4th century. Samaritan high priest. Baba's rule marked a golden age for the Samaritans. He fought for Samaritan freedom against the Roman forces and on several occasions succeeded in driving them out of his territory. He kept a standing army of some three thousand men and organized the country into twelve districts. He built new synagogues and reopened others that had been closed by the Romans, and encouraged literature. All the ancient books of the Samaritans were gathered together for preservation and copying. It is in this period of religious and cultural revival that the Defter, the Samaritan prayer book, was begun. Baba organized a council of four laymen and three priests who toured the country to ensure the education of the people in the Torah, as well as to decide difficult halachic questions. Legend relates how after forty years of rule the Byzantine emperor summoned him to Constantinople to conclude a peace treaty. Once there, he was treated with all honour, but not allowed to return.
2nd century. Housewife of En-Gedi. In 1960 Israel archaeologists, with the help of the army, explored all the caves in the cliffs and wadis overlooking the Dead Sea, in the vicinity of the oasis of En-Gedi ('Spring of the Goat'). Using ropes, they reached the entrance of a cave containing skeletons and belongings, dating back to the crushing of the BAR-KOCHBA revolt against the Romans in 135. Among the finds in the cave were Bar-Kochba's letters to the defenders of En-Gedi and, within a leather pouch, a bundle of legal documents. There were thirty-five in all, written on papyrus in Greek, Aramaic and Nabatean. They included marriage certificates, title deeds to properties, court papers-all of absorbing interest to historians of the period. From them there has been reconstructed the life and concerns of Babata, a formidable Judean matron of the 2 century, who met her death in the last flicker of Jewish national independence before the present time.
Babata was the daughter of Simeon ben-Menachem and his wife Miriam, a Jewish couple living in Mahoza at the southern end of the Dead Sea, that had been Nabatean territory before the Roman occupation. Her father acquired date palm groves and other property in Mahoza, which were deeded by way of gift to his wife and then inherited by his daughter.
Babata was an unlettered woman, but shrewd and litigious. Her first husband was Yeshua ben-Joseph, by whom she had a son also called Yeshua. When her husband died, two guardians were appointed for the boy, one Jewish and one Nabatean, and a sum of money was given to them in trust for the orphan's maintenance. In 125 she issued a summons against the guardians, calling on them to appear before the Roman governor and surrender the trust fund to her, alleging they had failed to provide for the maintenance.
In due course Babata married again, to one Yehuda from En-Gedi. When he died, she became involved in compli