By Bill Federer
“Return of Captive Israel” by M. Teichert, 1945
Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. on the date in the Jewish calendar 9th of Av, or Tisha B’Av. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. on the same date, Tisha B’Av. Rome’s destruction of the Temple began in 66 A.D., when Roman Emperor Nero appointed General Vespasian to put down a revolt in Judea.
Almost immediately, Rome experienced chaos. Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D. His successor, Galba, was assassinated within eight months. His successor, Otho, committed suicide within two months. His successor, Vitellius, was executed within eight months.
Vespasian was made the next emperor, and his son, Titus, continued the conquest of Judea. Titus surrounded Jerusalem and starved inhabitants for months. He ordered Jewish deserters from Jerusalem to be crucified around the walls.
By the end of July, 70 A.D., the Roman army broke through the walls. Jerusalem was completely conquered by Sept. 8, 70 A.D. Historian Josephus recorded that over a million Jews were killed in the siege.
According to historian Eusebius, Romans hunted down and killed all descendants of the royal line of David. Jewish Temple treasures were carried off to Rome, as shown on the Arch of Titus, and were used to finance the building of Rome’s Colosseum.
The Colosseum was so named as it was next to Nero’s 100 foot high bronze colossus statue depicting the Roman sun god Apollo, modeled after the 100 foot high bronze colossus statue of Rhodes depicting the Greek sun god Helios. The Statue of Liberty – the new colossus – was modeled after it.
In 79 A.D., Emperor Vespasian caught a slight illness which developed into severe diarrhea. As he died, his last words were: “Oh dear! I think I’m becoming a god!”
Titus became the next emperor and two months later Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the Bay of Naples, including the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Thousands of Roman citizens were buried alive under feet of volcanic ash.
In the spring of 80 A.D., Rome caught on fire and burned out of control for three days and nights. This was followed by the worst outbreak of the plague Rome had ever endured.
Titus then decided to dedicate the Colosseum with inaugural games to commemorate his victories during the Jewish wars. For 100 days, thousands were killed in executions and gladiatorial fights. Shortly after the games ended, Titus developed a fever and died after just two turbulent years in office.
In 135 A.D., on the date Tisha B’Av, Roman Emperor Hadrian had another 500,000 Jews massacred at Betar during Bar Kokhba’s revolt. Emperor Hadrian believed the source of Jewish rebellion was their faith, so he executed Jewish scholars, prohibited the Torah and the Hebrew calendar, and burned the sacred scroll on the Temple Mount. There he erected a statue of himself and a statue of Jupiter
In an attempt to completely erase Jewish history from the land, Emperor Hadrian renamed the province of Judea “Syria Palaestina,” and renamed the city of Jerusalem “Aelia Capitolina.” Jews were banned from entering Jerusalem on pain of death.
Emperor Hadrian’s reign was the beginning of the contraction of the Roman Empire, with Hadrian’s Wall in Britain marking the Empire’s furthest extent. Jews were later allowed to enter Jerusalem once a year to pray at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av.
The land of Israel was subsequently invaded or occupied by:
- 135 A.D. Roman Empire
- 390 A.D. Byzantine Empire
- 614 A.D. Sassanid Persians
- 635 A.D. Umayyad Caliphate
- 750 A.D. Abbasid Caliphate
- 909 A.D. Fatimid Caliphate
- 1071 A.D. Seljuk Turks
- 1099 A.D. Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem
- 1187 A.D. Ayyubid Sultanate
- 1260 A.D. Mongolian Empire
- 1291 A.D. Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt
- 1517 A.D. Ottoman Sultanate
- 1660 A.D. Druze Dynasty
- 1799 A.D. French Napoleon
- 1844 A.D. Tanzimat Ottoman Empire
- 1864 A.D. Ottoman Vilayet of Syria
- 1917 A.D. Britain Mandate
For centuries, people across the world desired to pilgrimage to Jerusalem, including Abraham Lincoln.
The Library of Congress has a scrapbook with an account by Rev. N.W. Miner of Springfield, who officiated at Lincoln’s burial, in which are recalled President Lincoln’s last words while at Ford’s Theater with his wife: “Mrs. Lincoln informed me that … the very last moments of his conscious life were spent in conversation with her about his future plans. … He said he wanted to visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footprints of the Saviour. He was saying there was no city he so much desired to see as Jerusalem.”
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In 1917, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration establishing the Jewish homeland. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel came into being again. After the 1967 War, Jerusalem was once again under Jewish control. Jerusalem was reaffirmed as Israel’s capital with “The Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel,” passed in 1980.
As the Roman Empire experienced disasters when it forced Jews from the land, a series of coincidences have been compiled relating to the United States and Israel:
- On Oct. 30, 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed the Oslo Accord pressuring Israel to give “land for peace.” The next day, “the Perfect Storm” hit New England, causing damages over $100 million, including 30 foot waves demolishing the home of President George H.W. Bush at Kennebunkport, Maine.
- On Aug. 23, 1992, President George H.W. Bush pressured Israel with the Madrid “land for peace” agreement. The same day, Hurricane Andrew smashed into Florida, causing $30 billion in damages, destroying over 180,000 homes.
- On Jan. 16, 1994, President Bill Clinton met in Geneva with Syria’s President Hafez el-Assad to discuss Israel giving up the Golan Heights in exchange for peace. Within 24 hours, a 6.9 earthquake devastated Southern California.
- On Jan. 21, 1998, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was snubbed at the White House when President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refused to have lunch with him. The same day, the Monica Lewinsky scandal erupted.
- On Sept. 28, 1998, Secretary of State Albright detailed another “land for peace” agreement requiring Israel to surrender 13 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. President Clinton met with Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, followed by Arafat telling the United Nations there would soon be a Palestinian state. The same day, Hurricane Georges hit the Gulf Coast, causing $1 billion in damages.
- On Oct. 15, 1998, Yassar Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu met in Maryland to discuss Israel giving up 13 percent of the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for “peace.” Two days later, tornadoes hit Texas, leaving $1 billion in damages.
- On Dec. 12, 1998, President Clinton arrived in the Palestinian area to discuss Israel giving up “land for peace.” The same day, President Clinton was impeached.
- On May 3, 1999, Yasser Arafat had scheduled a press conference to announce a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital. The same day, the most powerful tornado storms to hit the United States whipped through Oklahoma and Kansas.
- On June 8, 2001, President George W. Bush sent Secretary Tenet to Jerusalem with a proposal to exchange land for a “Roadmap to Peace.” The same day, tropical storm Allison hit Texas, causing $7 billion in damage and closing George Bush Airport for two days.
- As part of a U.S. brokered deal, Jews were forcibly evacuated from Gaza, with the last Jewish residents being dragged out on Aug. 22, 2005. The very next day, a tropical depression in the Atlantic turned into Hurricane Katrina and headed straight for New Orleans, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate. Property damage in New Orleans exceeded $81 billion. Nearly 2,000 people died. It was one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. Instead of “peace,” Hamas took over Gaza and began digging tunnels and firing thousands of rockets into Israel.
In a day of prayer and remembrance, Sept. 8, 2005, President Bush stated: “Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in our nation’s history and has caused unimaginable devastation and heartbreak throughout the Gulf Coast Region. … Communities … decimated. … Lives … lost. … Hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans are suffering great hardship.”
Though not a call to repentance as past presidents had proclaimed, President Bush did end his day of prayer and remembrance with: “To honor the memory of those who lost their lives, to provide comfort and strength to families of the victims. … I call upon all Americans to pray to Almighty God and to perform acts of service. … Across our nation, many selfless deeds reflect the promise of the Scripture: ‘For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in.’”
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