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The New Sicarii

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Although they might not have been the first terrorists, they wrote the book on terrorism. Rejecting other landscapes but their narrow view of the world, they believed their inner might could defeat the invincible Romans and they killed coreligionists who refused to continue the battle. By using concealed daggers to dispatch their foes, they acquired the name Sicarii. In effect, they were a suicide prone sect who didn't mind taking fellow Jews with them to death. The Sicarii played a principal role in provoking the Roman onslaught against the Jewish population in Jerusalem and in the eventual destruction of the city. Their identifying characteristics: victimhood, no compromises, use of daggers to resolve issues, generating hate, and creating victims. Two questions still require responses: Why did the Sicarii pursue a suicide effort and why did the first century Jews tolerate their presence?

History tells us that populations never learn from history and proceed to commit the same mistakes. The Jews have followed this principal; Sicarii have been prevalent throughout Jewish history and have often brought tragedy to Jewish populations. From Roman times to the present, the Jews face their Sicarii.

Roman crushing of the Jewish rebellion in Jerusalem in 67 AD did not stop Jewish rebellions in Roman territories. Thirty eight years later, Jewish tribes in Crete, Cyrenaica (modern day eastern Libya), Cyprus, Mesopotamia and the Aegean took advantage of Roman struggles with attacks from other nations to start the Kitos war. According to Roman history, the war "spiraled out of control resulting in a widespread slaughter of Roman citizens and others by the Jewish rebels. The rebellions were finally crushed by Roman legionary forces, chiefly by the Roman general Luseis Quietus, whose name gave the conflict its title."

The Jewish Encyclopedia describes the Cyrene massacres:
"By this outbreak Libya was depopulated to such an extent that a few years later new colonies had to be established there."

"In Cyprus a Jewish band under a leader named Artemion had taken control of the island, killing thousands of civilians. Under the leadership of one Artemion, the Cypriot Jews participated in the great uprising against the Romans under Trajan, and they are reported to have massacred 240,000 Greeks (Dio Cassius, lxviii. 32). A small Roman army was dispatched to the island, soon reconquering the capital. After the revolt had been fully defeated, laws were created forbidding any Jews to live on the island."

Wars undertaken with no possibility of permanent victory; just the opposite, certain destruction of the Jewish populations. And all this done when history considers the Jews relatively accepted and free to practice their religion in the Roman Empire.

In the first century AD, Jews lived across the Roman Empire in relative harmony.
Protected by Rome and allowed to continue their religion, everything was fine until rebellion in Judea led to a major change in the practice of their faith.

"By the beginning of the first century AD, Jews had spread from their homeland in Judea across the Mediterranean and there were major Jewish communities in Syria, Egypt, and Greece. Practicing a very different religion from that of their neighbors, they were often unpopular. As a result, Jewish communities were often close-knit, to protect themselves and their faith.

"Jews had lived in Rome since the second century BC. Julius Caesar and Augustus supported laws that allowed Jews protection to worship as they chose. Synagogues were classified as colleges to get around Roman laws banning secret societies and the temples were allowed to collect the yearly tax paid by all Jewish men for temple maintenance.

"There had been upsets: Jews had been banished from Rome in 139 BC, again in 19 AD and during the reign of Claudius. However, they were soon allowed to return and continue their independent existence under Roman law."

If fighting and losing two wars against impossible odds was not sufficiently punishing, Simon Bar Kokhba, a proclaimed Messiah, commandeered another revolt against the Roman Empire during the years 132--136 AD. The revolt temporarily succeeded in establishing an independent state of over parts of Judea for two years before the Roman army overcame the rebellion. Result: The Romans barred Jews from Jerusalem, except for Tisah B'av, a fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Jerusalem Temples

Sicarrii continued among the Jews for centuries with false Messiahs and troubling figures who defied authority in losing causes.

For several reasons, the initial Zionist thrust resembled the Sicarii actions.
Although their philosophy had little appeal to the Jewish people of the late 19th century, Zionists behaved as if they spoke for the Jews, and their actions threatened them.

"The first Zionist Congress (1887) was to have taken place in Munich, Germany. However, due to considerable opposition by the local community leadership, both Orthodox and Reform, it was decided to transfer the proceedings to Basel, Switzerland. Theodore Herzl acted as chairperson of the Congress which was attended by some 200 participants." (ED: Only 69 were delegates)

 The Reform Judaism's (representing most of American Jews at that time) 1885 Pittsburgh Platform called for Jews to adopt a modern approach to the practice of their faith.

"Instead of a nation, the Pittsburgh Platform envisions Jews as a religious community within a nation. For this reason, there was an explicit rejection of Zionism, which was viewed as unnecessary because American Jews were at home in America."

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Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. His website articles have been read in more than 150 nations, while articles written for other websites have appeared in online journals throughout the world(B 92, (more...)
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