The Jewish Eye
Story of The Churban - Part 7
Part 7: "Raise Your Hands To Heaven For The Lives Of The Children Starving On Every Street Corner" Eicha 2:19
The roofs were filled with women and small children expiring from hunger, and the corpses of old men were piled in the streets. Youths swollen with hunger wandered like shadows in the market place until they collapsed. No one mourned the dead, because hunger had deadened all feeling. Those who fell to the ground turned their eyes for the last time to the Bais Hamikdash and beheld the defenders still fighting and holding out (Yosephus: The Jewish Wars, 5:10).
Hunger was ravaging the city. Thousands of people died. Those that still clung to life fought each other over everything edible and even non-edible, such as straw, rodents and insects. When a dead horse or another dead animal was discovered, people would die fighting over it because there was no other source of sustenance.
Dire hunger eliminated all sense of shame. Husbands would snatch food from their wives, and mothers from their children. In an unbelievable act of horror, a mother even slaughtered, cooked and ate her beloved only son, fulfilling the possuk in the Torah: "And you will eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters you will eat" (Vayikra 26:29).
As the siege continued, young and old people wandered around the streets in a stupor. Starved men and women searched through sewers and dunghills for food. Carcasses were strewn on the streets - of humans and animals. Eventually the streets were so full of dead bodies that it was impossible to walk down the street without stepping on them. Houses were full of dead bodies. Jews actually dug their own graves and laid down in them until they succumbed. No one was left to tend to the dead or to cry over them. All emotions, including sorrow, had disappeared in the face of the terrible hunger.
The Zealots ruthlessly murdered anyone caught trying to smuggle out of the city walls to forage for food on the assumption that they would surrender to the Romans. The Zealots would also murder anyone who was found with a private supply of food. They would even torture people to reveal where their food was hidden, and then snatch the food for themselves. They were not even motivated by hunger since they originally had their own supply of food- they simply wanted to increase their own supplies. Eventually, however, their supplies became depleted and they too succumbed to hunger. Ultimately, Yerushalayim fell because of the famine that the Zealots inflicted on their own people and ultimately, on themselves. The famine was what caused the defeat of the city and of the Jews.
The desperate Jews that did manage to traverse the city walls to forage for grass and herbs were rounded up by the Romans. The Romans flogged them, tortured them, and crucified them before the walls of the city. Five hundred Jews were crucified every day.
The Zealots forced the families of the crucified Jews to ascend the city walls to witness the fate of those who surrendered. Some Jews were so desperate that they jumped over the walls anyway, preferring to risk crucifixion than a slow agonizing death from hunger.
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