In honor of Passover, many Jews from all over Judea risked their lives to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, arriving just ahead of the swiftly-approaching Roman army. When they arrived, they found a city divided among warring factions, even as the Romans were in sight.

An unlikely alliance of Pharisees and Sadducees – both of whom did not want to engage the Romans in war – held control of large swathes of the city. The Sicarii, led by Simon ben Giora, held much of the Upper City and parts of the Lower City. The Zealots, divided amongst themselves, controlled the Temple area: A moderate faction, led by Eleazar ben Simon, camped in the Temple complex itself while the extreme Zealots, led by Yochanan of Gush Chalav, camped on the Temple Mount—in between the moderate Zealots and the Sadducees.

The moderate Zealots generously opened the gates of the Temple so the Jews could come in and offer their Paschal sacrifices. But the extremists, pretending to be Jews coming to offer sacrifices, also entered. Once inside, they took out their swords and began to kill moderates as well as visiting Jews. Not wanting to increase the panic among the masses of Jews in the Temple, the moderates did not fight back. Thus the extremists took control of the whole Temple area. Eleazar ben Simon's faction was wiped out and it appears that he died.