A Happy Hanukkah to the New Maccabees
As every Jew will tell you, in the traditional Jewish calendar Hanukkah is not big deal. It reached its present status because it happens to fall at the same time as Christmas. Jewish parents, therefore, turned it into a gift-giving holiday so that their children didn’t feel completely left out from the happy, generous, celebratory Christmas season.
The fact that it’s not a big religious holiday, though, doesn’t mean that Hanukkah doesn’t commemorate an extremely important event, one that has enduring meaning to all freedom seeking individuals. For those who don’t know it, the story of Hanukkah is as follows:
Since time immemorial, nations have fought over that small patch of land we now call Israel. Considering that nature was less than generous in endowing Israel with fresh water or arable land, there must indeed be something special about the Holy Land, some transcendent aura, that has made it such a tantalizing prize to so many nations and people.
In 168 B.C.E., Greek soldiers located in modern-day Syria seized the great Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and defiled it by dedicating it to Zeus. Jews were appalled and offended, but still passively accepted this insult, for fear of incurring even greater wrath from the Greeks. Human nature, though, is human nature, and you cannot appease a tyrant. Heartened by Jewish passivity, the very next year, Antiochus, the Syrian-Greek emperor, mandated that any Jews who observed Jewish rituals would be put to death. Just to make sure he was completely clear, he also ordered that all Jews must affirmatively worship the Greek gods.
image courtesy shutterstock / Wally Stemberger
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