September 01, 2017 – A Sad Day for Judah
On August 1, 2017, Jews all over the world fasted during the daylight portion because on the Hebrew calendar it was the ninth of Av — the same day both the first and second Jerusalem Temples were destroyed 656 years apart.
Quite a bit has been preserved for us about the players and events leading up to and surrounding the second destruction.
A Bit of Flavian History
Religious scholars and history buffs learned in 2009 that they had a new reason to visit Italy. The Associated Press reported that a team of Italian and British archaeologists had unearthed the childhood home of Titus Flavius Vespasianus. And the find is said to fit with the description of an ancient historian.
Some may still question whether it’s the actual location, but no one doubts the monumental role Vespasian played nearly 2000 years ago.
He was an important figure in both Italian and British history — having initially highly distinguished himself as a military officer in Rome’s 43 CE invasion of Britain.
Many know him better as Emperor Vespasian, ‘builder’ of Rome’s Coliseum, and father of the Roman military commander credited with the destruction of the second Jerusalem Temple.
The web site of the British School at Rome stated,
“The project is part of a wider series of events programmed for 2009 to mark the bimillenary of the birth of Vespasian.”
The discovery was said to be a large luxurious 2000-year-old country estate located in what could be the center of Falacrine his recorded birthplace. This Falacrine, an ancient town about 80 miles (130 km) northeast of Rome, had also been hidden until few years ago.
The 84-year-old widow Anna — the prophetess at the temple when Jesus’s parents brought him there to be consecrated as the law stipulated for firstborn males — had no trouble remembering back to when Judah was autonomous and Rome was still a republic. But, emperors were ruling by the time Jesus from Nazareth, a city in Galilee, was born.
Future Roman emperor, Vespasian, was in his late teens or early 20s, when Jesus was spreading the good news about God’s un-tyrannical government to come. Jesus, before he died, also foretold that the 2nd Temple would be destroyed.
Like Vespasian, two of the next generation also influenced history significantly. Josephus ben Matthias, son of a Levitical priest, and Vespasian’s eldest son, Titus, were only two years apart. Josephus was born less than a decade after Jesus’s death and Titus a couple of years later. As soldiers, the men would face each other as enemies and yet, ‘truth’ sometimes being stranger than fiction, they would eventually end up like family.
In 43 CE, not much time had passed between the events surrounding Jesus’s death and Vespasian’s march with his Roman soldiers through what are now modern English southwestern counties — including Hampshire, Dorset, Sommerset, Devon, and Cornwall.
What happened roughly two decades later — in a timeframe of less than 5 years — demonstrates how quickly the course of history can change and one’s own life as well.
In 67, Military Commander Vespasian and son Titus start to quell the Judean Revolt started the year before. After the defeat of Jotapata (or Yodfat) in Galilee, Vespasian is informed that Galilee’s resistance leader, Josephus ben Matthias, has been caught.
Josephus’s comment to his captors, in turn, intrigues Vespasian enough that he grants the Judean’s request to speak directly to him.
How Matters Evolved
According to British historian Desmond Stewart and author of the book, “Jerusalem’s Traitor – Josephus, Masada, and the Fall of Judea ”, Vespasian was receptive to what Josephus had to say for several reasons.
The Bible was one of them.
A future Roman Senator and historian, Tacitus, was around 10 years old or so at the time. But as an adult, he wrote about a prophecy circulating for a long time throughout the Eastern provinces of the empire.
These provinces included Judea, of course, and nearby places where some descendants of the Northern 10 clans of Israel were still living. People not descended from Jacob, like Tacitus, obviously heard about it too.
A second century Roman historian, Suetonius, referred to the prophecy and agreed that Vespasian had heard of it. The prediction was that a future world ruler would come from Judea.
It plus several other things — including what Josephus was about to tell him — were said to have finally convinced Vespasian and others he knew, that the prophecy could possibly refer to him. After all, he was in Judea at the time.
