Betar (fortress)

Betar (fortress)

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The Betar Fortress was the last standing Jewish fortress in the Bar Kochba revolt of the 2nd century CE, destroyed by the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 army of Emperor Hadrian in the year 135. According to Jewish tradition the fortress was brieched and destroyed on Tisha B'av
Tisha B'Av
|Av]],") is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 655 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date...

, the day of mourning for the destruction of the First and the Second Jewish Temple.

The site of historic Betar (also spelled Beitar or Bethar), next to the modern village of Battir
Battir
Battir is an ancient town located in the West Bank, 5km west of Bethlehem, and south west of Jerusalem. It has a population of about 4,000 inhabitants. Battir sits just above the railway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which also served as the armistice line between Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967...

, southwest of Jerusalem, is known as Khirbet al-Yahud, Arabic for "Jewish ruin".

The destruction of Betar in 135 put an end to the last great Jewish revolt against Rome, and effectively quashed any Jewish dreams of freedom. Accounts of the event in Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

ic and Midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

ic writings thus reflect and amplify its importance in the Jewish psyche and oral tradition in the subsequent period. The best known is from the Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a-b:


"Through the shaft of a litter Bethar was destroyed." It was the custom when a boy was born to plant a cedar tree and when a girl was born to plant a pine tree, and when they married, the tree was cut down and a canopy made of the branches. One day the daughter of the Emperor was passing when the shaft of her litter broke, so they lopped some branches off a cedar tree and brought it to her. The Jews thereupon fell upon them and beat them. They reported to the Emperor that the Jews were rebelling, and he marched against them.


[In explanation of the verse] "He hath cut off in fierce anger all the horn of Israel." R. Zera said in the name of R. Abbahu who quoted R. Johanan: These are the eighty thousand battle trumpets which assembled in the city of Bethar, when it was taken and men, women and children were slain in it until their blood ran into the Great Sea [=Mediterranean]. Do you think this was near? It was a whole mil away.


It has been taught: R. Eleazar the Great said: There are two streams in the valley of Yadaim, one running in one direction and one in another, and the Sages estimated that [at that time] they ran with two parts water to one of blood.


In a Baraitha it has been taught: 'For seven years [after the massacre at Beitar] the gentiles fertilized their vineyards with the blood of Israel without using manure.'


...Rab Judah reported Samuel as saying in the name of Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel; What is signified by the verse, "Mine eye affecteth my soul, because of all the daughters of my city?" There were four hundred synagogues in the city of Bethar, and in every one were four hundred teachers of children, and each one had under him four hundred pupils, and when the enemy entered there they pierced them with their staves, and when the enemy prevailed and captured them, they wrapped them in their scrolls and burnt them with fire.



Other Midrashic sources can be seen here.

See also

  • Battir
    Battir
    Battir is an ancient town located in the West Bank, 5km west of Bethlehem, and south west of Jerusalem. It has a population of about 4,000 inhabitants. Battir sits just above the railway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which also served as the armistice line between Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967...

     (village near Betar ruins)
  • Betar Illit
    Betar Illit
    Beitar Illit is an Israeli settlement and city west of Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, in the Judean Mountains of the West Bank. At the end of 2007, it had a total population of 38,800 consisting of over 6000 families. By 2020, the population is expected to reach 100,000...

     (settlement near Betar)
  • Mevo Betar (town near Betar)

Further reading

  • David Ussishkin
    David Ussishkin
    David Ussishkin is an Israeli archaeologist. Now retired as Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, Ussishkin has directed and co-directed important excavations at a variety of sites, including Lachish, Jezreel and Megiddo....

    , "Archaeological Soundings at Betar, Bar-Kochba's Last Stronghold", in: Tel Aviv. Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University 20 (1993) 66ff.

External links

  • Shimon Gibson (2006), Bethar, Encyclopedia Judaica, based on Encyclopedia Hebraica