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In his novel The Source, James Michener described a period in Jewish history around 170 BC when the Jews in Palestine faced severe persecution. Greek officials came to Jerusalem and read an edict that forbade any Jew from worshipping Yahweh, and ordered them to lay their hands on an unclean pig that was placed on an altar in Jerusalem. Any Jew who ignored this edict faced a scourging unto death. Michener described one old man who refused to lay his hands on this pig: They stripped the old man till he stood naked; they then tied him to a pillar, where ten swift blows of the lash tore at him terribly. The lead tips in the whip caught at his face and ripped out one of his eyes. They tore away a corner of his mouth and laid bare the muscles on his neck. “Will you now acknowledge the pig?” asked the captain, and when the old man refused, the man with the lash directed his blows lower on the body, where the lead tips tore away at the man.... The captain hoped that the whipping would do the old man in but it did not. The old Jew had within him some profound source of resistance and he survived so that he was finally thrown to the ground, where he lay quivering as men with sharp knives came to flay him. And when it seemed that he must surely be dead, he raised his head and called out the Shema of the Jews: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” And on the long, wailing pronunciation of the last word he died.

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