Massacre at Mamilla

Completely overlooked in the current media frenzy about building the Museum of Tolerance atop the millennium-old Ma'amun Allah Cemetery is the site's forgotten history as the killing field of 614. In that year, nearly three centuries of prosperity under the Byzantine empire were shattered by Persia's Sassanid Shah Khosrau II, known as Parvez - the Victorious. Local Jews together with their co-religionists in Babylonia allied with the Zoroastrian invaders to defeat the Christian rulers. Seeking revenge for generations of persecution, the Jews destroyed hundreds of churches and monasteries. James Parkes described the ensuing slaughter in his book, A History of Palestine from 135 AD to Modern Times: "In 614 they took Jerusalem after a siege lasting only 20 days. There is no doubt that the Persians received substantial help from the Jews of Galilee. One chronicler mentions a figure of 20,000 Jewish soldiers, another 26,000. While the actual figures are as unreliable as all ancient figures, there is no reason to question the fact that the Jews aided the Persians with all the men they could muster, and that the help they gave was considerable. "Once Jerusalem was in Persian hands a terrible massacre of Christians took place, and the Jews are accused of having taken the lead in this massacre. It would not be surprising if the accusation were true, even though the fantastic stories told of Jewish revenge by Christian chroniclers are certainly exaggerated." How many Christian prisoners of war were murdered by the Mamilla Pool? A precise number is of course now impossible to verify, but Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich puts the tally at 60,000 before the Persian military stopped the carnage. One eyewitness, Strategius of St. Sabas, wrote: "Jews ransomed the Christians from the hands of the Persian soldiers for good money, and slaughtered them with great joy at Mamilla Pool, and it ran with blood." Persian rule in the Land of Israel lasted 14 years. The Byzantines briefly returned to a country in ruins in 628, only to face the formidable army of Muhammad's friend Omar ibn Khattab. One cannot understand the Sulha al-Quds - the treaty of Jerusalem's capitulation concluded in 638, without remembering the massacre at Mamilla a generation earlier. Patriarch Sofronius demanded, and the powerful Arab ruler agreed, to protect the people of Jerusalem from the ferocity of the Jews.