Two Hanukkahs or One?

According to the available statistics. two-thirds of American Jews light candles at least once over the course of the Festival of Lights. Yet Cole Aronson suggests that the story of the Hasmoneans’ victory over an imperial power that wanted to enforce religious conformity—and also over those Jews who wanted to compromise with it—is remembered in very different ways:

If my back-of-the-envelope sociology is correct, two groups of American Jews celebrate Hanukkah for almost entirely different reasons. Orthodox Jews mostly know the full story of Hanukkah. . . . They’re under no illusions about its radically anti-assimilationist character. They find joy in Hanukkah in large part because of what a revered teacher of mine calls Hanukkah’s religious maximalism.

Many non-Orthodox American Jews, in my experience, mostly find joy in Hanukkah because the Jews defeated a mighty oppressor. Victimhood is a prized status. Hanukkah is a weeklong reprieve from the awkwardness of humanity’s oldest national victim occupying the West Bank while running the world’s most advanced military. Like Passover—the other most celebrated Jewish holiday in America—Hanukkah is about the weak winning freedom and justice from the strong.

But this special Jewish burning for justice will die out if decoupled from Jewish particularism. . . . That is, unless we Orthodox choose to leave our comfortable insularity, and persuade our brothers and sisters all over the country that the Lord has not forgotten about them, and still hopes for great things from all of us. Or unless anti-Semitism exiles Jews from the right universities, firms, banks, clubs, schools, and neighborhoods—and the answer to “Why do we remain Jews?” suddenly becomes, “because we have no choice.”

Read more at First Things

More about: American Jewry, Hanukkah, Hasmoneans, Orthodoxy


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict