Section: Moadim Category: Story of The Churban
|Part 6: Weakened By Starvation|
In order to conquer the Old City, Titus and his troops would first have to conquer the Antonia Fortress, a fortress which protected the Old City on its north. He ordered his troops to build a huge rampart close to the wall. He would then position his war machines on it and attack. However, his plan was preempted by Yochanan and his men. They dug a tunnel underneath the camp and filled it with wood and tar. They then ignited it, and the tunnel collapsed, causing the rampart to collapse as well. The Roman catapults and battering rams were destroyed by the resulting fire.
Titus realized that it would not be easy to defeat the Jews through warfare. He decided that instead he would conquer them through starvation. He ordered his soldiers to build a stone fence around the city and seal all its exits. The exits were guarded day and night. The famine grew worse throughout the city but the Jewish warriors fought on.
Meanwhile, the Romans cut down all the trees around Yerushalayim to build new rampart for the assault against Antonia Fortress. The mountains surrounding Yerushalayim became barren and desolate. The Romans cut down all the foliage around Yerushalayim for thirteen miles. The orchards, gardens and fruit trees that had graced Yerushalayim with their beauty were gone.
The Romans dragged the battering rams up the ramps they had built against the walls. The Jewish warriors had become weakened by hunger and were unable to effectively resist the assault. Originally, the Zealots were not affected by hunger because they had built up their supplies by snatching food from others. Eventually however, they ran out of supplies and became desperately hungry. They ate their horses, and when their supply ran out, they ate the horses' dung. They ate their leather saddles and their weapons and then desperately searched for grass and foliage without success.
The Jews on top of the walls were able to see the Romans eating in their camp. The smell of the roasting food was torturous for them. Some of the warriors were so hungry that they surrendered to the Romans. A few Romans could not bear the sight of their swollen bodies and gave them food, but their wasted bodies could not digest real food and their stomachs burst.
Jewish leaders of the time calculated that 601,575 dead Jews had been brought through the gates of Yerushalayim. This did not include the countless dead bodies left unburied in houses and streets, victims of starvation or violence. This also did not include the dead bodies in the Bais Hamikdash and the suburbs of Yerushalayim. The dead bodies lying on the streets included important leaders of the Jews who the terrorists prevented from being buried.