JANET SHAFNER     63”X46”     OIL ON CANVAS/WOOD        2003

In the year 66 CE a Jewish revolt against the Roman occupation of Palestine began.  It  lasted for four years until the Roman general Titus conquered Jerusalem, sacked the city and destroyed the Temple.

Only one outpost held out  against  the Romans – the  fortress  of  Masada.

At the beginning of the revolt, a band of Jewish fighters made the difficult trek into  the Judean desert, defeated the Roman garrison at Masada and took possession of it.  After the fall of Jerusalem, they  were joined by a few surviving patriots and held the outpost until 73 CE, when Flavius Silva, the Roman Governor, marched on Masada with thousands of troops.

When the Romans began to breach the fortification of Masada, the defenders chose death at their own hand rather than surrender.  The  Roman legion reached the top of the outpost only to find the bodies of the defenders - 960 men, women and children.

The painting of Masada shows fallen boulders and walls, and the ritual baths as they looked after modern excavation. I have combined these fragments in an imagined  view towards  the edge of the mountain.

The lunette refers to a event related in the Talmud.  Rabbi Akiva, Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah and Rabbi Yehoshua came to  Jerusalem after the destruction of the Second Temple.  When  they saw wild foxes running through  the ruins of the Temple, three of them began to cry, but Rabbi Akiva laughed.

Rabbi Akiva explained:  “Now that I see the prophecy of Uriah – that  ‘Zion shall be plowed as a field, Jerusalem shall become ruins and the Temple Mount a shrine in the woods’ --  has been fulfilled, I know the prophecy of Zechariah – that ‘old men and old women will again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem’ – will also be fulfilled”. The Rabbis responded, “Akiva, you have comforted us”.
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