Eventually, the Persians were overtaken by Alexander the Great, and then in turn by the Greeks, who were good to the Judeans, but influenced them with their Hellenistic ways. The historic events that led to the establishment of the holiday of Hanukkah ensued, followed by the rise of the Hasmonean Dynasty, who were Judean rulers that descended from the Jewish priestly tribe. Unfortunately, their leadership was marred by infighting and corruption, paving the way for the conquest of Israel by the Roman Empire.
The ensuing Roman leaders placed intolerable restrictions on religious adherence, fomenting unrest and multiple attempts of rebellion against Roman rule. These rebellions were brutally suppressed and the Judean providence of Rome was decimated, with Jesus of Nazareth among its victims. A harsh siege of Jerusalem was followed by the systematic destruction of the city and its beloved Temple. The Israelites were exiled again from Jerusalem, but this time for 2,000 years. From 70CE, there was no large-scale independent Jewish presence in Israel, and no homeland for the Jewish people.
“‘I dispersed them among all those nations which they had not known, and the Land was left behind them desolate, without any who came and went. They caused a delightful Land to be turned into a desolation’” (Zech. 7:14).
“‘And I will silence in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of bridegroom and bride. For the whole Land shall fall to ruin’” (Jer. 7:34).
“‘All who pass your way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their head at fair Jerusalem: ‘Is this the city that was called perfect in beauty, joy of all the Earth?’’”(Lam. 2:15).
For the next 2,000 years, Jerusalem was captured again and again. The Romans rebuilt the city. The Persians took it back. The Byzantine Christians conquered it, and later Caliph Omar accepted the surrender of Jerusalem to the Muslims. The Christian Crusaders then occupied it, but Saladin took it back. The Crusaders claimed it again, until the Muslim rulers dismantled Jerusalem’s walls. Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire would later rebuild them and the British were allotted the territory in the aftermath of World War I.
Throughout the centuries since the Jews left the Land, battles were waged, homes and buildings were destroyed, holy sites were erected and torched, and endless blood was spilled over this parcel of land. The result was utter destruction, as God had warned the Israelites “I will make the Land desolate, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled by it. And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheath the sword against you. Your land shall become a desolation and your cities a ruin.” (Lev. 26: 32).
In 1267, the great Torah scholar Nachmanides described his visit to the Land in a letter to his son: “Many are Israel’s forsaken places, and great is the desecration. The more sacred the place, the greater the devastation it has suffered. Jerusalem is the most desolate place of all.”
Mark Twain wrote in 1867, “A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action… Jerusalem is mournful, and dreary, and lifeless. I would not desire to live here… Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes… Nazareth is forlorn; about that ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with songs of rejoicing, one finds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho the accursed, lies a smoldering ruin, to-day, even as Joshua’s miracle left it more than three thousand years ago… Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and has become a pauper village…”