Where Does Hanukkah Come from?

Nov. 26 2021

Hanukkah may be one of the best-known Jewish holidays, but its status is anomalous if not marginal. The two books of Maccabees were excluded from the Hebrew Bible, and the holiday appears in the Talmud almost as an afterthought. The 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus describes Hanukkah, but says he does not know why it is called the “festival of lights.” Medieval rabbis questioned the exact nature of the Hanukkah miracle. Rabbi Hayyim Angel sorts through these difficulties and concludes with a provocative thesis about the holiday’s origins. (Audio, about 1 hour; talk starts at 14:15).

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Read more at YU Torah

More about: Hanukkah, Hellenism, Josephus, Maccabees, Talmud

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion