and Jews were indiscriminately massacred or sold into slavery. The carnage continued when the Crusaders reached the Holy Land. Saladin was able to peacefully take Jerusalem and conquered most of the former Kingdom of Jerusalem. Maimonides was buried in Tiberias.
A Crusader city-state at Acre survived for another century. In , the Mongols destroyed Baghdad , killing hundreds of thousands.
For the next 30 years, the area was the frontier between Mongol invaders occasional Crusader allies and the Mamluks of Egypt. The conflict impoverished the country and severely reduced the population. The last Crusader state, the Kingdom of Acre , fell in , ending the Crusades. The Mamluks ruled Palestine until , regarding it as part of Syria.
In Hebron , Baibars banned Jews from worshipping at the Cave of the Patriarchs the second-holiest site in Judaism ; the ban remained in place until its conquest by Israel years later. The Mamluks, continuing the policy of the Ayyubids, made the strategic decision to destroy the coastal area and to bring desolation to many of its cities, from Tyre in the north to Gaza in the south.
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Ports were destroyed and various materials were dumped to make them inoperable. The goal was to prevent attacks from the sea, given the fear of the return of the Crusaders. This had a long-term effect on those areas, which remained sparsely populated for centuries. The activity in that time concentrated more inland. The collapse of the Crusades was followed by increased persecution and expulsions of Jews in Europe. Expulsions began in England and were followed by France The largest massacres of Jews took place in Spain where some tens of thousands were killed and about half the Jews in the country were forcibly converted.
In January , the last Muslim state was defeated in Spain and six months later the Jews of Spain the largest community in the world were required to convert or leave without their property. In return for a large payment, about , Spanish Jews were allowed into Portugal, however 5 years later, their children were seized and they were given the choice of conversion or departing without them .
Most converted but continued to practice in secret. The economic success of the converts in Spain and Portugal and suspicion of their sincerity led to laws restricting the rights of Christians of Jewish origin. Escaping Jews were often maltreated by those shipping them and refused entry to various ports around the Mediterranean by communities afraid of being swamped. Expulsions also took place in Italy, affecting survivors of the original expulsion.
Some headed for Israel, which was also controlled by the Ottomans. In Italy, Jews living in Venice were required to live in a ghetto , a practice which spread to the papal states see Cum nimis absurdum and was adopted across Catholic Europe. Jews outside the Ghetto often had to wear a yellow star.