Hanukkah’s Message of Jewish Resilience in the Face of Persecution Remains as Relevant Today as in 160 BCE

“Thus they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it. . . . [Jerusalem’s] sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, her feasts were turned into mourning, her Sabbaths into reproach, her honor into contempt.” So reads the opening chapter of the first book of Maccabees in its description of the Seleucid persecutions. The image of blood in a place of Jewish worship struck a chord with Danny Schiff, who serves as a rabbi in Pittsburgh, leading him to reflect on the meaning of Hanukkah:

At a time when the sanctuary was desecrated, and the people pitilessly put to the sword, there were two Jewish responses. One response was, essentially, that the time had come for Jews to blend into the surrounding culture because carrying the message of the Jewish people was too painful: “Let us go, they said, and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them, we have had much sorrow” (1Maccabees 1:11).

The other response was the exact opposite. We will never stop being Jews, declared the second group, and we will never let anybody define our Judaism for us, or cause us to retreat one iota from our ideals. Come what may, we will carry Judaism forward on the Torah’s terms, and we will overcome those who would seek to oppose us or those who might propose to give up. They were the Maccabees, and we are their heirs.

The word ḥanukkah means “dedication” or “rededication,” and it recalls two pivotal affirmations. On the physical level, it refers to the fact that on the 25th of Kislev, [the date on the Hebrew calendar on which the Seleucids were defeated and Hanukkah begins], the Maccabees confronted a shattered, ransacked sanctuary and they immediately rededicated the building to the service of God. But, perhaps even more significantly, the Maccabees responded to the reality of violent attack by rededicating themselves to Judaism. . . .

Through the centuries, we have celebrated Hanukkah, despite its tragic origins, because the Maccabees showed us how to rededicate ourselves to Jewish practice, and how to spread the light of Judaism further in even the darkest night.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Hanukkah, Judaism, Maccabees, Religion & Holidays

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat