The Arch of Titus in Rome depicts the sacking & looting of Jerusalem

Archaeological finds related to the Judean Revolt against the Romans in Jerusalem have provided valuable insight into one of the most significant events in Jewish history.

One of the tactics the Palestinians employ is to outright deny any Jewish history within the land of Israel. In the narrative of the literal army of social media accounts and support accounts that litter the various platforms, the entirety of Israel is 'occupied Palestine.' Even claims that the Temples stood where the Dome of the Rock currently stands is denied, with some Palestinian schools even teaching that no evidence has ever been found that ties ancient Hebrews to the land, specifically to Jerusalem.

However, there is a plethora of evidence to confirm accounts from historical third parties such as the Romans that Jerusalem and the majority of Judea were brimming with 'Jewish' life. Today, we focus on the period that led to the Judean nation being exiled across the Roman Empire and the renaming of the historical land to Syria-Palestina, the Judean Revolt. In fact, there have been many physical finds to confirm the stories written in Flavius Josephus' "The Judean War" which was published in 75AD. 

The Great Revolt began in the year 66 AD, during the twelfth year of the reign of Roman Emporer Nero, and was the culmination of tensions that arose from Roman regulations regarding Jewish religious practice. The crisis escalated due to anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens by the Jews. What those protests morphed into was known as 'The Judean Revolt', and later referred to as the 'Great Revolt'. Ultimately, the conflict turned into a full-on rebellion against Roman rule in Judea (present-day Israel) and lasted for several years. The rebellion was led by a group the Romans called the Judean (Jewish) Zealots, a group of Jewish nationalists who sought to drive the Romans out of Judea and restore Jewish independence.

Practically speaking, the event is not simply documented in an ancient book, but in actual archaeological finds two millennia later. One of the most significant finds related to the revolt is the discovery of a massive fortification system in Jerusalem. The fortifications, which date back to the first century AD, were uncovered during excavations in the City of David, an ancient neighborhood located outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The fortifications, which include a series of walls and towers, are believed to have been built by the Judean 'Zealots' in preparation for the revolt as per Josephus' account.

Another important find is the discovery of a large number of coins from the period of the revolt. The coins, which were found in excavations in and around Jerusalem, provide valuable information about the economic conditions in Judea during the revolt. They also provide evidence of the widespread support for the rebellion among the Jewish population.  What makes some of these coins special are the inscriptions on them which have a familiar sound that the Palestinians have borrowed for their own 'war cry'.

Long before the “Free Palestine’ slogan became popular – in fact about 1,974 years ago – a “‘Freedom of Zion” coin was minted and circulated in Jerusalem.  Initially, two of these coins were found and offered insight into what happened during the revolt. One of the coins, minted in 67-68 AD, depicts a vine leaf and a Hebrew inscription that translates to "the freedom of Zion" on one side, while the other side shows an amphora with two handles and a Hebrew inscription that translates to "year 2," signifying the second year of the revolt. These coins were unearthed in 2020 at a site about 19 miles (30 kilometers) northeast of Jerusalem.

At the time this coin was minted, Jewish rebels had defeated Roman forces in the region and had taken over a sizable section of Israel, including Jerusalem, forming a short-lived government that minted its own coins. In 70 AD, a Roman counterattack resulted in the Romans taking back Jerusalem and destroying most of the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaic history.   The same archaeological survey also uncovered another coin one kilometer away from the first in a small cave. That coin was minted nearly 50 year later around 134-135 AD, during what is called the 'Bar Kochba rebellion', which lasted from 132 to 136 AD. One side has a Hebrew inscription that translates to "for the freedom of Jerusalem," along with a palm branch inside a wreath; the other side of the coin is decorated with an image of a lyre and a Hebrew inscription that translates to "Shimon," which was the name of rebel leader "Shimon Ben Kosva, or Bar-Kochba.

At the time that coin was minted, Jewish rebels had launched another rebellion against the Roman Empire, also taking over a good chunk of Israel and forming another short-lived government that minted its own coins. The Romans crushed this rebellion in AD 136, with the ancient Roman historian Cassius Dio (who lived decades later, from about 155 to 235) claiming that over 500,000 Jewish men were killed.

The discovery of several Jewish rebels' hideouts is also revealing about the revolt. These caves, which are located in the vicinity of Jerusalem, are believed to have been used by the Zealots of the first revolt as hiding places during the Roman siege of the city. The caves contain a wealth of artifacts, including pottery, weapons, and personal items, providing a glimpse into the daily lives of the rebels.

In addition to these specific finds, many other artifacts have been discovered that provide insight into the social, economic and cultural aspects of the Jewish society of the time, as well as the Roman rule over the area.

Overall, the archaeological finds related to the Judean Revolt against the Romans in Jerusalem have greatly expanded our understanding of this critical period in Jewish history and the rebellion that shaped it. They offer us a glimpse into the daily lives of the Jewish people during a time of great conflict and upheaval and help us to understand the motivations and actions of the Jewish rebels who fought for their freedom against the Roman Empire. They also confirm without a doubt that there was a vibrant Jewish presence in the land, long before it was called Palestine.

This is not to say that the Palestinians of today have no connection to the land, some absolutely do, but most do not. According to all accounts, including biblical records, the land was never inhabited only by Jews. While for close to 1000 years it was ruled by Hebrews, Israelites, Judeans, Samarians - what we know today to be Jews - the nation was open, and whether they were of Canaanite descent or came during the Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek or Roman periods, there were always other people living within the land. As it is today, Israel was a pluralistic society back in ancient times. It was a land where the freedoms of all people were respected, and 'the stranger' was welcome to settle in the land.

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