In 67 C.E., Josephus’s audacious statement to Vespasian was,
“that he should be released in a very short time by the same Vespasian, but he [Vespasian] would be emperor first.”
Huge Changes Hit Fast
In 68, the death of Emperor Nero ignited a major power struggle in Rome. That resulted in four Caesars in one year. In 69, Vespasian was declared the next ruler and the direct descendent of Aaron was released.
In 70, the newly proclaimed emperor Vespasian arrived in Italy and immediately set about restoring stability to the capital and peace throughout the vast Roman Empire. In the same year, Vespasian’s brother-in-law suppressed a major revolt in Gaul. Also in 70, his son Titus destroyed the Herodian Temple and essentially concluded the war with Judea.
In less than 4 years (67-70 CE) Vespasian’s status swiftly changed from a military general focused on ending a revolt in one unruly province to leader of the entire empire.
After the war, life also dramatically altered for all living in Judah. They faced the usual consequences that come with being on the losing side. Plus, the nation had to rapidly adjust to life without a sacrificial system and functioning priesthood since the Temple no longer existed.
More to the Story
Depending on the historical event chosen, it’s said the date for the demise of the republic and birth of the empire can range from around 48 BCE to 27 BCE.
Josephus wrote about the 66-70 CE Jewish revolt. He once was considered a totally unreliable historian because his writings are said to contain exaggerations and discrepancies, as well as silly mistakes that would be caught by a modern proofreader — like saying Mt. Tabor was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) high instead of 2,000 (575 meters). But after he was closely compared with other ancient writers and other factors considered, attitudes softened significantly.
Much like today in various places, by the 60s Judea had become extremely polarized about issues. The Zealot party became more powerful by playing on people’s differences and concerns. And ultimately, Judeans ended up fighting and killing fellow Judeans even within the Jerusalem Temple complex. Too many failed to realize that the internal divisiveness revealed to the rest of the world their true spiritual state at the time.
Earlier, Vespasian’s men had urged him to go ahead and attack the nation’s capital, Jerusalem. He felt then would be premature. Pages 130-131 of Stewart’s book included Vespasian’s reply.
“If we wait for a bit longer, however, we shall have a lot less of them to fight. … The best thing we can do … is to stay as spectators instead of taking on fanatics who welcome death and are busy murdering each other. … success won with delaying tactics is always infinitely preferable to risking disaster by letting a battle begin too soon.
His assessment proved right.
Josephus’s works and much additional information about him, Titus, and Vespasian are readily available in print and on the Internet.
Photo credits: Vespasian by Mary Harrsch, License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Titus by William Storage, License: CC BY-NC 2.0; Temple model by Maggie & Rick, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Temple Stones by Carole Raddato, License: CC BY-SA 2.0.
August 21, 2017 – Lucifer Turns Up the Heat
You may not need anyone to tell you that the weather was brutal the past month or so. But what you might not realize is that people in numerous other places were experiencing the same.
So, don’t be too shocked at having to shell out still more for groceries in the months ahead.
On August 5, 2017, the MarketWatch headline read, “Deadly ‘Lucifer’ heat wave keeps grip on 10 European countries”. Southern and eastern Europe were fried while “Western and northern Europe, in contrast, were experiencing colder and wetter weather than is seasonal.”
The Los Angeles Times newspaper wrote the same day,
” No wonder its been dubbed “Lucifer.” A relentless heat wave that gripped parts of Europe this week has sent temperatures soaring to record highs for several days, causing at least two deaths …
Extreme heat in Italy, and parts of France and Spain and the Balkans, has led to dozens of wildfires, damaged crops and fueled power and water consumption.”
Also on August 5, 2017, the DW News site informed its readers that,
… the German Meteorological Service (DWD) declared July 2017 the rainiest month Germany has seen since measurements thereof began back in 1881.
On June 27, 2017, American broadcaster CNBC’s website posted an article with the headline “California’s triple-digit heat slows milk production, threatens crops and livestock”. CNBC wrote,
“A stifling June heatwave with triple-digit temperatures hit agriculture producers in California, lowering dairy cow milk production and wreaking havoc on crops like citrus and nuts”.
