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.

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

Hizballah Prepares for War, and UN Peacekeepers Do Nothing

Dec. 10 2018

According to last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2373, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—the peacekeeping force created after the Second Lebanon War to keep both Israel and Hizballah out of southern Lebanon—is authorized “to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” If anything ought to rouse UNIFIL to action, writes Elliott Abrams, it should be the IDF’s recent discovery and destruction of tunnels dug by Hizballah to move troops into the Galilee:

The existence of these tunnels, dug from precisely the area of southern Lebanon that UNIFIL is meant to patrol, means that this area is indeed “utilized for hostile activities.” What, then, is the meaning of [UNIFIL’s statement in] response that it “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”? The meaning is that UNIFIL will likely do nothing.

UNIFIL is not supposed to be merely a means of communication, or the Security Council would have bought cell phones instead of paying for a military force. Moreover, there are no “appropriate authorities” in Lebanon; if there were, Hizballah would never have been able to dig its tunnels.

The tunnels are hardly the only brazen Hizballah violation of the Security Council resolutions undertaken right under UNIFIL’s nose. Consider this: Hizballah is blocking roads in southern Lebanon to smooth the path of missiles it is moving into the area. . . . Then there is the village of Gila, just north of the Israeli border, where there is a Hizballah headquarters and according to the Israelis about twenty warehouses with weapons, combat positions, lookout points, and dozens of underground positions. All this was built in an area supposedly patrolled by UNIFIL. . . .

This is a test of UNIFIL and its new commander, [Stefan Del Col, who took over in August]. “Communicating” to “appropriate authorities” is a euphemism for doing nothing at all. Hizballah is preparing for war. UNIFIL is supposed to get in its way. If it cannot hinder Hizballah’s war preparations in any way, and is even ignorant of them, UNIFIL is a waste of time and money.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, United Nations