By Ilan Halévi
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Additional resources for A history of the Jews: Ancient and Modern
The era of prophecy was closed. Since the fall, says the Talmud, the gift of prophecy had been reserved for children and mad men. Now the time for piety, study and expectation had come. From Palestine, when Byzantium became Christian and protection ended, the whole debate, like the community, was moved elsewhere: to Mesopotamia, which eight centuries earlier had fallen under Persian rule. And, when Persia became Muslim, the era of the compilation of the Talmud was to be considered finally ended, the second Babylonian compilation terminated and a whole new stage in the understanding of the Law begun.
Free in their movements and linked to one another by the unity of the Muslim world, the most remote communities entered into the common orbit, borne along by the current. While Islamic law homogenized them and enclosed them in their institutionalized tribal-confessional identity, these communities moved massively westward. This resituating of the diaspora in the Islamic domain displaced the centre of gravity of Judaism from the frontiers of Persia to the western Mediterranean, that is, at the gates of the Christian West still plunged in pre-capitalist darkness.
Before leaving, Yohanan Ben Zakkai had attempted to convince his compatriots to abandon the path of suicide and negotiate a compromise. Two generations later, rabbi Akiba, who had succeeded the founder as head of the yeshiva at Yavneh, went off to join Bar-Kokhba's armed revolt, and the headship of the yeshiva reverted to the lineage of Gamaliel, the House of rabbi Hillel. They were neither "collaborators" like some priests, nor "Hellenists" like many others, nor "fanatics" (Qannaim) like the Zealots, neither elitists like the priests, nor populists like the revolting nationalists.
A history of the Jews: Ancient and Modern by Ilan Halévi