Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Christmas (just kidding). This holiday, as most people probably know, is the "Festival of Lights," celebrating the Jewish overthrow of Greek rule of Eretz Israel in the year 165 BCE. Essentially, the Seleucid Empire brought Hellenism to Israel, and the Maccabbe family of Cohenim (priests) organized a revolt against the attack on traditional Israelite religion and the Holy Temple. As the Maccabees drove out the Greeks, they entered the Temple, wishing to relight the menorah (candelabra). There was only enough oil for one day, but as the story goes, the oil burned miraculously for eight.
Hence, tonight is the first of eight nights of candle lighting. This holiday is one of my favorite, because the entire celebration is remembering the ability of a tiny, embattled nation, to overcome insurmountable odds. The Greek empire was exerting its influence on just another vassal state, and somehow a group of priests were able to drive out the world's strongest army, and did so without savage means. The Jews of that age were strong, powerful, intelligent, and civilized. Our liberators were religious men, in fact they were zealots, but they were also militarily strong (and strong without terrorism, either, in case someone wants to draw a contradiction between me revering the Jews and castigating the modern Arabs)...in fact, the leader was Yehuda HaMaccabbe, or Judah the Hammer, or The Jewish Hammer. Isn't that one badass name?
It goes without saying that a 23 year old Zionist would find the entire story inspirational, filled with pride, nationalism, courage, and precedent. Israel is currently walking down a path of doubt, doubt in the future of the state, but tonight and the following week should be a time to lift our spirits. After all, we certainly do not have it worse now than the Maccabees had. Even studying Torah, the Bible, was illegal under Greek rule. Now, we are truly in control of our destiny. My parents, and family and friends, often ask me how I'm doing, how I feel, etc. I feel proud to be here, supporting Israel with my very life, like a modern day Judah Maccabbe -- an unemployed Judah, maybe, but one in spirit at least.
Happy Hanukkah -- Chag Chanukah Sameach!
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