Three major events in Jewish history added a great measure of weight to the inevitable fall of the Roman Empire. Judaism represented monotheism, the Roman world and all other nations and cultures represented poly-theism — One G-d verses many gods.
Greco-Roman thought verses Jewish belief. Greek philosophy, seeing is believing verses Jewish thought which is hearing is believing. “Hear Oh Israel, the L-rd our G-d , the L-rd is One.” As you will learn in this article Jewish zealots and rebels took a terrible toll on the Roman legions. Tens and tens of thousands of Roman soldiers never returned to the Italian homeland. This 100 year period was a vicious time.
Throughout the Roman Empire there were large Jewish populations, not just in Jerusalem, but in Mesopotamia; all through Northern Africa; in Italy; Alexandria, Egypt; España (Spain); and in the old Babylonian Empire and Greece as well.
The first war and the War of Attrition, 66-73 C.E., again saw huge losses on both sides. Though Rome got a licking many times, inevitably the Jewish armies were no match for Roman might. 985 towns were destroyed in Israel. Jerusalem was flattened and the Jewish Temple destroyed. The city itself was, over several months, besieged, and eventually lost over 600,000 people. The total loss: estimating between 1.2 and 1.5 million Jewish people slaughtered.
Yet resistance continued in the Kitos wars, 115-117C.E., with skirmishes in between, four decades of planning and interconnecting Jewish communities would bring about another vengeful war against Roman attrition and slavery. Through Asia Minor, Greece, Cyprus, all through Northern Africa from today’s Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, even in regions that are now in today’s Iraq and Turkey, small Jewish armies revolted massacring whole regions. Alexandria, Egypt lost 240,000 people as Jews took revenge against Roman-Greek colonists. In other areas there were other estimates of over 200,000 Greek and Roman citizens and troops being wiped out by roving bands of Jewish armies. Alexandria, Egypt was wasted and all the while Rome had to send more and more troops to destroy these Jewish armies. By the end of 117 C.E., Jewish, Roman and Greek population centers were completely depopulated. So bad was the devastation that Rome had to send tens of thousands of civilians from the mainland of Italy to try to repopulate areas where there were no people. This ultimately lead to the Bar Kokhba revolt which led to disaster. The Roman troops and auxiliary units took a heavy beating by Jewish garrisons, yet once Rome got the upper hand, the massacres began in earnest. By the end of the War of Attrition, between 130-135 C.E., 400,000 Jews lay dead in the streets.
Though these wars decimated Jewish population centers, still others flourished and what could not be done in resistance, was done by the best weapon the Jewish people always had: by sharing, individually, the light of monotheism, the Jewish faith. Most of Christianity says that it is the Christian faith that brought down Rome. Prior to these terrible wars, Jewish people had been presenting monotheism to nations and empires around them long before Christianity was forged. All the Bible was written by Jewish leaders of the faith, so we have to credit the Jewish people for weakening the Caesars of Rome and the fatal disease of slavery. By winning all three wars, Rome paid too high a price and by the middle of the fourth century, pagan Rome imploded.
Today, Israel cannot compete with the militaries and the economies of greater nations, and yet the Jewish people has done enormous things for the world. For instance, monotheism – the Bible, ethics and morals, doctors, lawyers, dentists, in science (there are so many both medieval to present day, they are to numerous to list) and the arts, literature, Pulitzer prize winners, of whom the vast majority are Jewish intellectuals. In regards to the State of Israel their medical discoveries and Israeli technology are only third to the economic giants of the United States and China. TV, radio, Hollywood, have all been dominated by the Jewish people. Actors and actresses, names like Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Monroe, Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield, Jack Benny, the Three Stooges, the Marx brothers, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Steven Spielberg, Leonard Nimoy, and the list goes on and on. Though the Jewish people have lived in dispersion for 1900 years, they have not been idle. For everywhere they have been, they have made the world a better place to live. Jewish advancements in medicine have allowed people to live longer. The very penicillin that all of us have taken at one time or another, was created by a Jew. The cell phone that you put in your pocket was created by Jews. The drip system that the world uses, especially in cities, again, created by Jews. And yet, there are only 12 million Jewish people in the world and yet, regrettably, the most hated people in the world, are the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
They remain the Covenant people of G-d, the elect, the blessed of G-d, the race of kings and out of them comes the Messiah.
In closing, for those who have read this article, I would hope you would show your appreciation by greeting Jewish people and thanking them. Thanking them for all they have done and that you are praying for them and the state of Israel.
Think on these things.
Chief Rabbi Yosef Hilbrant