Day 1 of the Melton Italy Trip
On our first day in Rome, our group visited Titus' Arch which calls to mind a famous and significant moment in Jewish history. It celebrates the Roman victory in 70 CE when the Romans plundered Judea, conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and enslaved tens of thousands of Jews. For all these reasons, it was important for our group to visit the Arch. While visiting there we read excerpts from the ancient historian Josephus' account of the destruction of the Temple.
Built to honor Titus and celebrate the sacking of Jerusalem, the Arch captures a moment frozen in time, etched in stone--Titus astride his chariot, chained Jewish slaves forced to carry the Temple spoils, dragging the golden menorah and table through the streets of Rome surrounded by Roman soldiers.
I had a mixed reaction when I saw the Arch of Titus in Rome in its context. While on the one hand it was exciting, I was also mindful that the Arch marked the beginning of a very long and difficult chapter in Jewish history when Jews did not have their own homeland. The educator who organized this trip, Haim Aronovitz, reminded us that it was an ancient Jewish custom to never walk under the Arch. It was the Jewish People's way of protesting. Haim also explained that everything changed in 1947, three days after the UN voted to establish a Jewish State. After 2,000 years, Roman Jews made their way to the Arch of Titus and stood under it as an act of completion and vindication.
Seeing the Arch, I wondered if we appreciate how fortunate we are to have a Jewish State. My mission is to educate others to be aware of the miracle of the State of Israel and to encourage them to grapple with the challenges posed by our being back in our homeland.
Rabbi Amy Walk Katz, PhD