And on July 31, 2017, the Sacramento Bee newspaper wrote,
“The heat wave that has the Sacramento Valley clenched in a sweaty grip broke a record Monday: Temperatures hit at least 90 degrees in downtown Sacramento every single day in July.
That’s never happened before in records dating back to 1877 for downtown Sacramento, according to the National Weather Service.”
Quite a few of those days were over 100° (almost 38° Celsius).
The Sacramento Bee added,
“With another month to go, and a significant blast of hot weather coming this week, 2017 could challenge 2016 for the dubious distinction of the hottest summer ever recorded in California.”
It was, indeed, quite a blast. Several daily record highs were set Tuesday, Aug. 1. “Dozens” were set Wednesday, Aug. 2, including Medford, Oregon at 112 degrees (almost 44.5° Celsius).
As in Europe, other states experienced too much rain. Flash flooding occurred in several places in the central and eastern parts of the United States in the first part of August. And weather forecasters warned that the current Atlantic hurricane season might end up the busiest since 2010.
ABC News reported, as of August 15, 2017, the “ Sierra Leone mudslide leaves more than 300 dead and at least 700 missing ”. Abdul Nasir, the program coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies commented,
“In places, entire communities seem to have been washed away and whatever is left is covered in mud … “
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies posted the following news on their website:
August 3rd, the headline read, “ Indian Red Cross steps up disease prevention following floods ”. The article said,
“Concerns over water and vector-borne diseases are mounting in northeastern India, where devastating flood waters are starting to recede, leaving behind contaminated water sources and conditions ripe for mosquitoes to breed. “
And August 7th, the headline was, ” Red Cross speeds aid to villages devastated by flash floods in Vietnam ”. That article said,
“Floods in north west Vietnam have killed 23 people and destroyed hundreds of homes.”
Photo credits: Storm photo by Paul Chiorean, License: CC BY 2.0; Cows by Farm Watch, License: CC BY 2.0; Floods – AFP Photo-India Army, License: CC BY 2.0
July 2, 2017 – The French Jew and the German Catholic
In June 2017, former European leaders Simone Jacob Veil age 89 and Helmut Kohl age 87 died only a couple of weeks apart.
With their burials, the past headlines their actions generated will retreat still deeper into the annals of history. But first each is offering one last significant contribution to a cause they both considered dear.
A Few Comparisons
Starting out, these two could hardly be considered more unalike.
Simone Jacob was born in Nice, France. During WWII, her entire family was deported to Nazi death camps because they were Jewish. She was 17 at the time. Her parents and brother perished in the camps; but Veil and her two sisters survived. She returned to France after WWII.
On the other hand, Helmut Kohl was born in Ludwigshafen, Germany, and his family was Roman Catholic. He and his older brother were drafted as teenagers into the Nazi Army. WWII ended before he deployed; however, his older brother died before it was over.
Though Veil and Kohl approached adulthood under quite different wartime circumstances, they ultimately traveled on parallel paths.
Since their deaths, current European politicians have highly praised Veil, the first president of the EU Parliament, and Kohl, the former German chancellor, for their prior service and for being tireless pioneers in the pursuit of European unification.
Kohl is perhaps best remembered for spearheading the reunification of West and East Germany, though the actual ‘fall’ of the Berlin wall in 1990 took even him by surprise. And he’s credited with being one of the architects of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty which established the EU and the euro.
On Saturday July 1st, DW TV televised the various events honoring Helmut Kohl, who died on the 16th of June.
Numerous leaders from around the globe offered eulogies as they faced the former chancellor’s EU flag draped coffin lying in state in the center of the EU Parliament. DW News wrote,
“World leaders past and present gathered at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to honor Germany’s longest-serving chancellor. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and former US President Bill Clinton were among the leaders to honor Kohl’s achievements and say their farewells.”
When Italy’s Antonio Tajani, the current president of the European Parliament, and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke, both also eulogized Simone Veil who had died just the day before.
