Blog  Rabbi Akivah and the Bar Kokhba Rebellion

Rabbi Akivah and the Bar Kokhba Rebellion

Zoe Rosenberg, a Fall 2016 student, is a junior from St. Louis, Missouri. She is a member of United Hebrew Congregation, a participant of NFTY-MV, a NFTY TYG President and has been a camper at URJ GUCI and URJ Kutz Camp

Imagine yourself immersed in total darkness. Your eyes are seemingly closed, and everything is black. Around you, everything is cool, damp and a tight space. You can hear the shouts of your fellow Jews ahead in the caves, and you can feel your heart pounding in your chest. You know that the Romans are close behind you, just above the surface and you can hear them coming down into your caves. Light begins to touch the blackness, and as you see the first soldier come into the caves, you stop and wonder, “What am I really fighting for? Is it worth it?” Earlier today, we visited the Bar Kokhba caves of the 2nd century. In 115 CE, Jews in areas of the Hellenistic Diaspora began staging small scale revolts around the Roman Empire. The Trajan Rebellion was shut down, but it was around this time that the Jews living in towns outside of Jerusalem began to prepare to stage their own revolt. These Jews were lead by the son of a star, Bar Kokhba, and they revolted in ways that were different than the last two rebellions that the Jews had staged. The Jews dug massive systems of tunnels, prepared supplies and worked on raising an army to attack the Romans. For the past hundred or so years, Rome had been the super-power in the land. Rome was the greatest empire on earth, and it was very large. So why would a rag-tag army of Jews decide that it would be a good idea to rise up and revolt?

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We have a total of four different opinions on why the Jews decided to stage a rebellion. There is one from Eusebius, Dio Cassius, Spartanius, and the Jews. Each have a different reason for why the Jews revolted. Based on all of these reasons, do you personally believe that the revolt was valid?

The Bar Kokhba Rebellion ends up failing, and in 135 on the 9th of Av, the last Jewish city, Beitar, falls.  From the caves, we then went to a Roman amphitheater. Inside (or technically outside) the structure, we learned about the Aseret Harugey Malchot, or the Ten Martyred Rabbis. In the incredibly gory story we read, we followed the story of the death of the famed Rabbi Akivah. Rabbi Akivah was a very important rabbi, (VIR) and along with the other VIRs, he was killed to make an example of how the Romans wanted the Jewish people to be gone and dead. Instead of submitting to Roman rule, these VIRs chose to die for their Judaism, as many other Jews had before them. For that time, the Rabbis like Akivah were Jewish role models for the people. Are there any modern day examples of Jews who are like Akivah, and so committed to their Judaism?

—Zoe Rosenberg, Fall 2016