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Old March 19th, 2016 #1
Karl Radl
The Epitome of Evil
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: The Unseen University of New York
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Karl Radl
Default Documentary Review: 'Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land' (2004)

Documentary Review: 'Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land' (2004)

When you watch PBS' 'Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land', alternatively the 'The Cave of Letters', the name doesn't really explain the program's subject that well. It suggests some kind of shelter or special cave when in reality it is about a somewhat inaccessible cave in the Judean wildness in what is now Israel in which some jews may have lived for a short time. Where, in the 1960s, various documents were found including the only known letters written by Simon Bar Kochba during the second jewish revolt. (1)

The documentary itself isn't particularly interesting. Good mental chewing gum, but that's about it.

What I found interesting was the historical distortion engaged in by the documentary's makers. In so far as the program claimed that the Roman Empire was 'oppressing the jews' and therefore they righteously revolted, but this is complete nonsense. The Roman Empire was no more oppressive towards the jews than anyone else that came under its way and actually treated jews better than it treated other conquered peoples.

For example jews were given special tax and mercantile privileges in the empire by Julius Caesar hence the support for him expressed Rome's jewish population as described by Suetonius which were then confirmed by his successor Augustus Caesar (i.e. Octavian). These were only revoked by the Emperor Nero after the great jewish revolt had broken out.

However this wasn't good enough for the jewish people and they promptly conspired to revolt three times. The second revolt in this series, that of Bar Kochba, is primarily what 'Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land' deals with. Since, as already stated, pieces of correspondence from the leader of the uprising Simon Bar Kochba were found there.

The revolt is presented as this heroic gesture of an oppressed people, but, as we've already seen, this is complete unadulterated rubbish. The only 'oppression' the jews suffered in the Roman Empire was being asked to pay heed to the Imperial Cult in addition to their taxes. They revolted against the whole idea of both. Even though every one else in the empire no matter how important or irrelevant paid their taxes and integrated the Imperial Cult with their own religious ideas.

The program's propagandistic angle adheres to the jewish nationalist narrative of the 'oppressed jews heroically rising against their persecutors', but that's about it. It conveniently ignores, for example, the statement of the Roman historian Cassius Dio on the subject. Dio documents that the Bar Kochba revolt was actually a widespread conspiracy by the jewish people to murder non-jews and take their lands in the belief that the Messiah Bar Kochba had come. Attempts to rise in revolt and massacre the gentiles by the jews were recorded as far away as Cyrene and Alexandria in North Africa.

The jews rising against the 'evil Romans' were in reality religious fanatics. They followed a puritanical form of Judaism that endorsed stoning, beheading and torturing those who broke jewish law or disagreed with their particular interpretation of the (Written) Torah. Little different to the Islamic State of today. Yet almost two thousand years of history serves to quieten the horrific screams of the non-jewish victims as jewish zealots committed war crimes and ethnic cleaning in the name of Yahweh.

We do see a little of the more nuanced view that we don't actually know if many jews outside of the hard line religious groups supported Bar Kochba in what some of the scholarly 'talking heads' say. However what we do know beyond dispute is that the number of jewish religious fundamentalists who were bent on mass murder and genocide was significant enough to launch a second revolt against Rome and act as a murderous far flung conspiracy against non-jews across the Mediterranean.

It is therefore difficult to have any kind of sympathy with those who fled to the 'Cave of Letters' in the Judean wilderness. After all to do so would be like according sympathy to the defeated followers of Islamic State's brutal ideology. Given half a chance: they would have murdered you without a second thought.

So why on earth would you weep for their deaths?




This was originally published at the following address:


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