Next, Kohl’s coffin was flown to his hometown of Ludwigshafen for a public procession so the locals could pay their final respects. Then, his coffin was transported by boat on the Rhine river a short distance to the town of Speyer for the requiem mass, a ritual heavy in Roman Catholic symbolism.
Quite a few prominent world leaders also flew from Strasbourg to attend it. The DW News website live streamed the funeral mass too so viewers all over Europe and as far away as North America could watch it.
It was held in Speyer’s “symbolic” medieval cathedral, the place he regarded as his home church. DW TV’s Religious Affairs Correspondent, John Berwick, said that it’s also the resting place of “no fewer than eight” past emperors of the “Holy Roman Empire.”
A military ceremony honoring him took place in front of the cathedral after the mass.
Simone Jacob Veil
“Simone Veil, ‘the best of France,’ dies“ was the DW News 30th of June headline for a tribute posted about her. Friday, DW News told its readers,
“The presidential Elysee Palace said a funeral ceremony with military honors would be held on Wednesday at Les Invalides in Paris. On the day, French flags on public buildings will be dressed in black ribbons in her memory, while European flags will fly at half-mast.”
DW News reported the comments of other leaders, saying,
“Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, under whom Veil served as health minister in the 1970s, described her as “an exceptional woman who experienced life’s greatest joys and its greatest sadnesses.”‘
DW TV’s Religious Affairs Correspondent remarked that while last year’s Brexit vote surprised everyone, it also pulled Europeans together and led many to focus on “the benefits” of the EU.
Recent European elections seem to confirm his assessment. And the events commemorating the life and death of these two are helping to further breathe new life into the European Union.
Photo credits: Cemetery by Steven Johnson, License: CC BY 2.0; Kohl by KASonline, License: CC BY 2.0; Veil courtesy of Fondapol-Fondation, License: CC BY-SA 2.0
June 11, 2017 – Western World Right Now
These days the European Union appears increasingly at loggerheads with America and Britain. And events in late May, as well as in early June, apparently only made things worse.
The UK-EU Split Gets Messier
In April, Conservative Prime minister Theresa May called for a British snap election to be held in June 8, 2017. The earlier than expected election seemed like a safe bet at the time. But now the world knows it ended badly for the prime minister and her party.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) addressed the potential fallout in it’s article titled, “UK election: Theresa May’s disastrous results will have unpredictable consequences” on Friday June 9, 2017. Australia’s ABC wrote,
“Ms. May called this election to boost her parliamentary majority and strengthen her Brexit negotiating hand — talks begin in 11 days.
But this election result may have given extra power to the pro-EU MPs within her own party.”
ABC later added,
“This result will also undoubtedly embolden some in the European Union, who think the UK’s bargaining position is now much weaker than it was before this campaign began.”
The Brexit negotiations were scheduled to start Monday, June 19, 2017. At this point, they are expected to begin either on that date or, at the most, a few days later.
President Trump in Europe
The American president’s first overseas trip is now one for the history books. To many observers, the second part of the trip did not go nearly as well as his visit in the Middle East.
To briefly recap, in Europe the president stopped first at the Vatican, in Brussels for multiple meetings with European leaders, and then went to Sicily for the May 26-27, 2017 G7 summit.
In Brussels, at NATO’s headquarters, the president initially declined to re-endorse Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, which states that an attack on any member is considered an attack on all. But the president did commit to Article 5 after the trip was over.
Six of the G7 leaders — from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK — reaffirmed the Paris climate accord at the G7 Summit; but the American president chose not to do so then or after his return to the White House.
Both actions, along with other statements made both in Brussels and Sicily, irked the Europeans and had several leaders rethinking their alliances.
After the president’s trip, DW News published an article, on May 28th, with the headline, “Merkel: Europe can no longer rely on US and Britain.” The subheading read,
“The German chancellor’s comments came after contentious meetings with US President Donald Trump at NATO and G7 summit meetings. Trump clashed with America’s allies over global warming, mutual defense and trade.”
