Hanukkah is a Zionist Celebration!

Down with the Hellenists

by Steven Shamrak

MacabeesThe name of Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, is derived from a Hebrew word – meaning “to dedicate.” It used to be a minor Jewish festival with no Biblical source.

The Chanukah story permeates Israel. It is not just the story of the miracle of the oil, or the reclamation and restoration of the Temple. It is the story of Jewish victory over oppressors, of defending our homeland against those who seek to delegitimize our connection to it and destroy our nation. It is a narrative that all Jews, Israelis and Zionists, can relate to very strongly, as it is a story that has played out many times throughout our history.

Hanukkah is one of the quintessentially Zionist holidays. It is a holiday of freedom, celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians. It reaffirms the centrality of Israel and of Jerusalem in Jewish cultural life. Without love of Israel and Jewish national existence, Hanukkah has no real meaning.

Hanukkah is a holiday of Jewish national liberation. Unfortunately, most of our current spiritual leaders are defining Hanukkah mainly as the Feast of Lights! They deliberately do not emphasize that this miracle was the reward for determination and courage exhibited by Jews in the fight for liberation of our land!

From the very beginnings of the Zionist movement, the story of the Maccabees would serve as an inspiration. As Theodore Herzl wrote, “The Maccabees will rise again.” Vladimir Jabotinsky similarly declared: “Yes, they have arisen – the children of those whose ancestor was Judah, lion of the Maccabees.” It is not surprising that Hanukkah is a major theme in proclamations by Zionist leaders and made its way into Zionist literature, Zionist poetry, and Israeli music.

The modern State of Israel came into being as a modern miracle. With inferior weaponry, little infrastructure, and a much smaller population, the day after declaring independence, the new country was forced to go to war against invading armies from the neighboring Arab states. The miracles that come to mind when one thinks of Israel’s history are numerous – the surprising victory of the War of Independence, the stunning victory of the Six Day War, as well as the Yom Kippur war.

The Maccabees faced a powerful enemy – the Syrian Greeks. They protected the traditions of the Jewish people and ensured the continuity of Jewish life in Israel. We must continue to follow this tradition. Israel is also facing powerful enemies, and not just Arab and Muslim countries. The task of liberation of Jewish land from enemy occupation is not completed!

December 18, 2014 | 8 Comments »

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8 Comments / 8 Comments

  1. @ yamit82:
    If you analyse all wars at that time were wars for power or acquisition of what the enemy had, either treasure or possessions. This is the first war in history that was fought on ideological grounds. The Jews wanted the freedom to worship their G-d as they wished. As they thought was the right way and not any other G-d. When you fight with conviction anything is possible. Happy Hanukkah!

  2. Steven Shamrak’s interpretation of Chanuka is precisely the way I came to understand it after I began studies of the history of our Jewish nation.

    Let me start by comparing Chanuka with Purim. The latter Jewish holiday largely is about how the leaders of the Jewish communities were able to convince Xerxes, the great Persian monarch of the 5th century BCE, to assent to hang Jew-hater Haman the Agagite, along with all of his many sons who were within reach, but apparently not Haman’s wife, whose lashon haRa had provoked her husband into planning the killing of extensive numbers of Jews. All this was accomplished by one Hadassah, known to us historically as Esther, a comely lass who was put in position to shake her presumably good-looking ass in he face of Xerxes, sufficient to have her elevated to the level of his favorite concubine or wife. Don’t get me wrong. I think she did the right thing, given the circumstances. But screwing the goyische king, in my scale of values, nowhere compares to a gang of Jewish fighters not afraid to kill either the Hellenizing foreign rulers or their Jewish turncoats.

    So, what happened as a result to Xerxes sexual hormones focusing on a Jewish girl, while at least temporarily useful for our Jewish nation, nonetheless is less significant than what the Jewish guerilla fighters accomplished in driving out the hellenizers who controlled Eretz-Yisrael in the name of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Syrian-Greek overlord of Syria and its surrounding lands, a couple of hundred years or so after the end of Persian rule.

    In contrast to our Jewish heroine of the shaking ass and her lover, the king of the Persian empire, the Jewish freedom fighters led by the Makaviim — if that was in fact their Hebrew family name — had to fight a real war to accomplish their goal. There was no foreign prince available to set up their enemies for the knockout punch; at least until the rising Roman republic took an interest to reducing the power of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. (I have read at least one history which mocked that fool by calling him Antiochus IV Epimanes — meaning, “the madman.)

    So Chanuka always has meant much more to me than Purim, because nothing is as precious to my sensibilities than Jews organizing themselves for battle, and beating the crap out of their enemies. It’s good to have HaShem creating this or that miracle for us Jews.

    But without trained and hardened military killers, that all too frequently comes to nothing. The Jewish state on behalf of the Jewish nation won the Six Day War presumably with the grace of HaShem. But those all-but-magical six days in June 1967 might have come to nothing if the Israeli air force had not been able to destroy on the ground the combined air forces of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, all within the first hours of the war; and if General Yisrael Tal had been anything less than a tankmaster in the tradition of Rommel, Rotmistrov, and Patton all encapsulated in one great fighting officer. And I’m not certain that Rommel, Patton or even Rotmistrov with his innovative Russian mind might have thought of welding steel brackets on the backs of their tanks in order to carry with them extra barrels of fuel sufficient to get them from Rafah to Kantara without too much stopping to await fuel convoys coming up the roads behind them.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI