A Hanukkah Song’s Hidden Anti-Christian Polemic

Dec. 26 2016

Composed in the late 12th or early 13th century by a German Jew, Ma’oz Tsur (“Mighty rock”) is the best known Hanukkah hymn. Modern scholars have long thought that its sixth and final verse, a prayer for future redemption, was added by a later author. Yitzhak Melamed argues otherwise:

To the best of my knowledge, the sixth stanza first appeared in print in Amsterdam in 1702. The fact that the sixth stanza was first printed only hundreds of years after the hymn was written has led some scholars to suggest that it is not original but a later addition. Nevertheless, the intricate style of the sixth stanza is identical to that of the first five stanzas, and it complements almost perfectly the topic of the first stanza. Thus, the last stanza [appears to have been] intentionally repressed and passed by oral tradition for almost five centuries due to its strong anti-Christian theme.

The first line begins by beseeching God to “expose his holy arm,” an expression referring to God’s violent redemption of the Hebrews from Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 26:8). . . .

Against whom is God meant to apply his mighty arm? The phrase which follows may mean simply: “bring the end, the redemption.” But the text may have a [coded] meaning as well: “bring the end of Jesus-ism.” In other words: “Bring the end of Christianity.” The intentional double meaning of y’shua as salvation, on one hand, and as a collective noun referring to the followers of Jesus [in Hebrew, Y’shua], on the other, allowed the medieval Jews to assert and conceal their hatred of Christianity at the same time.

The succeeding line is a natural continuation of the hidden meaning of the opening line of the stanza: “Avenge the abuse of your servants / From the wicked nation.” The term “wicked nation” is a standard rabbinic reference to Rome and Christianity, and the historical context of the hymn, [an] era of massacres [of Jews] perpetrated by the Crusaders, explains the desire for revenge and the urgent request for redemption expressed in the third line.

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More about: Hanukkah, Jewish-Christian relations, Judaism, Religion & Holidays

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy