Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar II, the king of the Babylonian Empire, on this date in 597 BCE, following a four-month siege, according to the Babylonian Chronicles, a set of tablets currently possessed by the British Museum. Nebuchadnezzar pillaged the city and the Temple and deported the Jewish king and his court, along with a substantial part of the city’s population of 10,000, over the course of a decade. “None remained except the poorest people of the land,” reports the Biblical book 2 Kings 24:13-14. Some seventy years of Jewish exile in Babylon followed, with Jewish law and practice falling into disarray, until Cyrus the Great permitted their return under the leadership of Ezra the Scribe.

“By the waters of Babylon/We lay down and wept for thee, Zion . . .” —Psalm 137