ABOUT JERUSALEMABOUT JERUSALEM
I was afraid of the backlash that would result should our presidentrecognize, at the present time, Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But I think our president did what is historically appropriate, and a long time in coming. For sure, many, including me, will question the timing of this decision, though when you think about it, the Palestinians are nowhere near coming to a compromise, let alone recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
Yes, something had to be done, at some time, to break the ongoing and inevitable often-violent stalemate. Was this the right time? I don’t know, even as I wish that I could foretell the future.
Personally, and as a Jew living far away, I care little for the neighborhoods that are East Jerusalem and its largely Arab population. I wish them well. But I understand that the world has sanctioned a concept of “Palestinians/Jerusalem” together. I don’t think that there is really much of a history, and it was only after the war of 1967, and Israel’s victory, that the notion of “Palestinians” really came to the attention and care of the world’s nations.
Forget our feelings about the president. (We are all granted the right to feel and think as we do.) This is about Israel and its quest for peace, our attachment to Jerusalem of yesterday and today, and such actions as will ultimately lead to peace. I suspect that most of us are pondering these compelling issues as we hope for a better time for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Come this Tuesday evening, we will celebrate our holiday of Chanukah. The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication.” In the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Second Holy Temple, the Syrian-Greek regime of Antiochus sought to pull Jews away from Judaism, with the hopes of assimilating them into Greek culture. Antiochus outlawed Jewish observance – including circumcision, Shabbat, and Torah study – under penalty of death. As well, many Jews – called Hellenists – began to assimilate into Greek culture, compromising the foundation of Jewish life and practice.
When the Greeks challenged the Jews to sacrifice a pig to a Greek god, a few courageous Jews took to the hills of Judea in open revolt against this threat to Jewish life. Led by Matitiyahu, and later his son Judah the Maccabee, this small band of pious Jews led guerrilla warfare against the Syrian-Greek army.
Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion, but after three years the Maccabees beat incredible odds and miraculously succeeded in driving the foreigners from their land. The victory was on the scale of Israel defeating the combined super-powers of today.
Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem and found the Holy Temple in shambles and desecrated with idols. The Maccabees cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it on the 25th of Kislev. According to legend, when it came time to re-light the Menorah, they searched the entire temple, but found only one jar of pure oil bearing the seal of the High Priest. The group of believers lit the Menorah anyway and were rewarded with a miracle: That small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought.
From then on, Jews have observed a holiday for eight days, in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil. But for me, there is an even greater miracle that I associate with Chanukah. That is that the “oil” has continued to burn, not for eight days, but for more than two thousand years. Yes, it continues to burn in our sanctuary and in every home where Judaism is taught and cherished. The “oil” burns when we embrace our Jewish heritage and live its values, and hold fast to its historic ideals which still speak so much to our time when there is too much darkness in our world.
May this Chanukah bring light and joy to our homes as we realize that our Jewish purpose is to bring the light of kindness, justice and hope to our world.