The Israeli Ambassador to Italy stood at the Roman Victory Arch in Rome, assuring the “spirits” of the captives of Judea that the Jews remained faithful and fulfilled the eternal dream of returning to Zion.
Dror Eydar, Israel’s ambassador to Italy, made an impassioned video presentation on Tisha B’Av at the Titus Gate, the Roman victory arch. Eydar noted that the arch celebrated the destruction of the Temple that Jews have lamented every year on its anniversary for the past 1,950 years.
“This year is different from previous years,” Eydar said in his video. “This year, I am in Rome, at the Titus Gate, built in honor of that victory over Jerusalem, over the Jewish people, in the year 70.”
Eydar then pointed out the nearby Coliseum, which he noted was “was built from the spoils of that victory.” He then pointed out the Curia, the Senate House of Ancient Rome.
“The triumphal procession made its way through the main streets of Rome and then it came here to the Via Sacra, to the ‘Holy Path’, to the Temple of Jupiter, where sacrifices were performed, and public celebrations took place, Eydar explained.
The ambassador then read an excerpt from the description of the event recorded by Josephus, a Jews historian captured by the Romans who witnessed the celebrations at the Arch of Titus In the eyewitness account, Josephus noted that the spoils from the Temple, including the gold table, the gold menorah, and the Torah scrolls, were the centerpiece of the Roman celebration. Eydar noted that the point from which this procession originated was chosen 1,500 years later as the site for the Jewish ghetto in Rome.
“If we could ask one of the tormented captives of Judea, ‘What is your dream?’, the answer would undoubtedly be to return home to Zion and rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem and the land. He would also repeat the oath of the first prisoners of Zion, from the destruction of the First Temple who had been expelled to Babylon.”
Eydar repeated this oath recorded as Psalm 137.
“Since then, we have repeated the oath over and over again. We promised ourselves that if we do not return, then our children, or their descendants, would do [so]. If not today, then tomorrow or the day after. And if still not then, then in one thousand or two thousand years. But eventually, we will return home because there is hope for our future.”
“Today, I came as the ambassador of Israel, to tell the captives of Judea, whose spirits are hovering here, and the symbols of their lost freedom, our freedom, are engraved here on this stone, ‘We have kept the promise.”
The ambassador then invoked the vow known to every Jew:
“Am Yisrael chai( עם ישראל חי, the nation of Israel lives)!”
The Arch of Titus bears witness to the Jewish claim of a Temple in Jerusalem, a claim that the Palestinians have attempted to deny and which has also been challenged by UNESCO resolutions identifying the Temple Mount as an exclusively Muslim holy site.The image of the menorah has led to several requests from the Chief Rabbis of Israel and Israeli politicians for the Vatican to return the Temple items (as well as countless other Jewish artifacts).
Netanyahu appointed Eydar to the position in 2018. Though he does not publicly wear a kippah, Eydar studied Judaism for 5 years and served as a combat medic in Golani brigade. Eydar has a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Jewish literature from Bar Ilan University and has taught at many universities and colleges in Israel, as well as published hundreds of articles and essays. He is a co-founder of The Second Zionist Revolution Circle, a group of conservative Israeli intellectuals. He is also a member in “The Liaison Committee”, an informal Israeli Jewish-Christian initiative.