|SHOULD WE JOIN THE REVOLT?
There were two revolts by the Jews of Judea against Roman rule. The first was in 66
C.E. This lead to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the slaughter of many Jewish defenders. So hated were the Romans that the remaining Jews revolted again in 137 C.E. lead by the Jewish leader Bar Kochba. This revolt also failed and led to most of the remaining Jews being taken away from the land.
When these two revolts occurred most Jews were living outside the land of Judea. Some estimates put 1 out of every 8 subjects in the Roman Empire as being Jewish. Whenever the revolts in Judea occurred, Jews in other communities were badly torn. While they felt for their cousins worried about their being set upon by the Roman army, they did not know whether rebellion against Rome was the wisest course. Still many Jewish communities did arm themselves and rebelled against Rome in the hope that their efforts may make the Romans stop fighting. Unfortunately they were not so lucky After the Romans burned Jerusalem they would put down these revolts one by one and take the people into slavery.
You are now in Alexandria Egypt in 67 C.E. Some friends are having a discussion on a street corner.
Simeon: I tell you that we have no other choice. We have to revolt as well. That will make the Romans stop. If they have to spread troops throughout the eastern end of the Empire, they'll stop.
Benjamin: No one told the zealots in Judea that they had to revolt. Sure everyone hates the Romans. They are very arrogant.
Sarah: And they tax us to support their lavish life style. But we can still work and live
well If we are dead we can't.
Simeon: But Jewish honor is at stake.
Benjamin: You mean the wrongheaded beliefs of the zealots, that unless the biggest house of worship in Jerusalem is Jewish then we've all failed as Jews. Our mission is to survive and do well. Isn't that what Yahweh promises Abraham.
Ruth: For now we are a numerous people under Roman rule. We are not the rulers, but many Roman subjects are Jewish. What do we get by a revolt? Just to say like the zealots do that Jerusalem is under Jewish rule.
Simeon: Well to many that is very important. There is not a Jewish ruler in the Jewish homeland. They and we are ruled by Romans.
Joshua: So what. The farms of Judea are filled with crops, the vineyards with wine. In Alexandria we have a thriving port and Jews are involved with every aspect of that trade. I didn't know that the most important part of being Jewish was being stupid.
Simeon: Who are you calling stupid.
Joshua: A man who would give up healthy Jewish life just to say, "Nah, nah, nah" to the Romans.
Sarah: That's enough you two. It comes down to this. What did Moses and the ancients intend for us. They wanted us too look after each other and be a prosperous people. To be a prosperous people Simeon do we necessarily have to rule our own homeland.
Benjamin: I don't think so.
Sarah: Well, let's hear from Simeon.
Simeon: This is how I look at it. How are we Jewish people to be taken seriously if we don't have a capital city that we rule over. Benjamin: Simeon, no one in the Roman Empire has a capital city that they rule over.
Ruth: Simeon, is what's important about Jewish life that we have a Temple in Jerusalem that the cohanim sacrifice the animals and hold the ark up before the congregation, or is what's important that Jews help each other in whatever land they find themselves in.
Simeon: I know what you are saying and clearly it's the second thing.
Sarah: You mean that we look out for each other.
Simeon: Yes ... But, here's the thing. For better or for worse our cousins thought that the Persians would take part in attacking the Romans.
Joshua: That's their mistake.
Simeon: That may be, but without a military revolt someplace else, the Romans will starve Jerusalem to death. They will kill many people and take those still alive as slaves.
Joshua: So, Joseph was a slave when he went to Egypt. All the Israelites were slaves when they were taken to Babylon, but some of them made it back.
Benjamin: So you are saying that to help our cousins in Judea we take up arms because we are their only hope?
Simeon: Yes, that's exactly what I am saying.
Benjamin: The man makes a good point.
Joshua: But this is crazy. The zealots are forcing our hand. It isn't fiar.
Sarah: In a strange way it would be an act of helping other Jews.
Ruth: We are their last hope.
Joshua: Then we must think about this very carefully.
I. The Jews in Alexandria much like other Jewish communities rose in revolt to try to relieve the military pressure on Jerusalem. Other Egyptians who were fed up with Roman rule joined them. In the end Roman legions marched on Alexandria and put to death many Jews and sold others into slavery. In this way the extreme actions of the zealots had an effect outside of just Judea. It was a great tragedy.