Photo credits: Banksy does Brexit, License: CC BY 2.0; EU photo courtesy of EU Council President’s Office, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
May 24, 2017 – President Trump’s Visit to Middle East
President Trump’s first trip overseas started off spectacularly. The United States Secretary of State held a press briefing with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia outlining the accomplishments of day one.
According to Yahoo News in its piece titled, Saudi King confident Trump can solve Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Foreign Minister says, the foreign minister stated,
“He certainly has the vision and we believe the strength and the decisiveness,” … “And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands prepared to work with the United States in order to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and Israelis and Arabs.”
The video of the full press briefing is available here.
Newsweek published President Trump’s daily schedule on its website for the 8 day trip here.
His next stop in Israel on Monday May 22nd and on Tuesday May 23rd coincided with the first two days of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War on the Hebrew calendar.
Israel defeated her Arab neighbors in that conflict. In the process, she took the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the rest of the previously divided Jerusalem.
News video aired of the president praying at the Western Wall. The president of Russia did the same in 2012. We previously covered that in a related article with the title, “December 15, 2016 – A Capital Question”.
On May 23rd President Trump met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. ABC News and DW News reported the president is convinced that both the Palestinians and Israelis are “ready to reach for peace”.
Wednesday May 24th is the national Israeli holiday called Jerusalem Day. According to the Hebrew calendar, this is the date Israel captured the Western Wall and Temple Mount in old Jerusalem. On the 24th, however, President Trump was in Rome meeting with the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The mere fact President Trump chose to visit the region first greatly pleased Arabs and Israelis. And his visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall was a first for an American president.
The Times of Israel newspaper wrote on May 15, 2017,
“As candidates, many US politicians stop by the Jerusalem holy site, but once in the White House they’ve all stayed away”.
US Embassy Issue
In his May 20, 2017 Op Ed for Israel’s Ynet News, Kobi Richter remarked,
“Trump has a way of keeping his promise without binding himself to what Bennett and Netanyahu are trying to impose on him. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem—yes; Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—yes; a united Jerusalem—no. Trump’s escape, with the lack of any other offer that the Palestinians can accept, is a US embassy for Israel in west Jerusalem and a US embassy for Palestine in east Jerusalem.”
The Palestinian birthrate has continued to outstrip the Jewish Israeli population growth over the decades. Acknowledging this reality, Richter added,
“When at least 40 percent of the people who have the right to vote in the municipal elections are Palestinian, a failure to return to a Jewish Jerusalem will lead to a situation in which the election of an Arab mayor in Jerusalem depends only on the Palestinians’ ability to bring their voters to the polling stations.”
People wonder if Richter’s view might be a clue to what President Trump proposed to other leaders visited in May of 2017 or whether he and his team had something entirely different in mind to get the Israeli–Palestinian peace negotiations restarted.
If, or when, the two long time antagonists get back to the table, will the following gain enough traction to be part of a mutually agreed peace accord?
- West Jerusalem, 50 years later, officially recognized as Israel’s capital
- East Jerusalem transferred to the Palestinians and available to be their capital as part of a much talked about two state solution
- Temple Mount area given special status somewhat like Washington DC, which is not the part of any state in America
- The Temple Mount area under some interfaith or international control superseding the present Islamic Waqf supervision
- Establishment of an interfaith complex on the Temple Mount open to all — incorporating one of the two mosques currently on the mount, plus a location for Sunday worshipers, as well as a third spot for Jews
Iran, not likely to wholeheartedly embrace such an agreement, might be unable to stop the process at this point. And the Palestinians might be persuaded, by their other Arab neighbors that, as the saying goes, a half a loaf is better than none — for now. But can we expect long-term peace between them and throughout the region to result from this? No.
Photo credits: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, License: CC BY 2.0; President Trump with Prime Minister Netanyahu, courtesy of Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Amos Ben Gershom GPO, License: CC BY-NC 2.0; Map courtesy of CIA.