It's Hanukkah. And for those who were never exposed to Jewish history, this holiday isn't our version of Christmas. Hanukkah commemorates an important moment in our existence, and I'd like to share some facts with you.
When I was a kid, all the way back in Hebrew nursery school, Judah Maccabee was my hero. While I would imagine other non-Jewish children sat in their classrooms, using crayons to color pictures of cartoon characters or numbers or letters or even Santa and his reindeer, I was already idolizing the ancient man who is directly responsible for the first Hanukkah.
Approximately 2,200 years ago, Israel was overrun by the Syrian Greeks, also known as the Seleucids. They wreaked havoc on the Jews, whose country it was. In Jerusalem, they seized Solomon's Temple, and desecrated it by filling it with statues of Hellenistic gods, and by bringing unclean animals, like pigs, into the holiest place on Earth for Jews.
By the way, for those who are susceptible to propaganda, you might want to take note of when this occurred. More than two thousand years ago. In the land of the Jews. The name Judah, which means Jew, is shared with the region known as Judea. If that sounds familiar, it's because Judea is part of what silly people refer to as the occupied West Bank.
In the time of Judah Maccabee, and even before, there were no such thing as Palestinians occupying the area. Despite the fairy tales spun about the creation of Israel, Judah Maccabee was not one of those Jews who was a Holocaust survivor who only arrived to Israel after World War Two, because he had no place else to go. He did not displace the Palestinians. No, thousands of years ago, even farther back than Judah Maccabee, Israel was the home of the Jews, populated by Jews, governed by Jews, etc. Yes, the modern State of Israel, recognized by the U.N., only came into existence in 1948. But Israel existed many, many, many centuries before. Jordan didn't, and its people, the artificially fabricated Palestinians, didn't either.
Judah Maccabee, known as "The Hammer of G-d," led the revolt against the conquerors. Vastly outnumbered, Judah Maccabee fought a hit and run war against the Syrian Greeks, commanding the world's first band of guerrilla warriors. They were successful in liberating Jerusalem, the Jewish capital, and recapturing the Temple.
Allow me to pause again, just to reiterate the location of King Solomon's Temple. Jerusalem. The capital city of the Jewish nation, and it always has been. If you listen to revisionist historians, they will tell you that Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians. That is a very difficult concept to reconcile with the fact that there is no such thing as a Palestinian. And even if there were, Jerusalem was never their capital. Did Israel fight the Arabs over the city in recent times? Yes. To get them out of it, or to at least get them to recognize reality and stop claiming ownership of it. If Solomon's Temple was located in Jerusalem, which it was, then it shouldn't be too hard to accept that Jerusalem belonged to the Jews thousands of years ago, and was never relinquished. Israel was taken over by many other nations throughout history, but the Jewish people always took it back.
By the way, for those non-Jews who are reading this: did you ever see pictures of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, also known as the Western Wall? You know, those large stones where Jews stand to pray? That is the remaining wall of Solomon's Temple, which, obviously, means that land is part of Israel, and has been for thousands of years. The so-called Palestinians who say it is theirs are, sadly, lying. Even sadder, much of the uneducated world believes them.
Okay, back to Judah Maccabee. When the Temple was retaken by the Jews, after a brutal battle, Judah Maccabee and his men cleaned it, removed the animals and Greek statues, and rededicated the sanctuary. When it was time to light the lamps, they found that there was only enough oil to last for one night. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, and that, my friends, is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days. That is why you will see menorahs with eight candles, plus the ninth that is used to light them. It isn't just a decoration. It is a reminder of Judah Maccabee's victory over the murderous invaders, and that our G-d, King of the Universe, blesses us with miracles.
Now, you may ask, "Come on, did the oil really burn for eight days?" Maybe. I wasn't there. And who cares? Did Jesus really walk on water? Did Muhammed really ascend to Heaven on a horse? If your faith espouses such a legend, you can choose to believe it or dismiss it. To me, it doesn't really matter. The historical fact, with or without the oil lamps burning, is that Judah Maccabee really did vanquish the Syrian Greeks. He was, later during the continuing hostilities, killed in battle. But not before bringing the Temple back to us.
That is why Judah Maccabee has always been my hero, right behind my Dad on a very short list of heroes.
I wish every Jew would spend just one minute a day thinking about Judah Maccabee and our true history. I wish American Jews would learn about our place in the world, so that they wouldn't be so easily swayed into believing that the Palestinians have had their land stolen from them. It's baloney.
Unfortunately, the people who call themselves Palestinians aren't interested in living in peace with the Jewish people of Israel. They never have been. What they are counting on, is that America will come to their aid, literally, and that American Jews will be sympathetic to their illegitimate cause.
It's Hanukkah. It's a reason for joy. We made it through a terrible time under the Syrian Greeks. But the fight isn't over. The Seleucids aren't attacking us, but there are actual threats to Jews all around us, all the time. Please don't be oblivious to the danger.