Chanukah is generally known as a ‘holiday of light’. But the Chanukah celebrated this week should not be disconnected completely from the fire and widespread Palestinian protests against Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Israeli response has been expectedly brutal, even involving attempts to kidnap children aged 7-8, far under the Israeli legal age of criminal responsibility– 12 (as B’tselem has documented). On Friday, Ibraheem Abu Thurayeh, a man with no legs, was shot dead alongside several others protesting near the Gaza fence. He was armed with a wheelchair and a flag. A spokesman for the Israel Defence Force said: “During the violent riots IDF soldiers fired selectively towards the main instigators.” So Abu Thurayeh simply didn’t survive the ‘selection’.
The story of Chanukah itself is a story of liberation in 165 BC from non-Jewish coercion under Syrian-Greco-Hellenic-Roman rule (per My Jewish Learning).
The Jewish temple in Jerusalem was allegedly defiled by this influence, and was liberated by the Maccabees. ‘Chanukah’ means ‘inauguration’ in Hebrew, referring to the re-inauguration of the altar. The traditional lighting of the Chanukah-menorah with its 8 candles (plus one to light the others with), alludes to an alleged miracle: that when the temple was liberated, there was only oil left for one day’s lighting of the Menorah, but by miracle, it lasted for 8 days.
We like to think of holiday traditions as detached from politics. But they are often related to politics in their very essence. Chanukah was a political-religious rebellion of Jews against a kind of occupying power.
President Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, is also being celebrated as a religious-political issue, of supposed ‘liberation’. This notion, of ‘liberation’ on behalf of the Jewish State, is even voiced by Israeli leftists such as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who also mourns that the recognition didn’t come already 65 years ago.
But it is very clear by international law that Israel is an occupying power. The only way you can claim that Israel is ‘liberating’ is by alluding to the mythical ‘eternal promise’ to the Jews by God.
Whilst the rebellion of the Maccabees against the Syrians involved armed force, Palestinians may not revolt. Even a wheelchair and a flag presents existential danger.
In his scathing critique of the ‘recognition-celebration’ in the orthodox Jewish community, Michael Lesher writes in The Forward: “Orthodox Jews should mourn Trump’s Jerusalem declaration — not cheer it on”. He notes:
Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, exulted that East Jerusalem under Israeli rule is “one of the few places in the Middle East where Jews, Christians and Muslims are able to pray in freedom, security and peace.” In the real world, one of Israel’s first acts as occupier was the destruction of the entire Mughrabi Quarter, including an ancient mosque, to clear space for Jews near the Western Wall; and the violent harassment of Palestinian worshipers at Al-Aqsa is a matter of record.
Ariel Gold notes on this site, how Trump’s ‘Jerusalem declaration’ has largely united Democrats with Republicans. That’s the mystic power of ‘unification’ that this ‘united (Jewish) capital’ holds.
There will hardly be any protest in Israel about this. As Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy wrote last week:
Just imagine millions of Israeli, Jews and Arabs, marching together against Trump’s decision. What an effect this would have, here in Israel and around the world. What an embarrassment it would be to Trump, who is convinced that he is bestowing good upon Israel but is actually corrupting and drugging it even more. What a success that would have been. But there’s no chance of that happening. The number of Israelis who’d be interested could fit in a phone booth. That’s why the masses will once again shout on Rothschild Boulevard, “We’re fed up with your corruption,” and will once again marvel at themselves and their consciences.
So, can we really celebrate Chanukah as something completely detached from this current reality? Can we do so, when the reality of the occupation of Jerusalem includes a long record of Jewish terror against it, even specifically against Al-Aqsa, and even at the level of state – the Jewish State?
Are these events as incidental to Chanukah as is the name of Israel’s 2008-9 onslaught on Gaza ‘Operation Cast Lead’? You may remember that it was initiated at this time of year, so the name alludes to the tops spun by Jewish children in Chanukah, traditionally made of cast lead.
Can today’s reality be detached from that of 139 BC, when you consider that Col. Ofer Winter (now Brig. General) called upon his Givati Brigade in the 2014 Gaza onslaught to “wipe out” an “enemy who defames” God?
And is this ‘holy war’ really limited to Jewish Orthodox holy-warriors the likes of Winter, when secular ‘leftists’ such as ret. General Amiram Levin threaten to ‘tear the Palestinians apart’ and ‘toss them across the Jordan’, as he did in this week’s interview with Maariv?
By calling itself ‘The Jewish State’, and by acting as it does, Israel offers Jews no choice. They cannot celebrate the Jewish holidays as a matter of the past, when Israel continuously presses its ‘Jewish liberation’ upon the besieged Palestinians. Jews celebrate their historical liberations, whilst Palestinians are crushed under the boot of the ‘most moral army’.
Had there not been a Jewish State, Jews could still be celebrating their ‘liberations’, under the notion and ethos that they are still escaping persecution – eternally so, as it were. But now Jews are being represented by a self-proclaimed ‘Jewish State’, which enacts most brutal policies, wherein feigning ‘self-defense’ is but a sad joke.
Zionism supposedly promoted the ‘strong Jew’. But the really strong Jews need to resist all this, vociferously.
It would be possible to celebrate Chanukah without having to consider all this. But not in this reality. Not this person. That day is yet to come.