Historic Sites...
Golden Gate

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Jewish home replaced the function of the destroyed Temple. At Passover, Jews no longer sacrifice animals in the traditional manner. Instead they recite their liberation from Egypt with a family meal at which the father, covered in white prayer shawl, is acting as a Temple priest, the table becomes a new altar and candlesticks recall the Temple menorah.



Aelia Capitolina

Let all who hate Zion fall back in disgrace. Let them be like grass on the roofs that fades before it can be pulled up.  PSALMS (129:5-6)

After the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus in 70C.E., Jerusalem's Jewish population was either killed or expelled. It was replaced by Hellenists imported from the other regions of the empire and by the soldiers of the Roman Tenth Legion who were now permanently stationed in the city.

The emperor's reward to his legioneers was a freedom to loot as much gold and silver as they could carry and also an ownership of the confiscated Jewish lands. Since the legion was no longer engaged in the combat, many soldiers engaged in trade financed by the riches they looted from the murdered Jews.

The legend has it that so much gold was looted from Jerusalem that the price of the precious metals collapsed. With Temple burned down and all Jews gone, the holy city resembled a giant graveyard. The surrounding walls build by Herod were methodically demolished by the Romans and lay in ruins. Only part of the western retaining wall and three towers were allowed to remain as the reminder of the fate awating anyone who would think to rise up against the mighty Rome.

The Jews have not given up hope that one day the Holy Temple would be restored the way it was resurrected after the Babylonians destroyed the original structure. This time the rabbis decided to leave the rebuilding to God.

In 118 C.E. Roman general Publius Aelius Hadrianus, Hadrian for short, became an emperor. He was determined to consolidate the empire and traveled throughout the eastern provinces accompanied by a huge entourage in order to leave a strong impression on his subjects. Initially sympathetic to Judaism, Hadrian later becomes quite hostile to the Jews, buying into an old Greek tradition of antisemitism.

He was a firm believer in the values of Hellenic culture and imposed it on the regions he visited by all means possible. Hadrian's hope was that the enlightenment he brought the natives would make them feel like full fledged citizens of the empire. The Jewish resistance to embrace the Roman way of life run against Hadrian's plan for culturally unified empire. He was determined to bring the Jews into the modern world and use the Roman power to accomplish his goal if he had to.

In 130 C.E. Hadrian arrived in Judea and decided to build a new pagan city over the ruins of Jerusalem with a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter on the Temple Mount. He had engaged in the similar rebuilding projects in other parts of the empire as his way of introducing an advanced civilization to what he considered to be the primitive cultures.

When the word about Hadrian's plan to rebuild Jerusalem spread around Judea, many Jews were hopeful that their prayers were answered and emperor's plan involved rebuilding the Solomon's Temple. They soon learned that the only plan Hadrian had in mind was to build a Roman city over the ruins of Jerusalem. The new city was to be called Aelia Capitolina, Aelia after his own name Aelius and Capitolina after the Roman deities Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, who were to become the patrons of the new city.

Hadrian plans for Judea did not stop there. In 1931 he issued a number of edicts aimed at eliminating Jewish practices and customs some of which were at the heart of their religion. Hadrian was especially hostile to the practice of circumcision, which he classified as a form of self mutilation. He also outlawed the teaching of the Torah, which was instrumental in survival of Jewish culture throughout the centuries. Hadrian's actions provoked a deep dismay among the Jewish population. An attempt by Rome to eradicate a millennia old religion and force a foreign culture on a highly devout population only strengthened their resolve to resist the mighty empire.

Once Hedrian's edicts were passed a Jewish rebellion in Judea was in inevitable. The rebels chose a hard-nosed and experienced soldier Simon Bar Kochba as their commander. Bar Kochba got an endorsement from a highly respected Rabbi Akiva, who proclaimed a new rebel commander to be a Messiah and even referred to him as "Son of the Star".

The rebel leader demanded unquestionable loyalty. He implemented a practice of having his men cut off a finger as proof of their dedication to the cause. Roman officials must have been prepared for some sort of push-back from the Jews, but the rebellion still came as a complete surprise. In 1932 C.E. the Tenth Legion was forced to abandon their camp near Jerusalem thus allowing Bar Kochba and his soldiers to take control of Jerusalem.

Once Bar Kochba had Jerusalem under control, he established a provisional government, resumed ritual sacrifices at the temporary altar on the Temple site and issued new coins. Bar Kochba even made plans to rebuild the Jewish Temple and bring the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem.

While the outbreak of rebellion in Judea, cought Romans by surprise, they did not stay idle once the magnitude of the revolt was realised. Hadrian recalled his best general, Julius Severis from Britain and put him in charge of the Roman army. Troops were brought into action from the other regions of the empire. Once the Roman force was assembled as many as eight legions were ready to confront Bar Kochba's rebel force.

General Severis pursued the tactic of slow and methodical advance, using the superior numbers. All roads leading to Jerusalem were cut off, depriving the defenders from from outside support. The walls of the city were destroyed by Titus during the previous war and could no longer provide a protection. Romans were splitting and isolating the rebel forces and then starving the pockets of resistance.

