CHANUKAH AND JEWISH HISTORY
The year is 70 C.E. and a young Roman legionnaire stands on a hill overlooking Jerusalem. While he watches it burn, he says to his comrades in Latin, "Judea Capta Est" (Judea is conquered). Yet like the legendary phoenix, rising from the ashes of its own destruction, Israel burst onto the world's stage 2000 years later, with the cry of a lusty infant yearning to breathe free. Five Arab armies tried to destroy that new life before it could take hold. With blood and fire, including the sacrifice of one per cent of its population (6000 of its best young people), besieged Israel secured its independence.
Just nine short years earlier, European Jewry faced its most devastating experience, the Holocaust. In the areas under Nazi occupation, the Jewish death rate was 90%. Despite revolts in dozens of camps, and heroic resistance with the partisans of free Europe, the Jews were unorganized, unarmed and ultimately became victims. During both the Holocaust and Israel's War of Independence, the world and its leaders were indifferent, if not hostile, to the fate of the Jews.
Jews in their own land, with their G-d, have great power, much more than the sum of arms and men. During Chanukah we should recall the legacy of the Maccabees. Remember how two "Hellenized Jews," Jason and Menelaus tried to destroy Judaism and force assimilation on the Jewish population. For generations we have taught our children about the evil Antiochus and his attempt to suppress the Jews. In reality, there were traitors among our own people who led the way for Antiochus.
There arose in Israel, a similar situation when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres led a leftwing coalition that was blatantly hostile to everything Jewish. They pushed through the Oslo Accords which surrendered the heartland of Eretz Yisrael, promised in perpetuity to Abraham and his descendants by G-d. The educational system in Israel was being revamped to eliminate the study of Jewish sources like the bible. They cultivated hatred of all things Jewish and especially religious Jews. Units of the Israel Defense Forces were recruited from the non-religious population for the sole purpose of suppressing and possibly destroying the religious villages of YESHA.
Rabin and Peres, anxious to win favor with the Arabs, much like Jason and the Greeks, planned to give away Israel's strategic assets. Territory is not important if your new god is economics. While the Israeli government renounced anything Jewish, including Holy Sites, the Arabs sought strength and comfort in a revived Islam. Nothing portrays the difference better between the Arabs and the Jews than how each views his religion. Young Arab men, promised paradise, cry "ali Akbar" (G-d is Great), then sacrifice their lives to kill Jews in one great jihad. Jewish soldiers flee their posts, uncertain about their open-fire instructions, demoralized by a government, which lies to them about the advent of peace.
The Israeli people rose up in the 1996 election and threw out the party of appeasement that had abandoned Eretz Yisrael. Benjamin Natanyahu became Israeli Prime Minister and the National/Zionist/Religious groups breathed a collective sight of relief. ONLY RELIEF DID NOT COME. For some reason known only to him, Netanyahu (and now PM Ariel Sharon) proceeded to implement the very same Oslo agreements the voters had rejected What should we do?
Let us be Maccabees again. Let us go into battle with the Maccabee cry, "All who are with G-d, follow me!" With the words: "Who is like untoThee O G-d (the acronym of which spells out he word Maccabee in Hebrew) inscribed on their flags, the G-d inspired Jewish army swept the much larger enemy from the field in a great victory. It is this victory for which we celebrate Chanukah and not just the miracle of the oil burning eight days.
There is a simple but crucial lesson for us all in the above events. If we as Jews turn our backs on our religion and our G-d, we can expect disaster. The current government of Israel has brought down the wrath of G-d on the Israeli people for turning its back on our heritage. Like Judah Maccabee, angered by the treason of Jason and Menelaus, and outraged by Antiochus, we must revolt against Sharon as we did against Peres and Rabin. The nationalist opposition in Israel must unite behind one Zionist banner. They must fill the streets and jails with protesters. City after city must be shut down.
Victory will not fall into our lap. It must be fought for and won. We must demonstrate that the strength of our will and the power of our belief can not be defeated. Only then will victory come.