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

 

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem