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10 Jewish Messiah Moments

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Messiah comes from the Hebrew word for "anointed." (It's pronounced ma-shee-ach in that ancient tongue.) In biblical times, it was a fairly workaday concept, referring to anyone chosen by God. David became mashiach (God's anointed king) over Israel after the prophet Samuel poured oil on David's head (depicted above).

In those days there was only a fuzzy picture of the afterlife and no concept of aftertimes. But then the Hebrew prophets began speaking of a future that would be better than the rather shabby present the Israelites were living. Isaiah prophesied that the future rule of Israel would be based on justice. Later, Ezekiel had his vision of the valley of dry bones, a portent that the Jews, exiled to Babylonia, would experience a national rebirth in the land of Israel.

By the 1st century, Roman occupation led to a flourishing belief in the messiah among the Jews of Israel. He would be a descendent of King David, defeat Israel's persecutors "“ that would be Rome -- and restore Jewish independence in the land. A savior.

For Christians, the issue was settled between Christmas and Easter. But for Jews, the question remained open and, for the next 2,000 years, particularly in periods of harsh persecution, slaughter or expulsion, Jews experienced repeated messiah moments. At best, they didn't end well. Here are 10:

1st century

Messiahs flourish in the land of Israel before the first Jewish revolt against Rome breaks out in the year 70. Jesus announces, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." The Romans execute him.


Rabbi Akiva, one of the most revered sages in Jewish history, declares Shimon bar Kokhba, charismatic military leader of the third Jewish revolt against Rome, to be the messiah. Three years later, bar Kokhba is killed as the Romans defeat the Judean forces. The Romans execute Rabbi Akiva by flaying him alive.


Moses appears in Crete and announces he will part the Mediterranean Sea. His followers jump in the water, where many drown.


False messiahs appear in Persia and Syria. In Persia, Abu Isa is succeeded by his disciple Yudghan, who is succeeded by his disciple Mushka. Otherwise, enjoy little success. Meanwhile, in Syria, Serenus promises to expel the Muslim rulers of Israel and garners followers from as far as Spain. When captured by the caliph, Serenus tells him he was just kidding. The caliph, who enjoyed a good laugh as much as anyone, turns Serenus over to the Jews "“ whose religious practices he derided "“ for punishment.


Preeminent scholar Maimonides (also known as Rambam) includes the belief in the messiah in his 13 articles of faith, still upheld by traditional Jews. A rationalist, he also condemns messianic speculation as futile and irrational.


At least nine messianic movements shake Jewish communities from Spain to Babylonia. In Kurdistan, David Alroy is proclaimed the messiah and leads a revolt. He is killed, probably by his father-in-law.


David Reuveni presents himself as the emissary and brother of the ruler of a Jewish kingdom in Arabia. With his disciple Shlomo Molcho "“ leader of a movement that believes Reuveni is the messiah "“ Reuveni attempts to convince the Holy Roman emperor to liberate Israel from the Turks. Both men eventually are imprisoned, tried by the Inquisition, and executed.


In Salonika, Shabtai Tzvi declares his messiahship in a "marriage with the sacred law." Jews pack their bags for Israel. In 1666, under threat of death from the Turkish sultan, Shabtai Tzvi embraces Islam.


Jacob Frank declares himself the successor of Shabtai Tzvi and conducts orgies to bring redemption through impurity. Many of his followers convert to Catholicism and become members of the Polish nobility.


Believing their ailing leader will shortly reveal himself as the messiah, members of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement scour Israel for a white donkey that the 90-year-old Brooklynite can ride to announce his arrival. The Lubavitcher rebbe dies in New York on June 12, 1994, without revealing anything.

Some of the rebbe's followers still say he was the messiah. No word if they ever found the donkey.

David Holzel is a writer living outside Washington, D.C. He serves as editor of The Jewish Angle.

Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.


59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.


116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.


74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.


111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.


430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.


327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.


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