 Romans struggled to crush the Jewish revolt for three years, despite the fact that the size of the Roman army was larger than the one commanded by Titus sixty years earlier. War in Judea lasted between 132 to 135 C.E. and during that period, Roman army suffered massive casualties. The casualties on the Jewish side were severe. Nearly half a million Jews died in fighting or from starvation, fifty fortresses and thousand villages were destroyed.

By 135 CE, Romans reclaimed the city. The remnants of Bar Kochba's army took a last stand at the fortress of Betar located a few miles southwest of Jerusalem. They held up for a couple of months but eventually were run over by the Romans. The rebellion was crushed, Simon Bar Kokhba was killed and Rabbi Akiva was captured and tortured to death.

After the war was over, Hadrian relentlessly resumed with his plan to build a Roman city in place of Jerusalem. First the city was plowed over according to Roman tradition for founding a new settlement. The new city was planned based on typical designs of other cities in the empire and according to the orders that came directly from the emperor.

Cardo in Old city Jerusalem

                                                                Cardo in Old city, Jerusalem 

Gradually Jerusalem has been transformed into a typical Hellenic city. The straight as arrow broad streets stretching from east to west and from north to south made up the skeleton of the city that is still seen today. On the top of those streets Romans build the entrance gates, pagan temples, public baths and amphitheaters. Housing was put up for army officers and free soldiers who represented a new elite of the city.

At the place where the Jewish Temple once stood, he had erected a huge statue of himself on the horse. It would have been a symbol of Roman dominance over the Jews. He also built a Temple of Jupiter with a statue of Aphrodite outside the spot where Jesus was crucified. Today this area is where Church of Holy Sepulchre stands.

Jews were forbidden to enter the city limits under the penalty of death. The name Jerusalem was removed from the maps of the empire and replaced by Aelia Capitolina while Judea province was renamed to Syria Palestina. The basic Jewish religious practices such as observation of Sabbath, study and teaching of Torah and celebration of festivals became capital crimes.

Once the Jews were expelled, Jerusalem and the surrounding villages were repopulated by the Roman soldiers and Greek speaking Gentiles. The Christian community of Jerusalem was ordered to change its bishop of Jewish origin by one of the Gentile birth. While Titus destroyed the Jerusalem physically, Hadrian destroyed it culturally by turning what once was one of the most glorious cities of the East into another typical Roman city often used as a convenient resting stop for travelers on their way to Egypt.

After the war the Jewish population of Judea concentrated in the region of Galilee, primarily in the cities of Tiberias and Sepphoris. These areas became the centers of Jewish study and authority for the next few centuries. The Jews no longer held any real hope of reclaiming Jerusalem or rebuilding the Temple and gradually moved their religious practices into synagogues, an institution developed by Jews in Babylonian exile. Judaism dedicated itself to prayer, observance of the holidays and study of Torah under the guidance of the rabbis.

One outcome of the Bar Kochba's failed rebellion was the parting of ways between the Jews and Christians. Few small groups of Jewish Christians were left, but they were also expelled from Aelia because of ban applied to them as circumcised Jews. New congregations were established mainly among Gentile Christians, many of whom were the colonists imported from Syria and Greece. Christianify was not yet an authorized religion and often suffered persecution from Roman authorities.

Jerusalem in those days did not have a special meaning for Christians as many of them thought of it as a city that rejected Jesus. In fact the main Christian authority was maintained in Caesaria where the local bishop established an academy.

Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius relaxed some of the draconian edicts implemented by the previous regime . The limited practice of Judaism was reinstated and in Galilee the Jews were allowed a new leadership title called patriarch. At the same time a new emperor erected his own statue on the Temple Mount, right next to one put up by Hadrian earlier, just to let the Jews know that there would be no chance of rebuilding the temple.

Since the time of King David, the main attraction of Jerusalem was it's religious importance. It's financial success always depended on the income generated by Jewish pilgrims flocking the city during the holidays. Aelia Capitolina inherited none of those traditions and was a poor excuse for a holy city. With no new industries developed by Roman authorities and most of the legionaries moved to the other regions of the Empire, city lost a lot of sources of income. More importantly, it lost it's sole as statues of the Roman gods and emperors attracted very few followers.

Roman city of Aelia was a relatively small provincial city primarily used to support the military garrisons. Even local Christians barely remembered that the original name of the city was Jerusalem. Christian bishops felt that there was nothing holy about this pagan metropolis. For them the sight of flattened Temple Mount with statues of Roman emperors only reminded them of terrible fate the Jews suffered as a result of denying Jesus as a Messiah.

The transformation of Jerusalem into a Christian holy city began with Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity. In 325, he embarked on a massive program of building the churches. He ordered to erect a church of the Holy Sepulcher on the site of Jesus' death.

When Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, the Jerusalem gradually attained a greater status. As it acquired a degree of sacredness the accelerated development has followed. Many pilgrims came to visit and some even settled there benefiting the economic activity in the city. The number of inhabitants increased and many churches were built.

In 614 A.D, the Persians captured Jerusalem from the Byzantines. They destroyed the churches and monasteries of the city, including the Holy Sepulcher, and killed thousands of inhabitants. After 25 years of warfare, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius recaptured Jerusalem and begun to rebuild the city, but the prolonged war exousted the Empire and opened up the door to the Muslim conquest.