Land of Israel and Jewish heritage
A series from the book written by Naveed Anjum
Jewish Life in the Land of Canaan, cont’d
The Promised Land, cont’d
Late Roman period, Conclusion
As you recall, during the 132–135 CE Bar Kokhba revolt, Julius Severus ravaged Judea, destroyed 985 villages, and banished many Jews from Jerusalem, which drove the Jewish population center to Galilee. As a result, Sepphoris was one of the centers in Galilee to which rabbinical families relocated from Judea.
Sepphoris (Ancient Greek: Σέπφωρις) was called Tzipori (Hebrew: צִפּוֹרִי), Diocaesaraea (Ancient Greek: Διοκαισάρεια), Saffuriya (Arabic: صفورية, transliterated as Safurriya and Suffurriye), and La Sephorie in Crusader times. It remains a village and archeological site in central Galilee of Israel, just 3.7 miles (6 km) north-northwest of Nazareth. At 286 meters above sea level, it sits as guardian of Beit Netofa Valley. Its rich, diverse, historical and architectural legacy contains Jewish, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader, Arabic and Ottoman influences. Late Christian tradition claims it as the birthplace of Mary, mother of Jesus, as well as Saints Anna’s and Joachim’s resident village.
In 351 CE, Patricius led Sepphoris’s Jewish population in a revolt against the Roman rule of Constantius Gallus, who was brother-in-law to Emperor Constantius II. Eventually, Ursicinus, Gallus’s general, subdued the revolt.
Then, in 359 CE, according to tradition, Hillel II created the Hebrew calendar based on the lunar year. Until that time, the entire Jewish community outside of the land of Israel had depended upon the calendar sanctioned by the Sanhedrin, which was necessary for proper observance of Jewish holy days. However, danger threatened participants of that sanction as well as the messengers who communicated the Sanhedrin’s decisions to distant congregations. As religious persecutions continued, Hillel decided to provide an authorized calendar for all time to come.
Closing out the Late Roman period, Julian was the last pagan, Roman Emperor. Nonetheless, so that Jews could rebuild their Temple, Julian allowed them to return to “holy Jerusalem which you have for many years longed to see rebuilt.” Unfortunately, they did not rebuild the Temple.
(To be continued…)